Everyone loves the 1 Series M, but prices are out of control.
Here’s an unpopular opinion: the BMW 1 Series M is overhyped. Before BMW enthusiasts hunt me down for my blasphemous statement, I should explain. The BMW 1 Series M is one of the most publicly praised M cars in recent history. Upon announcing the car, there was a public outcry for BMW to build more. Only 2,500 units were originally planned, but BMW ended up building 6,309 (some of which have been crashed). Almost overnight, the 1 Series M became more of a collector’s item than an actual car.
When it was new back in 2011, the base MSRP of the 1 Series M was $47,010. A normal car would have depreciated by at least half of its value seven years later in 2018, but the 1 Series M is not a normal car. Instead, the lowest list price we found for a 1 Series M was a shade under $60,000. Not only has the car held its value, it’s actually gone up. So what do you get for your $60,000 today? The 1 Series M was noted to be one of the most driver-focused M cars in quite some time. The car is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo N54 inline-six producing 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque going out to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.
The car also has a overboost function, increasing peak torque to 369 lb-ft. It is at this point we’d like to point out the 1M is not all that fast of a car. It’s quick, but not blistering. 0-60 mph takes 4.5 seconds and the quarter-mile is dispensed in 13 seconds flat. A brand-new M240i can match these numbers at a base price of $45,445 while offering better interior technology. It’s amazing to think that a brand-new M240i is actually cheaper than the older 1 Series M, but it is not the “much cheaper alternative” we mentioned in the title. That honor goes to the 135is, which can now be purchased for around half of the 1M’s original asking price.
We ran a search for used 135is examples, and we found results starting at around $20,000. This means a 135is is currently around one third the price of the 1M. So what do you get for your $20,000? Unfortunately, the 135is is not as powerful as its big brother with “only” 320 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. For one third the price as the 1M, 15 hp doesn’t really seem like a huge loss. The small power dip causes the 135is to be slightly slower than the 1M with a 0-60 mph time at 4.6 seconds and 13.3 seconds in the quarter-mile. $40,000 seem like a lot of money to save in order to sacrifice fractions of a second in sprint times.
Even though the 135is is down on power compared to the 1M, it actually has a newer engine. The 1M uses an older N54 twin-turbo engine, whereas the 135is uses the newer twin-scroll turbo N55. Most buyers are going to want to tune these engines, so the power difference is highly insignificant. There are other elements which differentiate the 1M from other 1 Series models. The wider stance of the 1M is very iconic, but we aren’t sure it’s worth paying triple the price. The 135is was only sold for a single year (2013) in North America. Buyers could choose from a coupe or convertible with either a six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed DCT.
The 1M may have been rare, but the 135is may actually be even rarer. BMW only built 816 units in the US (586 coupe and 213 convertibles). Even if Canada received a similar number of cars, the 135is would still be more than three times as rare as the 1M. If it was our money, the decision would be easy. Why buy the car everyone is hyping, when for one third of the price you could have something nearly as special?