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If, like us, you thought the 1 Series was the runt of the BMW litter, then prepare to have your misconceptions ripped from your puny, judgmental brain and stomped on. The latest addition to the range, the souped-up 1 Series M Coupe, promises a more powerful engine, race-derived underpinnings and sporty styling.
Put a ring on it
We've had just about enough of seeing the standard 1 Series on British streets -- the car is as common as facial herpes after an apple-bobbing contest. We'll make an exception for the 1 Series M Coupe, though. Sure, it bears a resemblance to the vanilla 1 Series saloon, but crucial tweaks, including oversized front air intakes, quad exhausts and flared wheel arches, which had to be widened to accommodate the wider track of the M3-derived chassis, give it an attractive, somewhat menacing appearance.
Sadly, the interior is standard fare. The only clues to this car's M heritage are some understated suede detailing below the dashboard and on the seat panelling, an M badge on the gear knob, and a plaque reminding users that their car is one of just 450 that will be released in the UK.
iDrive you crazy
Many manufacturers compromise on cabin tech, skimping on luxuries when creating hot versions of their day-to-day cars, but not BMW. The 1 Series M Coupe has enough gadgets inside to make any self-respecting geek dribble over themselves even more than usual.
Most of the tech is controlled via a 10-inch display mounted on the dashboard. The display forms the basis of BMW's Professional Multimedia navigation system -- a £2,010 option. Sadly, the screen isn't touch-sensitive, so it might ruffle the feathers of the smart-phone set.
Instead, users interact with the display via BMW's iDrive control system, a knob in the centre console that must be twisted, rocked, pushed and pulled to navigate between or select menu options.
We found the interface rather fiddly to use. It requires you to bend your wrist in a way that makes us think the designer is either double-jointed or has unnaturally short forearms. The user interface, which isn't dissimilar to the sliding interface used on the Xbox 360 dashboard, is also quite illogical on occasions. Those who persist with it will unlock many a tech treat, though.
One of the biggest weapons in the 1 Series M Coupe's gadget arsenal is the ConnectedDrive service, which links the car to the Internet via a suite of applications, an internal modem and a SIM card. This allows users to access most websites via the car's central display for a cost of £95 over a three-year period.
Your hard-earned money also buys you access to BMW's Google-powered point-of-interest search system, which uses our mighty search overlord to track down local businesses and tourists hotspots of your choosing. Once a POI has been selected, that location can be viewed using Google Street View or Google's Panoramia photo-sharing service.
It's also possible to download the latest news, sport and weather reports directly to the car. They can be read on the central display, or fed through ConnectedDrive's text-to-speech app and read aloud over the speaker system. The speech synthesiser is far from perfect -- it can sound like the headlines are being read by a foreign Dalek -- but we found it an extremely useful feature.