2011 BMW 135i Coupe Road Test Review

Russ Heaps - CAP staff
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Published on September 09, 2011

Smaller, lighter, less expensive yet just as powerful as the 335i Coupe. The 135i Coupe makes a lot of sense. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Uniquely BMW, but with a style all its own. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

The 135i Coupe is one seriously fun performer. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

As with all BMWs, the 135i Coupe was designed for driving enthusiasts. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Dual-clutch automated gearbox ups the performance equation. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Comfort and class: the 135i Coupe delivers it all. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Great seating/cargo flexibility. (Photo: BMW)

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

Published on September 09, 2011

As an entry-level luxury sports coupe, the BMW 1 Series excels despite a price tag with the power to repel many potential buyers like a garlic necklace would a vampire. But its hefty price aside, the BMW 1 Series shines in its entry-level role because it is no pretender to the BMW brand. Armed with the same zippy engines that power the 3 Series and a suspension that vanquishes the physics of the tightest curve, the 1 Series is really a 3 Series lite at heart.

BMW presented me with the $43,000 135i Coupe for this review. There is also a $35,800 128i Coupe. Drop-top versions of both are on the BMW menu, and they inflate the respective prices by about $5,000.

Although there are a few extras, such as 18-inch wheels versus 17-inch ones, as well as adaptive xenon headlights with washers to be found on the 135i Coupe that are absent from the base 128i, the key feature separating the two is under the hood. The 128i uses a 230-horsepower 3-litre inline six-cylinder engine to turn the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Sprinting to 100 km/h from a standstill requires about six seconds. Bolted to the same manual transmission, the 300-horsepower turbocharged 3-litre inline six pushes the 135i to 100 km/h in about a second less.

Those not wishing to stir the transmission themselves can pony up $1,600 for the optional six-speed driver-shiftable automatic tranny ($1,700 for one with paddle-shifters). In addition to the manual setting, it offers two automatic modes ("Drive" and "Sport"), reflecting an individual's driving style. Sport mode maps upshifts at higher rpm. Opting for the automatic doesn't alter fuel economy that the U.S. EPA estimates at an equivalent of 13.0 L/100km in the city and 8.4 on the highway for the 128i (Canadian estimates would be more optimistic but less realistic). The extra performance and driving fun generated by the 135i comes with a fuel economy cost, but not much of one.

The only optional 135i gearbox is BMW's seven-speed double clutch sequential-manual unit that acts like an automatic in Drive or can be actuated with lightning quick shifts via steering column-mounted paddles.

Exceedingly smooth, both inline engines deliver deliberate and aggressive acceleration. My test 1 Series had the manual transmission. Although the shift gates are close together, they are well defined, and shifting is precise. The clutch engages with a light touch. All of this contributes to a driving experience that is fun and satisfying.

Mitigating forward motion falls to ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels. The antilock system includes stability control, traction control, emergency braking preparation, emergency braking assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.

What would a BMW be without superior cornering acumen? Exhibiting BMW's fabled acuity in the twisties, the 1 Series earns the BMW  "propeller" badge affixed to its snout. Comprising the independent suspension are MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link arrangement in the rear. For even sportier performance, BMW tweaks this setup in the 135i for more aggressive handling.

Chocked full of standard features, such as full power accessories, six airbags, leather-wrapped tilt-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, dual-zone climate controls, leatherette seating, and an excellent audio system with CD player, USB integration, an auxiliary audio input jack, and a subwoofer, the cabin seats up to four. Actually the stingy bit of space allotted to rear-seat passengers may discourage all but the most flexible from entering its confines. If your regular occupant quotient is more than two, you might want to spend the extra bucks for the larger 3 Series. The trunk contains 370 litres (just a smidgen more than 13 cubic feet) of cargo space.

The front bucket seats are comfortable enough, but if you intend tossing the 1 Series around some curves, you should consider the $1,900 M Sport Package. Not only does it include sport seats with meatier side bolsters, it features real wood interior trim, an "M" steering wheel, and special wheels and exterior trim.

Those familiar with the 3 Series will feel right at home in the 1 Series. The surroundings don't look or feel as top notch as in more expensive BMWs, but this is the anchor of the lineup after all. However there is a familiarity in the overall styling, as well as with the arrangement of the controls and switches. BMW interiors tend to be more utilitarian than plush; the 1 Series cabin doesn't deviate from this formula. While some luxury models would have you think you are piloting your living-room sofa down the boulevard, the 1-Series is more like taking your desk chair out for a spin.

Adding Boston Leather surfaces will tack $1,900 to the bottom line, while opting for the hard drive-based navigation system boosts the total price by another $2,000. An $1,800 Premium Package adds auto-dimming outboard and rearview mirrors, heated steering wheel and a glass sunroof to the mix, while the $3,700 Executive Package lumps together several popular amenities, such as eight-way power adjustable front seats, Comfort Access proximity sensing keyless entry and push-button start, lumbar support, a universal garage door opener and the Boston Leather upholstery.

Thanks to the run-flat high-performance tires and the tauter sport suspension in my test 135i, the ride was somewhat stiff. Otherwise, the cabin is a rather pleasant place to be on a quick drive to the corner store or a multi-hour, cross-country run. Other than the purr of the exhaust note under heavy acceleration, most noise generated outside the cabin stays there.

Any time a luxury marque attempts to broaden its appeal by offering a smaller, less-expensive model, it runs the risk of diluting the brand and cheapening its image; however, the temptation to coax younger, less well-heeled buyers into the brand is difficult to resist. Some efforts are more successful than others. In the case of BMW and its 1 Series, the exercise has produced a car that lives up to the brand with a price tag that reflects that. Pricey, yes. But what you get is a true BMW.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, BMW, 135i, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

Organizations: BMW

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