Let’s be honest, some of the latest M-cars have… lost the plot. The X5M and X6M both weigh on the wrong side of two and a half tons, have gas-guzzling twin turbo V8′s, automatic transmissions, four-wheel-drive, a center of gravity closer to the moon than the earth, and no place on a racetrack. And just when we were beginning to think “M” really did stand for marketing, BMW drops this on our collective laps: The 1-series M Coupe.

Now, let’s not beat around the bush: they could’ve called it the 135is Lightweight and it’d be more truthful. But this hardest of hardcore 1-series coupes will appeal to M customers in a way no BMW has since the much-lamented Z4 M Coupe left us a while ago. Sure, it’s stuffed full of turbos, but it’s still closer to the definition of what an M car should be than… umm, a 5,500lb “SAC.” So let’s study and celebrate the gift that BMW is giving us.

First thing you notice: this sucker is wide. Like AMC Pacer wide. Big ol’ birthin’ hips. Snap judgement: totally gorgeous, even if slightly overwrought. Front track is 2.8″ wider, rear is up 1.8″, and the car is 2.1″ wider overall. Height is up 0.5 inches, and overall length is up 0.2″. Of interest: despite the bulging, muscular body work, the 1-series M Coupe is 77lbs lighter than a standard 135i 2-door. The M Coupe gets a front apron highly reminescent of the mug on the X6M, with more ventilation for the intercooler. The fenders are blistered out with a vent in the front, an M trademark for a while now. Out back, chrome quad tailpipes and fender air vents as well as a lower splitter give the M Coupe some more visual menace. But the biggest touch: those big, beefy BBS 19″ wheels, shared with the M3 competition package and M3 GTS. 9″ wide at the front and 10″ wide at the rear, they have big 245/35 and 265/35 performance rubber mounted. Overall, it’s more aggressive than the regular 135i without looking tacky and bolt-on. I dig it.

While the 2011 135i has transitioned over to the new single twin-scroll turbo N55 3.0L motor, the 135i M-Coupe retains a variant of the old N54 twin-sequential turbo engine, shared with the Z4 sDrive35is and the 335is. Although original estimates had the 1-series M Coupe making north of 350 horsepower, it will be putting out the same as the cars it shares it’s engine with. Namely, 335 horsepower at 5,900 rpm, along with 332lb-ft of torque between 1,500 and 4,500rpm. Like the Z4 and 335is, the 1-series M Coupe will also have a temporary “overboost” setting which allows higher boost limits at wide-open throttle for an additional 37lb-ft, bringing the peak to 369 – considerably more than the V8 M3 puts out at peak, as we’ve noted previously. These numbers are basically a match for the old E46 M3 engine, except with considerably more torque as well. And apparently the exhaust system has been tuned to have a prominent tone, something that’s been lacking from day 1 in BMW’s turbo 6. I’m interested to hear what this thing sounds like!

Some refreshing news? The 1-Series M Coupe will be offered only with a six-speed short-throw manual transmission for the time being. BMW might cave and put in the 7-speed DCT from the M3, but we’ll see. Performance? Well, yes- the 1 Series M Coupe will do 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds, the quarter mile in 13.2 seconds, and is artificially limited to 155mph. Those numbers are likely conservative, considering independent publications have tested regular 135i’s at 4.6 seconds to sixty – with more power and wider rubber i’d imagine it would be below 4.5 seconds. And that puts it pretty damn close to the M3 in straight-line performance, as well as a comfortable chunk faster than the E46 M3.

Suspension and brakes haven’t been ignored, obviously. The suspension design remains similar – MacPherson struts in the front, a 5-link independent setup in the rear – but it’s been reconfigured for M duty. A large percentage of the suspension components are now rendered in aluminum, and effort has gone into stiffening the chassis with upgraded front and rear subframes, as well as an additional thrust panel under the engine to tie things together. The sway bars are stiffer and hollow at each end, and dampers are aluminum at all 4 corners.

Brakes are more serious, too. Internally-vented and cross drilled, rotors measure 14.2″ front and 13.8″ rear, with floating hubs for better heat dissipation. Another trick piece: the rear differential is the active M diff from the M3, which apportions torque based on load left-to-right – no brake-lock fake LSD here!

The M Coupe gets special treatment on the interior, too. Black sport seats embossed with the M logo provided more lateral support, while a large portion of the interior is slathered in grey Alcantara and stitched together with orange thread. (door panels, door pulls, instrument cluster, dash panel, gear shift, brake leather, goodness gracious!) There’s an M-spec instrument cluster, some other M stuff like a pedal set and steering wheel, and that’s about it – they thankfully didn’t overdo it.

And that’s about it – the 1-series M Coupe is a surprisingly simple formula. They took what was already great about the 135i and made it a little better (the engine), and took what needed work – the suspension and brakes – and got them up to M spec. It’s an enticing recipe, and at an estimate base price of $43,000, it’s not an absurdly expensive one, either. The question is: would you rather get this, or get a $36,000 135i and a Cobb AccessPort ECU tuner for less than a grand? Experience has shown that tweaked N54′s tend to blow themselves up, so I think the market for this smallest of the M cars will be strong. The wide-body look doesn’t hurt either; I wouldn’t mind driving around one of these little monsters.