So, it’s official. BMW’s third generation Series 1 will be front and all wheel drive only. The last rwd car of its segment waves off goodbye to an entire army of bimmer people who found in it the first approach to traditional-layout cars. Let us not forget: many people learned the joys of powersliding thanks to countless 118d’s and 125i’s that are in the world today. Wherever these true soldiers of German steel are in the world, we thank you.
Seriously now, times are constantly a-changing and we all can understand why the people in Münich decided to change the “1er” to into a transversally-mounted-engine motorcar. After all, such a layout means more space in the booth and means an easier job for engineers to study optimal ergonomics and increase the comfort inside. As much as we refuse to say it, not everyone likes going sideways in their daily routine and yes…many people prefer the practicality of front wheel drive cars rather than the traditional rear wheel drive configuration.
Yet, as one of the cars we always liked turns to the dark side, we begged BMW to allow us to have that last moment of fun on a mountain road. Fortunately the folks at BMW know us quite well now and they given us not one, but 3 Series 1 to savour the last precious moments of the last entry level rwd bimmer in action. The M Power Edition that we had for a week is a limited edition series which is set to celebrate the life and times of the Series 1 as we know it. Such an option offers the M package as standard and also includes a driving course as standard…talk about value for money!
Our platoon of 3 BMW’s consisted in a Melbourne Rot 125i, an Estoril Blau 125d and an Alpinweiss III M140i. All, of course without the xDrive system we all know and love, ensuring a minimum degree of tail-happiness behaviour. Just for the sake of going sideways, we decided to invite a guest to join us, a first for Escape on Wheels: pro drifter Riccardo “Piddy” Guidetti. A competitor in the European Drift King Challenge, Riccardo is the perfect companion when we have a whole day ahead of us made of going sideways, driving up mountain roads and pure fun.
The “Lap of the Gods”, is the perfect road “circuit” for this adventure. We decided to give this rather pompous name to the tour of the Rolle, Valles, San Pellegrino, Costalunga, Lavazè and Manghen (this last one is not good for driving, but has great strüdel on top) passes. Drive once there and you’ll see why the “lap of the gods” has such a name. Great roads, fantastic scenery and the perfect proving ground to do some skid tests: this is the proper playground for a rwd BMW.
Surely these are not exotic cars by any standards but given the fact that all of them are quite accessible fun machines, we’re celebrating these daily drivers for what they can do and what they can offer. First and foremost all three have impeccable driving dynamics and yes on a curvy road even the 224 hp diesel is fun to drive. The balance between front and rear is near perfection and even if neither of these cars have high end complex suspension it is a remarkable achievement. Although comfortable on the highway it never floats around on bumpy roads. In particular, during hard acceleration and heavy braking it feels perfectly stable and never wobbles giving you confidence in your driving skills.
It’s the perfect car to learn how to drive fast and to use in your daily routine too: a good balance for price point in both sportiness and everyday comfort and practicality. Traction is always present and to truly unstick it from the ground, you need to really want it. Even pros like Piddy had their own share of good efforts to put it properly sideways. And they all go, sideways.
With some skill and little space you can enjoy yourself very much. On the wide mountain roads these 1er feel more at home than in the shopping mall’s parking lot. This stands as a testament to the fact that sporty cars are still alive in this world.
In particular the M140i is fantastic. Surely, it’s the most powerful but with an engine that pulls strongly right from 1000 rpm it’s a package which is hard to beat. Needless to say, the self locking differential adds a lot to the driving characteristics of the M140i. There should be more sportscars like these, like in the good days of proper Alfa Romeos: excellent dynamics in an easy-to-live-with package. The 125’s on the other hand have a very precise front end with almost no understeer at all. Surprisingly, it’s with escapes like these that you re discover one of the true pleasures of motoring: spending time with other people. Driving together on a nice roads will make you comment the cars and a stop for a beer and schnitzel becomes a moment to talk more about cars and enjoy the sun. Petrolheads are simple people, and we only like to have fun…smoky and childish fun. It is in these moments that you enjoy cars to the fullest. Simple things, nothing else.
The M Power Edition will have 500 cars in total, only for the Italian market. Sure it is no homologation special or a series of 1er with bespoke parts put on them. It’s just a car that is still being made for the sake of having fun in your daily commute, whether you like cars or not. These are not supercars, but through the corners of those great mountain passes and the fun we had we will be sure we’re going to be sad that this BMW will be confined to history.
Nevermind, there will be still plenty of fun to be had with Münich’s finest and we’ll be very happy to continue to see cars similar to these delivering the thrill of proper sports driving to new generations of enthusiasts. Funny how a car you’ve seen countless times around the streets is indeed a machine that will lead to further appreciation of motoring. It’s nothing rare or exotic but it’s fun and most of all, a real everyday sportscar. Mountain passes or not, long live the 1er.
Many thanks to BMW Italia