PH Blog: the best M3? It's the 1 M!


As mentioned in the original story, the amazing but expensive BMW M3 CRT driven for these pages recently was tested alongside a whole bunch of other M cars at the Nurburgring GP track. A fleeting taste perhaps but pushing cars like the CRT and GTS to their limits for a few laps was an incredible experience. But they weren't the only M3s on offer.

CSL a breath of fresh air among the V8s
CSL a breath of fresh air among the V8s
The oldest car present in that line-up was an E46 M3 CSL, a very special car indeed. The E90 and E92 generation machines were represented by standard M3s, competition packs and the specials I've already mentioned above. But nestling amongst the queue of M3s was a metallic orange interloper, a little 1 M Coupe.

Amongst the banquet of big V8s, the CSL and 1 M were beautiful palate-cleansers. Precision instruments. The CSL was, of course, awesome. The noise from the airbox, the poise of it's four-square chassis ready to grip and grip. But still sadly let down (in my personal opinion) by the standard brakes and SMG gearbox. The brakes simply don't cut it on a racetrack, and neither does the SMG.

While I grudgingly accept that systems like the DCT (with its double-clutch and instant changes) make cars better and faster, I still think the SMG of the CSL creates more problems than it solves for a competent driver. Turn it up to 'harsh' and it bangs the hell out of the diff and cooks its own fluids. Turn it down to soft and it drags on the clutch like an OAP with an overdue hip replacement.

What's that in the GTS's mirrors?
What's that in the GTS's mirrors?
So, the best 'M3' that really took the honours in this group was ... the 1 M! Back to back with the other machines it ticked all the right boxes. Small. Manual gearbox. Proper brakes.

In short, it was brilliant. Though the six-cylinder turbo noise could never compete with the naturally-aspirated war cry of the carbon-airboxed CSL, the actual power delivered was more than enough to keep up with the 450hp monsters we were on track with.

The torque at low revs was enough to freak out the electric nannies with only the smallest of throttle openings. And then the mid-range, rapidly throwing the needle into a breathless top-end, shift after shift. I'd stuck a little 10hz GPS datalogger on the windscreen of every car I drove, including the GTS and CSL. Everytime I exited Ford-kehre and accelerated towards the hairpin, I was checking my peak speed at the braking point. The GTS scored 192km/h, the little 1M? 186km/h. Only 6km/h slower for about one third of the price. And unlike the CSL it had brakes that worked lap after lap.

Loads of torque and good brakes - unlike M3s
Loads of torque and good brakes - unlike M3s
And it has a manual, six-speed 'box. Which is just essential for those of us who've invested far too much time and effort into the art of shifting on a racetrack. A button that does an instant downshift with perfect rev-matching and double declutching is scornful, not inspirational.

I'm sure the purists will disagree, but I reckon the 1 Series M Coupe might just have been the best M3 there. Judging by the way they hold their value , the market at large just might agree with the cheapest one in the PH classifieds commanding a smidge over £35K. What do you think?

Dale

 

 

Comments (263) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Donkey62 04 Feb 2013

    Tbh i driven with many PHr's and hacks all talk of weight and flappy paddles their use of a manual box most time was erm driven like an auto straight into 5th 6th from 15mph and never changing gear again until coming to a stop and then still try pulling away in wrong gears...motoring hacks you know who you are lol

  • Leins 03 Feb 2013

    PKZ4M said:
    Can't tomorrow as I'll be cycling in the Wicklow Mountains.... Let me have the date of the March one and I'll try and join.
    Keep an eye out on the "Ireland" section and you should see it being announced beforehand, will be on Sunday 3rd March, from about 10:30am onwards. Very informal, just drop down for coffee, cars and chat!

  • PKZ4M 03 Feb 2013

    Leins said:
    I'm over in Blackrock myself. Here's the thread for the C&C: http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?h=0&a...

    It's actually on tomorrow morning in Cherrywood, just off the M50, and there's normally a good turnout of nice cars at it. Pretty well represented by BMWs too, and they're all a good bunch

    Saying that, I can't make tomorrow's, but aiming to get my Alpina out of hibernation for the one in early March. Worth dropping over to for a coffee and a look around all the cars. Give us a shout if you do!

    Jeff
    Can't tomorrow as I'll be cycling in the Wicklow Mountains.... Let me have the date of the March one and I'll try and join.

  • Leins 03 Feb 2013

    PKZ4M said:
    Hi Leins

    I live in Portmarnock just north of Dublin where I work as an expat, but my 1M is kept in Chandlers Ford in Hampshire at my in-laws. What are the Cars and Coffee events? Are these in Dublin... would be happy to join, but would be in another car.
    I'm over in Blackrock myself. Here's the thread for the C&C: http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?h=0&a...

    It's actually on tomorrow morning in Cherrywood, just off the M50, and there's normally a good turnout of nice cars at it. Pretty well represented by BMWs too, and they're all a good bunch

    Saying that, I can't make tomorrow's, but aiming to get my Alpina out of hibernation for the one in early March. Worth dropping over to for a coffee and a look around all the cars. Give us a shout if you do!

    Jeff

  • PKZ4M 02 Feb 2013

    ChrisBuer said:
    This is the post of the thread for me! Well said.

    My first Elise had a Rover K-Series engine and so did my Caterham, however both were fantastic cars that I'll never forget. Like you say, all of the above cars work, not just becasue they have one defining feature, but because the sum of the parts fit together to create a wonderful machine.

    Like you say, long may it continue. There are too many boring euro boxes out there these days and its nice that car makers can still make interesting, fun and unique cars aimed at driving enthusiasts!
    Cheers Chris! Love the look of your 1M, almost bought a white one myself, but got a black one in the end, seems to be much less noticed than the other 2 colours. Don't think I'd be brave enough to mod as much as you, but an exhaust like the Moto GP (Akroprovic) safety car has would be good.....

    One of the quickest cars I ever had, was powered by a 1.3 4 cylinder engine...... also made a great noise..... but no screen and doors meant my Westfield Megabusa only stayed around for 12 months.....

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