When the Geneva International Motor Show opens to the press on March 6, the most highly anticipated BMW attraction will be the 6 Series Gran Coupé, the on-again, off-again descendant of the Concept GT that debuted in Shanghai nearly four years ago.
But the two-door version of the new 1 Series will make a splash there, too. Make that “three-door,” for the F21-coded car is the second of the new 1 Series models off the line, following the F20 four-door hatchback—a “five-door” in BMW-Speak. And BMW is taking advantage of this opportunity to tout their new “M Performance” packages, creating new opportunities for BMW fans the world over to argue over what constitutes a true BMW M car. The M135i features the now-familiar N55 turbocharged three-liter six, now rated at “more than 300 horsepower.”
More important is the model-specific suspension technology—tweaked, with stiffer springs and shocks, bigger antiroll bars, and a more aggressive skid-control system for its Sport mode—that includes an M Sport braking system and eighteen-inch M light alloy double-spoke wheels, along with other M-wannabe touches. Consider the corporate bumf regarding the front-end design: “The three-dimensionally designed flaps on the air intakes give indication of the car’s direct association with motor racing.” Yeah, that would be the, um, well, what racing series was that exactly, the one with all the 1 Series BMWs?
Whether you find the M-is-for-Marketing add-ons a tasty addition to an already delicious pocket-size BMW, as I do, is utterly beside the point, of course, because BMW has found that M Sport accessories are wildly popular in every market, though BMW NA had resisted them for fear of diluting the brand. But with the addition of M trucks to the line, plus the heretic transition to turbocharged engines over the naturally aspirated high-revving M engines of yore, the definition of an M car has been blurred from its once-crystal purity. Indeed, the 1 Series M coupe—known internally at BMW as the M135i, come to think of it—featured the M treatment in every area but the engine: That was the twin-turbo N54, now a brief but classic chapter in the Bavarian engine company’s history.
In any case, we may drool from afar, but as it was in 2004, with the introduction of the first 1 Series hatchback, yea, so it is in 2012: The Europeans will gobble up the M135i—yeah, it’s just a car-show concept, uh-huh, we get it—as fast as they crank them out, while BMW suits chant their timeworn litany: “Americans won’t buy hatchbacks.”
And once again, they’ll be right—because we certainly can’t buy what you won’t sell us.—Satch CarlsonBack to News