1M files: Driving first impressions

BMW 1M Driving impressions

I’ve done this a few times, that is make my mind up as to what I’m going to purchase before test riding/driving. Put it down to good journalism giving accurate driving impressions, universal praise, and unique attributes but in every case I’ve never been disappointed. And so it was with the BMW 1M.

I’ve previously posted on the purchase experience, but what was it like to jump into a car that you’ve never driven before, that you’ve just purchased for a not insignificant amount of money?

Getting into the 1M feels special. Like many others, I️ had previously criticised the 1M for its lack of luxury appointments particularly as this was an ‘M’ car, but as raw driving experiences are becoming harder to find, the lack of quilted…everything is quite a welcome sight. The 1M also has just enough technology to make it viable as a modern do-it-all car, and very few superfluous nonsense. Never a huge fan of Alcantara, I️ must say it fits the ethos of the car and is enough of a reminder that this is no ordinary 1-series without resorting to 1M badges everywhere. No, in typical ‘M’ fashion it’s subtle with orange stitching, the usual ‘M’ badging, and tri-colour M stitching on the steering wheel.

I did read 1M owners often complain of the high seat position which I️ couldn’t understand but perhaps taller folk (I’m about 5’9”) might feel it more.

Insert the key, thumb the starter button, and ‘whoooom!’ the car comes to life. This 1M has a standard exhaust and if that’s the case, I️ don’t think I’d want to change it out—it’s loud enough! It was about this time I️ could tell it was a naughty little car, and it needed to be spanked. It would probably like it too the dirty little…

About 30 meters is all it took before I️ was ‘forced’ to give it a bit of a bootful as my left lane was about to end. Instantly I️ was hooked, with my passenger and I️ giggling like idiots. Strangely, I️ found another reason 20 seconds later to do it again. And again. And again.

Ok, time for restraint.

It doesn’t bother me one bit that this isn’t a traditional ‘M’ engine, what’s more important is that it fulfils the ‘M’ brief.

There is a bit drone at lower revs but this only adds to the character as when you hit about 3500rpm the engine changes from a smooth operator to a cranky, growling, race-like animal. It’s the changing note and delivery which gives this engine its character and anything above 3500rpm this car wants to boogie, lighting up the traction control icon in the dash with a strobe effect. It doesn’t bother me one bit that this isn’t a traditional ‘M’ engine, what’s more important is that it fulfils the ‘M’ brief.

Instantly the thoughts of a muscle car came to mind. A big engine that can easily overwhelm its rear tyres, yet unlike muscle cars it has a wonderful chassis and steering feedback.

The gear change is rock solid and I expected it to be. I was especially looking forward to rowing through the gears with the wonderful classic BMW leather gear knob. The clutch seemed to be weighted perfectly as well.

The rare opportunity I’ve had since picking up the car to turn a few corners has showed the 1M has more than one party trick, hooking into corners with confidence. At the same time I’m all too aware of its ability to snap sideways if treated disrespectfully so I’ll be exploring the 1M’s handling abilities with care.

BMW are unlikely to produce a car like this again as they are committed to technology, innovation, and providing products consumers are likely to buy. I️ say consumers because us enthusiasts are a different breed and we demand involvement, excitement, imperfection, and a degree of specialness. Automation, connectivity, and electrification be damned—I️ want to feel alive.


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