MDM delivered a strikingly different experience in the corners. No longer did the traction control light blink so furiously, although it still had occasion to come on. No longer did the car crawl out of each turn. Instead, MDM let the car get its back end a little wiggly, properly rotating around the tight turns. The 1 M Coupe's real performance was unleashed.
Now it really was fun. The car delivered on its sport promise, keeping a good amount of grip as we flogged it into the turns. It didn't mind a hard stomp on the gas coming out of the turns, able to perform as it was designed.
And in normal driving, leaving the traction control on MDM, the car didn't feel any less safe. It wasn't going to spin out while speeding over a cloverleaf or taking a fast 90-degree right turn at an intersection. In fact, M Dynamic Mode did seem worth the extra price of this car.
One attribute of current BMW M cars is that they all have a split personality. Turn off all the performance modes, and they saunter along the road like a poodle out for a Sunday stroll. But engage the M button, and the hundred or so other sport settings, and they suddenly become ferocious German shepherds, ready to swallow chunks of pavement whole.
The 1 M Coupe is not quite as extreme in that regard. It merely has mood swings rather than a full-blown bipolar disorder. It doesn't even chug gasoline like a race car, turning in an average of 20.1 mpg over a variety of driving conditions.
BMW Apps available
As with the car's stablemates, BMW lets you civilize the 1 M Coupe even more with a full suite of advanced cabin electronics. The vehicle BMW loaned to CNET came almost stripped, lacking the navigation and new BMW Apps feature. But its $2,000 Premium package brought in a Bluetooth phone system and iPod integration, along with a few other niceties that barely justified the price.
As equipped, this 1 M Coupe used its radio display to show a paired phone's contact list and an iPod's music library. BMW cleverly makes use of this very limited display, but it is really too small for lists of phone numbers or MP3 tracks. BMW should really go to a more robust standard display, as some other automakers are doing.
BMW makes HD Radio standard in its cars now, but Bluetooth streaming audio isn't available in the 1 M Coupe. The navigation option adds onboard hard-drive storage for music.
The stock stereo in the 1 M Coupe is better than average, delivering strong sound, but it doesn't elevate music to sublime levels. For that, you would need the optional 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
More exciting is the BMW Apps option, which offers similar features to the Mini Connected option we recently tested in the. You install BMW Apps on an iPhone and plug the phone into the car; it enables in-car Twitter and Facebook interfaces, and integrates Google local search into the navigation system. Although we weren't able to try it out, it worked very well in the Mini, and should be no different in the BMW.
The drawbacks to this system are that it only works with iOS devices, and you have to get the navigation system to enable it.
Recent navigation systems have been very good, with high-resolution maps, topographical features, and traffic data. With maps stored on a hard drive, response times are quick. In the 1 series, the navigation screen pops up from the center dash.
The engine in the 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe shows the full force of BMW's high-tech engineering. It produces loads of power while maintaining reasonable fuel economy. It's too bad the company's Double Clutch Transmission isn't available for this car. Still, the six-speed manual shifts nicely. The suspension can feel a little spongy, but the limited slip differential and M Dynamic Mode traction control help the car's handling.
BMW tends to overprice its options, and makes very few features standard. But the available cabin tech is very good. The new BMW Apps feature should be an excellent addition, and BMW navigation we've seen in previous cars has been excellent. Harman Kardon is also a good partner for its premium audio system.
The main area where the 1 M Coupe falls down is in its electronics interface. The radio display is barely adequate for music selection, and the iDrive interface, although much improved over the years, is still not very intuitive.
|Model||2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe|
|Power train||Direct-injection twin turbocharged 3-liter straight six-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/26 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||20.1 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes, includes contact list|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive (with navigation), USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Optional Harman Kardon 300-watt 10-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Park distance sensors|
|Price as tested||$50,460|