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Driving Today

BMW 1 Series M Coupe: Little Gem

The 1 Series M takes the small coupe to a new level of performance and fun.

If you test vehicles for a living, you will eventually come to the conclusion that cars that are good on the street are not so good on the racetrack. The all-new, limited-production BMW 1 Series M Coupe, which we recently had a chance to drive at California’s Willow Springs International Raceway, is the exception that proves that rule. It is one of those rare passenger cars that are utterly in their element on the track and utterly practical for day-to-day use. With 335 horsepower available from its twin-turbo all-aluminum in-line six-cylinder engine, the compact M Coupe is a rocket sled. It will sprint from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 4.7 seconds, and its top speed is electronically limited at 155 mph. This is no Toyota Yaris.

Offered only with a six-speed manual transmission, the 1 Series M Coupe has EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Not bad, but fuel economy is not its reason for being -- driving fast on a wide variety of road surfaces is. Its standard Dynamic Stability Control keeps a sharp eye on overaggressive maneuvers that could dent its handsome sheet metal, and the DSC also has an intermediate M Dynamic mode that, like a stern but loving kindergarten teacher, quickly nudges you back in line. While we can’t say we were in love with our kindergarten teacher, we love the 1 Series M Coupe. Our only regret is that only 1,000 or so will come to the United States.

How much is it? Right around $46,000, which will buy you three Toyota Yarises.