I BLAME DEON Joubert for what’s happened here. The handling gymkhana he had crafted for us to pit the new BMW 1M Coupe on has devolved far too quickly and easily into a fully blown drift circuit. You’ll see why just now. But first, what is it? Well the 1M Coupe is essentially a 135i coupe that has been given the M Division treatment, but properly and for the same price as the aforementioned topless 135i. Here E90 M3 bits have found their way into the chassis, suspension, the brakes and of course the total driving experience. Instead of shoe horning the bigger car’s V8 under bonnet, the previous generation twin turbo 135i straight six motor was fettled with extensively to the tune of 250kw and a boosty 500Nm. That’s a lot of grunt for the rear driven wheels to bear in a short wheelbase coupe sharing a profile and footprint closer to the forebear E30 M3 and 325is’s of lore. Inside its standard 1 Series fare with liberal smatterings of alcantara and of course a grippy pair of bucket seats in which to do some hard graft.
THE SILLY BIT
I’m straddling a set of traffic bollards waiting for Deon to give me the start signal. “You can err… go boet.” That was it right there! I dial in mid 3000 rpm, drop the manual box’s clutch and proceed to launch up the Fisantekraal runway. It’s a screamer! No it’s a barker! I’ve got a straight six singing as induction roar fills the cabin. No turbo whistles and whelps here, the power delivery feels linear and seamless, like a normally aspirated engine on nitrous! I barely climb into third before swapping back to second and climbing onto the brakes. I’ve left the DSC traction controllers on and its evident as I proceed to turn right tightly before the course opens up left then sways right into a beautiful arc before you’re facing the start line, but not before traversing another chicane and braking zone then ultimately parking inside a box of cones. Neat, tidy but heavily neutered by the DSC, it’s still immensely fun despite the power being taken away from you on every exit. At this point Deon reminds us how a few years ago cars never had any electronic restraints or harnesses and insists we run the course with DSC off. Which we all duly did, after a quick ‘is this cool’ glance at the PR types.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Back at the start cones, I’ve got the needle bouncing off the redline, “Go when you ready boet…”, I let the revs drop to 4000 and like a .45 Cal exiting a barrel I’m shot off the line with audible protest from the tyres! First gear, second gear, third… Brakes! Second gear! The back end let’s go immediately as I turn the wheel towards the right, it’s an easy slide – and a tiny correction on the helm and some nursing of the throttle means the nose is tucked back in and the rear following tidily once more as the course switches to left, then majestically scythes right. At that point the rear end is completely unstuck and world class showing off begins. More angle? Gas that throttle! Too much? Jump off and correct the front wheel angle. Hoon it up! You can call me Takumi Fujiwara, bolt in a roll cage and six point harness and I’ll dominate a drift event in this very exclusive smoke machine. Only 71 made? All sold! It’s a great pity for the rest of us who’ll have to get our kicks seeing them on the road in their distinctive white, black and searing orange paint jobs. So, is it a proper M car? Abso-bloody-lutely! Watch this space for a full review.