Tissues at the ready M140i adorers; BMW has confirmed that its next-generation M-fettled 1 Series will jettison its straight six and use a 2.0-litre four-pot engine instead. The future M135i xDrive’s motor will earn the title of most powerful BMW four with a peak output of 306hp, making it more potent than the VW Golf R and, rather conveniently, identical to the Mercedes-AMG A35. But, as the model name suggests, it’ll drive all four wheels, suggesting the days of a tail happy BMW hatch will close with the M140i Finale Edition.
BMW is promising that its upcoming range-topping 1 Series will have “extremely dynamic handling properties”, however, suggesting it might not turn into a Bavarian take on AMG’s straight-laced A35. M division engineers certainly know how to extract excitement from an all-wheel drive system, although there’s no mention of a lairy, rear-drive mode which features on the M5 and next M3. Perhaps the xDrive hot hatch will offer a rear-biased setting in order to live up the BMW’s claims for dynamic prowess instead.
While the old rear-driven six-pot M140i and its closest predecessors had more power than the upcoming model, the traction advantage and, according to BMW, a more tractable turbocharged engine suggest an M135i xDrive will have better real-world performance. Indeed, the M140i has never been a hot hatch chosen for its outright pace but rather its more traditional powertrain and driveline layout. The two-axle-driven rivals from VW and AMG have more often than not been the quicker point-to-point machines.
Beneath the head of the M135i xDrive’s 2.0-litre engine are new pistons and cod rods, while the motor has also been given a larger turbo. The 1 Series’ electronic stability control has also been completely redeveloped to offer more fun dynamics even when the system’s on. Combined with a significant boost in structural rigidity from the underlying platform, BMW says this’ll all equate to better handling and refinement. The car will also grow in size to give passengers in the back 33mm more legroom and 19mm extra headroom.
The M135i xDrive will be an entirely different beast to the silky, comparably old school M140i, then. We’re expecting big things, of course, and there’s certainly space in the market for a properly playful all-wheel drive hot hatch that can also provide daily duties and remain fairly inconspicuous. So while we’ll all mourn the loss of a rear-driver 1 for years to come, it’s perhaps also exciting to think that the Golf R’s reign might finally be challenged by a lairier German cousin from Bavaria. Don’t you think?