Concept cars, whilst just as their name suggests, are for the most part mere design studies penned to showcase the manufacturers’ creative skills, advancements in technology, materials and manufacturing processes, do on occasion manage to float gracefully through the particulate filter of possibility and firmly into reality.

Cast your minds back to the turn of the century and to the unveiling of two defining cars that took styling cues courtesy of a rear-view glance into motoring past but with a futuristic twist: the ‘new’ Volkswagen Beetle and BMW-built Mini. These retro-throwbacks were contextually accurate, yet looked as if they’d just landed from another planet, especially the bubbly take on the Beetle – I could scarcely imagine them floating along our roads at the time and yet they’re commonplace but ten years later. Given our de-sensitization to thought-provoking aesthetics in all areas of design, how far will manufacturers have to go to grab our attention? Not just pushing the envelope, but opening it up and turning it inside-out to test our perception of what is possible today, tomorrow and far beyond.

Whatever your motoring fantasies this year, surely nobody can deny the temptation of a little S&M? By that, of course, I make reference to Audi & BMW’s long awaited and brand new offerings for 2011, both of which are guaranteed to pack plenty of pint-sized punch; the S1 and 1M respectively.

Audi recently unveiled a one-off ‘A1 Quattro’ in a decidedly snowy Canada presumably as a taster and the test-bed for the S1 variant due later this year and early indications suggest they’ll turn the boost up slightly on the current A1 range flagship’s 1.4TFSI engine to achieve around 180bhp, coupling it to the obligatory Quattro four wheel drive system and a 7 speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox to put their new S1 head to head up against the Fiat 500 Abarth, Mini John Cooper Works and upcoming Alfa Romeo MiTo Cloverleaf.

The epinephrine-injected heart being transplanted into the S1 will no doubt provide the perfect accompaniment to the A1’s positively evil looking rear lights and audacious overall silhouette. Audi make the best contemporary rear lights, and I consider this to be fact. Narrowly pipping Maserati’s ‘boomerang’ lights from the 3200GT and the Mk1 Cortina’s inverted ‘ban the bomb’ rear clusters to the post, modern Audi rear lights are undoubtedly pick of the bunch in my eyes, whilst their use of clever styling cues throughout the ranges compliments this near perfectly.
No polar bears were spared during the recycling of model names that Audi seem happy to have exercised, but BMW staunchly refused to re-use the M1 moniker used on their late seventies GT car, instead opting for the rather typically straightforward, efficient  and very German decision to reverse the characters, calling their new baby the 1M.

Shrewdly positioned below the M3 in size as well as power and price, so we are told, I’m confident that the 1M won’t fail to tick all of the boxes on your uber-hot coupe checklist. 335bhp from its 3 litre twin-turbo straight six powerplant? Check. A 0-60 sprint of 4.7 seconds? Check. Lightweight M-specific cross-spoke style alloy wheels from the M3 GTS? Check. Flared arches to set your car apart from any ‘lesser’ 1 series? Check. BMW seem to have dramatically poured a generous phial of synthesised testosterone into the injection moulding machines that will produce the bumpers to get the results we’re shown in the teaser images and renderings that have been unveiled and I for one can’t wait to see this car in the metal. And plastic.

Available exclusively with a six speed manual gearbox and with the obligatory and very necessary limited slip differential tucked neatly between the rear wheels, the 1M will also sport an ‘overboost’ function, providing an extra 37lb ft of torque for a brief moment when you realise that enough just isn’t enough. The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating, and I’m sure it won’t take too long to eat away at the rear tyres once anyone gets behind the wheel of one of these miniature machines, swiftly demoting those driving in front of you to those now driving behind, drowning in your efflux. Where do I sign?

Whether you’re looking for a hot-hatch or tyre-smoking coupe this year I doubt you could go far wrong with either of these two – let’s just hope they both make it to the showrooms without any delays, although thankfully they’re both from German manufacturers so there shouldn’t be too much chance of that.