Driving the Dinan S3-R BMW 1M Coupe

When BMW introduced its short-lived 1 Series coupe, the E82 platform embraced the “pleasure of small.” To fans of BMW’s iconic 2002, it was an answer to the 3 Series—which had slowly bloated in size year after year and which, despite greater performance and amenities, had become altogether different cars from their series progenitors. Enthusiasts clamored for an ultimate 1 Series, imagining a pugnacious M variant in the spirit of the much-loved original M3, the E30 series built from 1985 to 1992. 

For 2011, BMW tempted diehards with the limited-production 1M Coupe, a two-year-only production run of about 6,300 units for the world market, with a mere 740 examples coming to the United States. The only colors available were black, white, and metallic orange. Customers queued, some dealers added usurious markups, and cars were snapped up by the fortunate few. And while BMW continues to fatten its M lineup with the M2, M3, and so forth, those vehicles are precisely that—fat—compared to the 3,296-pound 1M.

Whether the 1M will become the most collectible 21st-century BMW remains to be seen, but it definitely has a following that keeps the aftermarket busy.

The most well-respected name in the BMW aftermarket is Dinan. Known for developing comprehensive upgrades to the manufacturer’s entire model range, Dinan matches BMW of North America’s new-car coverage with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

So when Dinan offered Robb Report a few days with its Signature Series S3-R BMW 1M, it was an especially appealing opportunity to compare an amped-up version with a stock example of what is—coincidentally—my preferred daily driver. Having logged close to 15,000 miles behind the wheel, I find my 1M Coupe as familiar to me as a pair of broken-in loafers, and as comfortable and trouble free.

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Dinan takes a holistic approach to tuning, which means that powertrain—from intake to exhaust—as well as suspension, brakes, and wheels are all engineered and upgraded for enhanced performance. The standard-issue 1M is no slouch; its twin-turbocharged, 3-liter inline six develops 335 hp and up to 370 ft lbs of torque.

Starting in the engine bay, Dinan’s large-compressor twin-turbo upgrade with updated waste gates produces more than 14 psi of boost at 6,000 rpm. A carbon-fiber cold-air intake, high-capacity oil cooler, and Stage 4 Performance Engine Software upgrade that recalibrates 2,000 lines of engine-management data are complemented by an industrial-strength air-to-air intercooler and a beautiful stainless-steel free-flow exhaust (fabricated in-house by Dinan). At 444 hp and 450 ft lbs of torque at 3,300 rpm, the increased output is not subtle and is rather addictive. This added performance comes not at the price of tractability—it takes nothing away from the 1M’s friendly manners—but at $12,194 for parts.

Under the car, a $4,296 Dinan suspension package features a coil-over system that works on the track but does not compromise comfort on the street. Unlike some setups that squeak, rattle, and torture passengers with a harsh, choppy ride, the Dinan suspension is tuned for the real world, with a lightweight adjustable front antiroll bar, a spherical mono-ball front bearing kit, and precision rear toe links.

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The stock brakes, having been snatched from the M3 parts bin, did not receive an upgrade; they are more than adequate to stop the lighter car. Cast BBS 19-inch wheels ($2,900/set of four) are a half inch wider at front and rear (9.5 and 10.5 inches, respectively) and wear recommended Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (275/30-19 and 295/30-19, respectively). The look of the special BBS rim is a near clone of the stock BMW design, but with black milled spokes and a polished stainless rim protector. An optional forged monoblock wheel in a different style is also available.

Accessories are tasteful and understated; a carbon-fiber spoiler and mirror caps, aluminum foot pedals, and a Dinan trunk-lid badge discreetly identify this as a very special 1M Coupe.

Dinan Engineering in Morgan Hill, Calif., or any Dinan-authorized shop can perform the installation, although enthusiasts with mechanical chops might prefer spending quality time with their own 1M. The transformation is truly impressive, as the Dinan S3-R BMW 1M Coupe goes faster, feels tighter, handles sharper, sits wider, sounds better, and looks even more purposeful than the car from which it is derived. (800.341.5480, www.dinancars.com)

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