HERE’S AN amusing i coincidence. Actually, it’s the way of the German car industry that it isn’t a coincidence at all.

Three weeks after Audi unveiled the RS3, an A3 with 340bhp, along comes BMW with the 1-Series M Coupe, a 1-Series with – you guessed it – 340bhp.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a BMW M car for under 50000$, or one with six cylinders.

We’ve missed those handy, compact, tactile little road rockets, and we’re aching with hope that the 1-Series M will bring it all back.

All those horses come from a 3.0-litre twin-turbo six. It’s actually the same one as in the Z4 3SiS, making it the first M car to use an engine from a non M donor. Don’t forget It specializes in intoxicating lunacy, the twin low-inertia blowers (most other 3si BMWs have quietly switched to a bigger single puffer) giving response and torque while allowing a 7,000rpm red line. lt’s bolted to a no-nonsense manual gearbox with a special short—throw lever. This is a car for people who like to get involved.

Because there’s so much aluminum underneath, this new M weighs less than 1,500kg, which means the 369lb ft of torque is going to make it kick mid-range backside a lot more effectively than the V8 M3. Flat out, BMW says it’ll do 0-62 mph in 4.9 secs.

The aluminum suspension is mostly from the M3, so it’s stout and precise.

The brakes come from the same source and so does the excellent M variable—locking differential. That diff, the huge tyres, the specially bolstered cooling system, and the blessed absence of active steering tell you a lot of very good things about the way this thing will go round a track. It’s a long—time M obsession of course.

The car is peppered with long—time M details too. Four tail pipes, indicator repeaters on chrome flashes behind the front wheels, an oil temperature gauge in place of the econometer, and a gearlever knob with an illuminated shift pattern. Having admired the details, stand back.

Hasn’t this got to be the best-looking 1-Series by miles? The 2dr one was always a strangely boxy thing, but this version magically makes sense of it. lt’s got that early- Seventies touring-car vibe to it, the glassy, upright and, let’s face it, prissy body shell given a complete transformation by those rude wheel arches. Think 2002 Turbo racer or Escort Mexico rally car.

Mind you, they managed without DSC, LED tail—lights, xenons  and an iPod socket. More important, they never had 340bhp.

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