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Test drive: BMW 135i

 
© Motorlegend
After the 3-door saloon and before the convertible expected in April, the 1 Series – the entry-level BMW – is quite shamelessly slipping into compact 3-volume coupé guise.
 
A style dear to the marque, this will make it possible to reopen a “niche” virtually unexploited by the competition. 12 cm longer than the saloons, the 1 Series Coupé, with intentionally high sports performance, has already arrived in the United States. Over here, it should conquer a new customer base and enhance the image of the 1 Series, which people rather steered clear of initially but was responsible for a good fifth of BMW’s sales in France in 2007.
 
Available with two diesel engines (177 and 204 hp) delivering amazing performance, the 1 Series Coupé reveals its true nature and the extreme rigour of its chassis in the 135i version. These three numerals and one letter indicate the presence beneath the bonnet of the best 6-cylinder engine that BMW AG has ever produced. Already used on the 3 Series, this 3-litre twin-turbo engine – as high-performance as it is fuel efficient (less than 13 litres/100km) – can reach 250 km/h (155 mph) and go from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.3 seconds. Smooth, constant and instantaneous at all engine speeds, it makes the 135i exclusive even if it can, at a pinch, be pitted against the Porsche Cayman and Audi TT.
 
Adopting the saloon’s front and dashboard, the 135i coupé is not much more welcoming at the rear, but the brighter and more inspired decoration has made progress.
 
For the look, BMW has chosen 18-inch wheels. It’s a shame because, adding to the stiffness of the suspension, they are seriously detrimental to comfort.
 
In the UK, the 135i M Sport comes with a price tag of £29,745.



© Motorlegend

On the road

Neither quite the same nor entirely different: the 1 Series Coupé variant offers a totally different ambiance to that of the saloon on which it is based. Our test-drive 135i, in Excellis trim*, had a bright decor and excellent “sport” seats that are part of a set of equipment specific to the 135i, whatever the trim. Potential customers will be glad to learn that this equipment includes chrome radiator surround and slats, DSC dynamic stability control with extensive functionalities, high-performance brakes with fixed calipers, a modified M Aerodynamic package (concerning the front bumper valance with central air intake and side flaps, sculpted side sills and a specific rear bumper valance with charcoal grey diffuser), round chrome dual exhaust pipes and M Sport suspension.
 
This is all a preamble to say that we are a long way from a basic 1 Series in terms of both presentation and performance – even compared to a 130i, whose 265 hp nonetheless works wonders. With the 135i and this fabulous twin-turbo 6-cylinder engine, you have an impressive power to weight ratio (1,560 kg for 306 hp) and over 100 hp per litre. Plus all the advantages of a compact body, therefore lively and easy to handle.


© Motorlegend

As soon as the 6-cylinder engine starts up, you get the feeling that you are dealing with an exceptional engine, which is very discreet at idle and yet gathers its potential in a flash. One could only reproach the engineers for not working enough on the acoustics because, even when accelerating hard, you have to wait for that exhilarating sound. On the other hand, it goes like the clappers – you realise by the speed at which the scenery flashes past, the needles on the clock and the rev counter in turmoil and also by the suspension that suddenly gives the occupants a rough ride. Comfortably ensconced in an adjustable (even sideways) “sport” seat, the driver doesn’t suffer too much, especially since holding course on poor road surfaces requires practically no correction at the wheel.
 
Apart from an engine that is omnipresent at all speeds, the chassis of the 135i is a benchmark and contributes to the efficiency of this coupé, which is capable of snapping at the heels of the Cayman and Audi TT. I also appreciated the improvement in gearbox control and brake endurance (to be confirmed on more intensive use on a circuit). Our test-drive 135i was equipped with AFS active steering, an option costing £925. It is supposed to modify steering lock according to the speed of the vehicle, so that you don’t have to turn the steering wheel as much in the city and get a better feel of the front axle at high speed. You end up getting used to it, but the sensations are sometimes disconcerting without offering any great advantage.


© Motorlegend

Our opinion

BMW has manifestly designed this 1 Series-based compact coupé for the American market, where this body style is popular. The USA will also be getting the convertible, which will be on sale in the UK in spring 2008. Even if the body might seem a little conventional compared to the Cayman and TT, BMW sees in it an exclusive way to increase 1 Series sales, especially with the two extremely powerful diesel engines mentioned above. In the 135i version, the 1 Series Coupé benefits from an excellent power to weight ratio, which makes for high performance without having to fill up too often. Lastly, a nod to its versatility, which enables the driver to have some fun alone and take their little family away for the weekend.
 
Strong points
Exciting engine, virtually sports handling, up-to-scratch brake system, interior presentation more flattering than the saloon’s, adjustable boot, very reasonable fuel consumption (considering performance).
 
Weak points
Bland silhouette, suspension comfort, lack of space in the rear, questionable Runflat tyres, unpleasant AFS steering.
来源:      时间:2008-10-16 9:47:49
 
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