By Zack Klapman.
You have fifty-ish thousand dollars in your hand. You want a BMW. It has to be fast coupe, but not an M3. “Not enough torque from the V8.” you say. You do like a racetrack now and then, but the regular 335i can’t take the abuse. What do you do?
You have two choices:
1. The 2012 335is: essentially a 335i with better cooling, more power, and stiffer suspension.
2. The lauded, cult-classic film that is the BMW 1M.
The former is built upon the (deserved) heritage of the 3-series coupe, but with upgrades that help you go faster, it’s the 3 series coupe for people that know (or pretend to know) what “apex” means. The latter is being called the truest BMW to the original E30 M3, which is similar to comparing Lebron James to Michael Jordan. Both cost $50-60,000 (depending on your dealer), share a turbo-charged inline-6 engine, are for “drivers”, and say “BMW” to possible mates and going public.
That many similarities imply a redundancy, but that is saying that night is the same as day because oxygen is present in both.
The 2012 335is is a bridge between the 335i and the M3. For the price of a base M3, you get a fairly loaded 335is; M sport steering wheel, lower/stiffer suspension, 19” wheels, and BMW’s Active Steering, which changes the steering ratio (faster at slow speeds, slower at fast speeds). Though the two cars share basic engine architecture, the 2012 BMW 335is separates itself off the line with 20 more HP and 32 more torques (320/332, respectively), pushed through a quick 7-speed DCT transmission; paddles let you shift gears. Hold the pedal to the floor and you initiate overboost, giving you 370 ft-lbs of torque for 7 seconds. It’s not a rocket (5.0s to 60MPH), but speed seems to increase exponentially, and this car trapped one of the highest speeds on Fontana of the 20 or so cars I’ve driven there (some of which cost twice as much, and made 200 more HP). The normal 335i is a model. This car is an athlete.
This car isn’t about drag racing, it’s about turns, and it’s damn good at them. It drives wonderfully. Switzerland isn’t this neutral. The adjustable steering controls the tires with a leash measured in microns, tail-slides are at your back and call, body-roll is as noticeable as a fly is to a boulder.
The interior is exactly what you’d expect from a 3-series, with infotainment, leather, and smart looking plastics and wood wherever you told the salesman to put them. It has back seats, but they’re for amputees. Without a doubt, it’s true to the 3-series name, and a great car. Comfortable to work, predictable on a track, it’s a double-duty car without adding an “M” to the price.
But, it is not a BMW 1M, because nothing is a BMW 1M. Someone may look like Al Pacino, he might even have a twin, but they aren’t actually him, let me explain….
If you spend the extra money to get add that “S” to your 3-series, it should mean you want performance. You’re a wheelman! A connoisseur! You like the smell of gas, and truly understand what “the limit” means!
If that’s the case, and you’re not just trying to one-up people in the valet line, you have made a mistake, because the performance coupe of the decade is the 1M. I’m sorry, it is.
They share a motor, but because the 1M is 200lbs lighter and 9” shorter, it feels-and is- much, much faster. 4.5 seconds to 60, it’s what a hamster feels if you put it on top of a gas-powered RC car. Zips, rips, blasts, a million minute explosions funneled through a soda straw. The 335is moves, but there’s no sense of occasion; You’re in a stable environment and you’re aware of it.
The 1M is engaging the same way racquetball is engaging; be awake. Not to say it’s dangerous, but you can sense the energy it possesses.
It is the definition of nimble. The cornering grip (.97g) feels like an AWD Evo. If the 335 is the pretty boy, the 1M is the 5’8” lead singer of a punk band who has black hair, some tats, and a gymnast’s muscles. Fender flares, big wheels, big rubber, squat, eager to go. Larger cars fear it. The 1M looks like it has a knife.
The interior isn’t fancy; mine was all black and looked old by design. It has back seats, and a decent trunk, but there’s no sense of opulence or arrival. The radop screen looked like a 1991 calculator’s.
You won’t care. This car won’t impress anyone as a social status ID card, but you know what? In a few years, neither will the 3. But…the 1M is a collector car. Only 1,500 will be made, and you can see how prices for E30 M3s have done recently. This is the 440 ‘Cuda for my generation; the GTO “Judge” for the new car nut. It’s one of the best cars I’ve ever driven, it is absolutely fast, it will be loved forever, and-most importantly-it is made of what has been sprinkled on the 335is.
(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by BMW.)