I've driven so many nice sports cars this year that it's difficult to remember them all. One of the undeniable highlights is still the 2008 BMW 135i. Available in rear-wheel drive coupe or convertible form, the new 1 Series comes with a powerful and efficient 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder engine, great suspension tuning, a sporty upscale design and lots of standard goodies.
The biggest highlight for many is that the 1-series even comes with the same 300-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six that's in the 335i. Imagine that powerplant in a car is that is shorter, lighter and only available with two doors and you have my attention.
A fully-loaded 1 Series, like the black sapphire metallic 135i coupe I tested, goes for about the same money as its larger 335i coupe counterpart. My tester tops out at almost $50-grand including the destination and handling once the premium package and options are tallied up.
Compared to the naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter engine in the 128i model, the turbocharged version boasts a smaller bore, longer stroke and more aggressive engine programming. It has an extra 70 hp that's available earlier in the powerband, as well as an extra 100 ft-lbs of torque that peaks at 1400 rpm putting out 300 hp and 300 ft-lbs respectively.
Power delivery is strong with little if any trace of turbo lag. BMW claims the coupe will do zero-to-60 mph in 5.5-seconds with either the six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic which boasts the Steptronic shift mode with paddles. Top speed is electronically-limited to 150 mph.
1 SERIES DRIVES LIKE A SMALL CAR SHOULD, EVEN WITH A SURPRISNGLY HIGH CURB WEIGHT
The 135i models get an uprated sport suspension, which, when combined with massive (and optional) 18-inch M-style double spoke wheels, ensures this car stays glued to the road. With a 53/47 (front/rear) weight distribution, the 3,384 lb car behaves exactly how you'd expect it to with oversteer rearing its head only when pushed hard. And, I mean hard.
Engine-speed sensitive power steering comes standard on the 1 Series, but the optional active steering system is well worth the extra money it commands. It's more precise and decreases the turning radius remarkably, which is especially useful at slow speeds where small steering wheel inputs return large outputs at the front wheels great for tight parking lots, etc. At faster speeds, the system automatically reprograms itself to track straighter and turn-in smoother. With a great on-centre feel and an alpine skiing-like edge feel to it, the 135i can be driven confidently on your favorite twisty roads.
he 1 Series is powered by the same 300hp twin-turbo six found in the 335i.
2. It doesn’t exactly have an entry-level price and fully option-out can come close to $50,000.
Vented performance brakes also come standard on these models. The rotors are larger than 128i models, with six-piston front and two-piston rear calipers clamping down on them. There's more than enough stopping power for everyday driving. All 1 Series models get a bunch of active safety features, including ABS, dynamic stability control with extended functionality, including automatic stability with traction control, dynamic brake control and distribution. An electronic limited slip differential also helps put power down.
All traction and stability systems can be turned off and the performance of this car is not in question. During my week with it, I still managed a respectable combined fuel economy of about 21 mpg. Not bad considering the U.S. EPA estimates are 18/26 mpg (city/highway). Of course, the fact that all Bimmers sip high octane fuel is a bit of a downer.
Inside, the interior boasts coral red Boston leather throughout with real carbon fiber dash trim to match the outside mirrors. The six-way adjustable sport seats offer a thigh extender for the driver and all controls are well laid out and within reach. The right side of the steering wheel even has four buttons that can be programmed to operate any number of convenience features. For instance, you can open and close the optional display, which is used for navigation, audio controls and the like. BMW also has great iPod integration that allows full control over the device from the vehicle itself.
Some noteworthy interior standards include 60/40 split-folding rear seats with a pass-through, filtered dual-zone automatic climate control and an advanced head protection system for the front and rear to go along with a host of front and side airbags. That's all just for starters.
Some of the limitations include very little legroom in the rear and pricey optional upgrade packages that many buyers don't need or wouldn't want. Most could do without the active cruise control or iDrive (part of the navigation option), for instance.
BMW’s active steering is amazing and, the more time I spend with the so-called “unintuitive” iDrive control system, the easier to use and more familiar it becomes. Like any portable electronic device a mobile phone or MP3 player for example you just need to invest some time to learn how to use it before it really becomes useful.
The 135i Coupe gets high marks for its fun factor and superb performance. It's a normal everyday car with plenty of bells and whistles included. It has excellent road manners, but on a whim can turn mischievous. Despite the absence of an M package, this car is seriously fun. Whether you are whipping around town or stretching its legs out in the countryside, the 135i conjures up emotions that will not soon be forgotten.
300hp in such a small package
Six speed auto and manual offered
Incredibly well-equipped interior
Almost as expensive as a 335i
Quite heavy for such a small car
Some options only available in pricey packages