2012 BMW 650i Convertible; 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe
With BMW, high performance is something like a chronic disease that infects everything.
What motor vehicle company other than the Bavarian Motor Works would produce a $100,000-plus luxury convertible with a stick shift and, nearly simultaneously, deliver a nearly racetrack-ready version of its smallest car?
On the high end is the 2012 650i Convertible, which made its debut in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula where enforcement is casual and it is possible to hit triple-digit speeds on rural two-lane highways.
About half the money and at the other end of the spectrum is the 2010 M1 Coupe, introduced at the Monticello Motor Club in New York State, a country-club racetrack for well-heeled enthusiasts.
Both cars are small-batch models, though BMW would be pleased to sell as many as it could produce. Only a few thousand fans will plunk down as much as $107,000 for a 650i Convertible and somewhere short of a thousand will experience the exhilaration of the $52,000 M1 coupe, which now is scheduled only for the 2011 model year.
The performance bug has infected BMW since it brought the 1600 two-door to the US in 1967, followed by the famed 2002. It took the cure for a time with sleepy 3-Series models in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it appealed mainly to clueless yuppies.
But the company moved relentlessly upscale and became a luxury performance nameplate, especially with the advent of its highly tuned, sought-after M versions.
The 650i ConvertibleFirst, take a look at the [650i Convertible](http://www.carsoup.com/US-National/new-vehicles/make/Car-Truck/Nationwide/BMW/6-Series/?refineids=modelid&refine=1 "BMW 650i inventory"). This is not an M, but sports a twin-turbo V8 engine with 400 horsepower and either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode (no difference in price) and rear-wheel drive. It can hit 60 miles an hour in slightly less than five seconds, according to BMW’s tests.
For 2012, the drop-top has been subtly redesigned to alter its sensuous lines with aggressive enhancements, from the so-called “shark nose” up front to the flared wheel arches, rear spoiler and dual exhausts. This is an attention-getter, a car to be seen and seen in.
It also has a host of performance accouterments, including settings of comfort, normal, sport and sport plus that change suspension settings, throttle response, shift points and steering assist.
Despite that, miles behind the wheel of a 650i Convertible with the eight-speed transmission reveal that even with its massive power it is more of a boulevardier than a stoplight sprinter or highway marauder. For example, at the tightest sport plus setting, it still has a relatively decent ride and, even in the comfort setting, it handles well and carves curves precisely. For quicker handling, four-wheel steering is an option.
The top is a durable fabric, which keeps weight down and intrudes less on trunk space. BMW says it goes up in 19 seconds and lowers in 24. Top up, the 650i not quite as serene inside as a coupe but reasonably quiet nevertheless.
The accommodations are as high-tech and luxurious as you can find, with expensive materials and precise workmanship. However, the back seat is barely adequate and difficult to access, and the automatic climate control had difficulty keeping the interior cool with the top up on a hot day.
The 650i Convertible, to be followed by a Coupe, has a starting price of $91,375, but it is doubtful anyone will get away for less than 100 grand given the options. The test car checked in at $107,175.
The BMW M1 CoupeWith its huge wheels and fat tires on a stubby two-door body, the [2011 M1](http://www.carsoup.com/US-National/new-vehicles/make/Car-Truck/Nationwide/BMW/1-Series/?refineids=modelid&refine=1 "BMW M1 Coupe") looks something like a 3-year-old walking around in his daddy’s shoes. But the M1 doesn’t walk; it runs like a bandit.
This little machine, with its twin-turbo, 335-horsepower six-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission available), along with those 19-inch wheels, wide tires (245/35 front, 265/35 rear) and adjustable performance settings is likely to appeal to the enthusiast who likes to race on the weekends and drive his racer to work every day.
It makes little pretense at practicality. Though basically a two-door sedan, BMW tells the truth and calls it a two-plus-two, which is a traditional designation for a car with a back seat unsuitable for normal human occupancy. The optioned tester had a sticker of $52,285, up from the base of $47,010.
Weighing just 3,296 pounds, the M1 can rip off zero-to-60 acceleration runs, according to BMW’s tests, of 4.7 seconds. That’s slightly faster than its 400-horspower cousin, the 650i Convertible. Power is delivered with a strong surge in every gear, especially second and third.
The M1 has sport seats with good lateral support to hold the driver’s torso in turns and a solid dead pedal on which to brace the left foot around fast corners. Basically, the rear-drive M1 is so well balanced that all you do is point it and hang on.
Model: 2012 BMW 650i Convertible.
Engine: 4.4-liter V8, twin turbochargers, 400 horsepower.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
Weight: 4,531 pounds.
EPA city/highway fuel consumption: 16/24 miles per gallon.
Base price, including destination charge: $91,375.
Price as tested: $107,175.
Model: 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe
Engine: 3-liter six-cylinder, twin turbochargers, 335 horsepower.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
Weight: 3,296 pounds.
EPA city/highway fuel consumption: 19/26 miles to the gallon.
Base price, including destination charge: $47,010.
Price as tested: $52,285.