They don’t make them like they used to is a saying anyone pre-midlife crisis has heard all too often.
Yet, in terms of BMW, with every model in the range now sporting a turbocharged engine, it holds some weight. The days of highly tuned, naturally aspirated offerings seem to be long gone for the venerable Bavarian marque. However, it’s not all bad news. Few would consider the 1 Series to be a part of the silver lining, but the M140i is already a gem.
To up the ante even further, 60 Performance Editions are now available with a host of extra kit for a $71,900 price tag. So, what makes this special edition, ahem, special? As the brainchild of BMW Australia, the fettled M140i comes with a host of M Performance goodies such as 19-inch alloys finished in Orbit grey, hand-crafted, carbon fibre wing-mirror covers, a gloss black kidney grille and a matte black, hatch-mounted rear lip spoiler.
A new exhaust also sports chrome tips. On the inside, the 1 Series cabin has been swathed in Alcantara, which covers the steering wheel (with red centre line), shift knob and dash. Like the M4 GTS, the baby Bimmer also scores open-pore carbon fibre and a plaque signifying the build number.
The key mechanical change to the manual examples is the fitment of a limited-slip differential. Other than that, the new B58 engine punches out the same 250kW/500Nm of twin-scroll turbo goodness, all of which is sent to the rear wheels only. These two factors are key to the M140i Performance Edition and are reminiscent of the M-cars of a bygone era.
The 3.0-litre inline six is brilliant. It’s elastic, rev-happy and offers ample mid-range torque. Yet it’s delivered in such a linear fashion that you could mistake it for an M3 of yesteryear. It pulls from low down in the rev range and continues a heady surge of pace all the way to the 7000rpm cutout.
It’s deceptively fast and feels perkier than the 4.8sec 0-100km/h figure suggests. It sounds good, too. And, unlike some of its competition, you can sense it’s not all generated from the new exhaust, as the force-fed six produces an enticing induction roar – again, not unlike M-cars of old. When the road turns twisty the M140i requires a bit of manhandling to extract the best result.
Refreshingly, it won’t make you look good if you don’t put in the effort. Rush into a corner with too much speed and the front can push wide on entry, however, the understeer can be countered with your right foot. With the LSD, there’s no frying the inside rear wheel like a VS Commodore pulling out of Subway with a one-legged footlong either, as the locker insures both 19s are spinning in unison.
The relatively long wheelbase and rear-wheel drive architecture renders the Performance Edition as enjoyable as it is fast on country back roads. Sport-Plus mode is well calibrated and will allow a degree of slip while not totally removing the safety net. The ride quality is supple enough (luckily you can tailor the dampers and drivetrain modes separately) – although the steering feedback is still not entirely resolved as lock is applied.
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Still, it’s a package that is rewarding and fun to punt on just about any road. While the rev-matching, to mimic the art of heel-and-toe, won’t be to everyone’s taste and the ZF eight-speed automatic is excellent, there’s a theatre to slotting through the short-throw ’box to extract the Performance Edition’s brilliance.
As a limited-run special full of extra kit conceived by BMW Australia, the Performance Edition makes a lot of sense. It’s certainly a car that gets under your skin and enamours itself the more time you spend exploiting its wares. The irony is that despite all the rev-matching wizardry and turbocharged nous under the bonnet, the back-to-the-future M140i Performance Edition has a persona that’s resolutely old school. And it’s all the better for it.
Engine: 2998cc inline-6cyl, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 250kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1520-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.8sec (claimed)