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Friday mailbag: What’s the worst BMW M car?

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This week, it’s the BMW 1M, and am I allowed to tell you if a press car is bad?

If you’d like to participate, drop me a question at And don’t worry, you’ll remain anonymous.

This week’s question

I’m curious, are you allowed to actually”knock” press cars? Has anything really bothered you from the ones you’ve reviewed? And in your opinion, what’s the worst M car ever made?

– Tom, Florida


Tom, thankfully, I was born in the correct era of automotive history. There aren’t any truly awful, horrible cars made in this day and age. Even as late as the 90s, cars like the Dodge Neon (hi!) would start to shed parts around the earth almost as soon as you took it off the lot.

If I were to write a scathing review of a press car, the manufacturer wouldn’t be too eager to send me another, so there is that. But the reviews are truthful – I’d gladly take a majority of these cars home. Some do speak to me more than others, but that’s where taste comes in. Hopefully mine resonates with you.

The only real sense of frustration comes from the fact that no auto maker can put it all together. Why can’t Cadillac put a really nice interior inside the Blackwing? Why did Mercedes ditch the V-8 in its top AMG models? Where did the character go in the M5? It’s all there, different parts from every car. But no one has yet to make “the one”.

Anyway, time to get the flame throwers ready.

The worst M car ever made

My dad would often tell me that “A bad Star Trek movie is still better than most good science fiction.”, so please take what I’m about to say within that context.

Let’s take a deep breath together. Ready?

It’s the 1M.

I can feel the heat already. But there are reasons…

The BMW 1M is a parts bin car without the best part.

To be fair, they are mostly the right parts. Suspension components from the E92 M3. The same six-speed manual (with unique ratios, of course), brakes, wheels, even the steering wheel. It’s all very M.

But they forgot the best part: the S65 V-8.

BMW didn’t include this special engine because they wanted to keep production costs down, and an N54 engine was already in place. They also didn’t want the 1M to overshadow the M3 of the time, which it did anyway because it was just as fast and handled better.

But the N54 used is more “M Performance” than real “M” motor. No “S” for you.

BMW engineers were designing to a performance delta, a point right underneath the M3’s place.

You really do want an S65.

It ushered in the turbo era.

Speaking of the N54, it was BMW’s first turbo-6 in an M car. Only the V-8 in the X5 M came before it in terms of turbocharged M engines.

It’s not a bad engine by any means, but I find it amusing that everyone was quick to poo-poo the F8X M3 and M4 because of forced induction, yet the 1M seemed to fly under the radar. This is the car that signaled the end of an era. Aim pitchforks here if you’re so inclined.

And remember, the S65 (and the engine it’s derived from, the S85 V-10), were truly special motors, designed by M for M. Look up “S65 1M” and you’ll see that shops can do the conversion. And if your local shop can, then BMW certainly could have.

It was overshadowed instantly

It’s a point of pride for M fans that their model is so very unique.

If I line up an E39 M5 and an E60 M5, you might have a favorite, but you can appreciate both. Would you say one is better than the other from a driving experience standpoint? There’s no definitive answer. Each provides a unique take on what an M5 should be.

Now we’ll line up an M2 with a 1M. What does a 1M do better? The M2 is better looking, more comfortable, faster, the tech is newer…I could go on.

Every new generation of M car is faster than the one before it, that’s a given. But when both are so close mechanically (and spiritually), why wouldn’t you want the better version?

“It’s exclusive though!” Actually…

Wouldn’t you rather have one of these?

Du-bunking the BMW 1M “rare” myth.

Rare doesn’t always mean special. BMW sold 6,342 1Ms worldwide during its short production run. Seems rare. But let’s zoom out a bit and look at a few other modern M cars from that time period.

  • BMW M6 Coupe – 4,515 / M6 vert – 4,318
  • Z4 M Coupe (E85) – 4,275 / Roadster – 5,070
  • E90 M3 – 9,606
  • E61 M5 (wagon) – 1,025
  • E70 X5M – 8,974

Are all of those M cars special too?

It gets worse. In 2013, as a final send off to the 1 Series Coupe, BMW produced the 135is, a sort of “in-between” from a regular 135 and the 1M. Amount produced for the US: 816. Take away the convertibles, and it’s just 586 Coupes.

BMW sold 740 1Ms in the US.

Now you might be reading this and mumbling into your Cheerios “Mike, 740 is rare!”. Fair enough, but how hard is it to get one? Take a look at Bring a Trailer’s page.

How about that, one was just listed a few days before I wrote this. Another on 8/14. Another on 8/11. 8/1. And that’s just one website. There are others.

They might be rare, but people are eager to cash in on the market, so they are easy to find.

Found another!

The BMW 1M isn’t one of the best Bimmers ever.

Driven in a vacuum, the 1M is an excellent little car. But hop into an E92 M3 and rev it, or just drive an M2 anywhere, and the classic BMW reputation the 1M has starts to fade.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’d have an Audi S3 or Merc CLA over one – it’s still an M car. But considering what’s come after it, what it ushered in, what it’s missing, how expensive it’s become and how “rare” it is…disappointment.

Fire extinguisher at the ready.

Don’t worry, you’re still my bro.

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