BMW 1 Series Coupe Forum / 1 Series Convertible Forum (1M / tii / 135i / 128i / Coupe / Cabrio / Hatchback) (BMW E82 E88 128i 130i 135i)


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      06-15-2010, 09:44 PM   #1

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135i Canadian Review: 2011 135i

Hoping this isn't a repost, saw this in the journal yesterday (I was in Québec):


Psst! C'mere. Yeah, you. Have I got a deal for you. A BMW. An M car, even faster than the M3. The real McCoy. Really.

The best part? It costs less than $50,000. Yes, it's new. No, it's not stolen. But, hurry, it's a special deal. A limited-time offer. For select customers only, such as yourself.

Of course, there's nothing really special about this deal at all. No furtive crawling down back alleys or meeting "John, if that's really your name" in the back of a Starbucks, far from probing eyes.

All you have to do is meander into any BMW Canada dealer and ask for a new 135i Coupe, preferably with the M Sport package. With minimal dickering, you'll be able to drive off the lot for less than $50,000 -including taxes -about the price of a previously owned, previous-generation 3.2-litre M3.

And here's the craziest thing: the 135i, despite not having the M3's pedigree, is actually a better car than the old, in-line six-powered M3.

Oh, it might have a little less horsepower (300), but with an equal amount of torque, it's actually ahead of that old 3.2L screamer. The 135i might also be a bit slower than the M3, but who is going to complain about a car that accelerates to 100 kilometres an hour in just 5.3 seconds, which is not even a full blink behind the old six-cylinder M3?

Amazingly, it's all done with one fewer turbocharger than in previous 135s.

Though the 2011 135i's spec sheet still proudly proclaims its TwinPower Turbocharged 3.0L, which, in previous years designated twin sequentially actuated turbochargers, the car's new N55 engine has but one. But, says BMW, the new arrangement has twin scrolls (or twin pathways) through its single turbo and, therefore, accomplishes the same task.

Techy twists and nomenclature hijinks aside, it matters not, because the turbocharged six is an absolute gem, especially in a coupe that weighs only 1,530 kilograms. Mated to the optional ($1,950) seven-speed, double-clutch DCT transmission, this is the sweetest powertrain in the segment, if not the entire car business.

The engine growls like a high-performance in-line six should (though a little extra bark, a la Z435iS, would be welcomed). There's a glorious amount of torque from as low as 2,000 r.p.m., making shifting the seven-speed tranny unnecessary and, when you do decide to play with the steering wheel-mounted paddles, the shifts are gloriously fast and smooth (unlike the single-clutch SMG, BMW's original such system, which managed to combine both abrupt and slow meshing of its gears for particularly dreadful performance).

Acceleration is superlative, not to mention seamless, and the engine, like the very best of BMW's in-line sixes, remains incredibly smooth at all r.p.m.

Unlikemanyturboengines, the 135i's seems eager to rev beyond its power peak of 5,800 r.p.m. If anyone knows of a sweeter powertrain than this for less than $50,000, please let me know.

BMW has also struck an enviable compromise in the coupe's ride/handling department. Not as crashy and bashy as the supremely stiff suspenders that are part and parcelof theMDivision' cars, the 135i is nonetheless a fluid handler (the 135i's M Sport package adds upgraded wheels, but the P215/40R18 front and P245/35R18 rear tires and suspension remain standard fare).

Outright grip might not be quite in the M3's league - nor even in the Mitsubishi Evo's, for that matter -but it does harness that famous BMW combination of well-controlled body roll and precise, communicative steering. The M Sport package's well-bolstered seats and thick sport steering wheel make it all feel more authentic. That the 135i accomplishes all of this without the M3's jarring ride or expensive adjustable suspension -the 135i's centre console-mounted "Sport" button only alters engine and transmission electronics settings -is just the icing on the cake.

Since the 135i is essentially an abbreviated 3 Series, it's little wonder the two share common styling and attributes. The interior, at least up front, is immediately recognizable. Being BMW's budget model, there's no iDrive to intrude into the purity of the ultimate driving experience. (BMW would argue that the real reason iDrive is omitted is because the 135's simpler electronics don't require a powerful controller.) A little clumsiness when manually changing radio stations is the biggest problem.

If you're looking for a reason not to buy the 135i Coupe, the rear seat is it. Yes, four adult-like humans can fit into the little coupe, but those in the rear perches had better be small, flexible or medicated -in truncating the 3 Series, this is where the reduction was accomplished.

If you remember that the 135i Coupe is essentially a two-seater for occasional forays to night spots, you'll be happy. Try to ferry around four middle-aged fast-food devotees and there'll be some griping.

I also don't think the smaller coupe is as beautiful as the new 3 Series iS version, but, then, neither is it the "friend" guys like me always got stuck with on double dates.

Indeed, looks-wise, the 135i is that old neighbourhood acquaintance who suddenly looks far more attractive when you've finally tired of putting up with the drama of the flashier choices.

Neither outstanding nor lame, it looks exactly like what it is -a slightly smaller, somewhat less expensive version of BMW's most iconic car.

As for my opening repartee, I'll stand behind my choice of the 135i over an M3.

The 135i is all the sporting car this probably-sillier-than-most scofflaw needs. It costs half as much, is easier to live with and is, as far as I am concerned, the best car BMW makes.

Were it available in a four-door sedan configuration, it would also be my first choice as the car to buy -God forbid I am ever actually forced to spend my own loonies on an automobile -with my own money.

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P.S. Not sure if it is the fact that I didn't sleep much (read: at all) last night before work this morning (formula 1 is always worth it), but this guy seems to have an awkward sentence style.
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