BMW places the 1 Series in between the Mini Cooper and the 3 Series. A couple of years back, I had the opportunity to test drive the early batch of the 1 Series hatchback that was first introduced into the Malaysian market. It was a mixed experience as the car although felt like a BMW, did not exactly looked like one especially at the rear. The internals also fell short of the usual BMW standards.
The next 1 Series car which I tried out was the 120i hardtop convertible. Although panned by some car critics, I quite enjoyed the driving experience, as the balance, handling, power to weight ratio felt just right. The car’s overall design was an improvement over the hatchback.
The sampled model the 135i Coupe´ do not have a striking design and it can pass off as any other compact sedan on the road save for its stylish 18 inch alloy wheels and visible brake calipers. The car is well specified with the usual array of safety features. Included in this model is the iDrive Navigation System Professional (GPS) with an 8.8 inch LCD display and the M Aerodynamics package.
To be in line with BMW’s Efficient Dynamics, the 135i Coupe´ includes a number of features to reduce fuel consumption and CO² emissions. These include BMW’s TwinPower Turbo Technology, High Precision Injection, Brake Energy Regeneration and Electric Power Steering.
Getting into the driver’s seat is not a problem. There is more than ample legroom for the driver and front seat passenger. Some effort is required to get into the rear seats. To get into a comfortable driving position, the front seat would need to be pushed back a fair bit at the expense of legroom for rear passengers. The front seats are electronically adjustable with memory options.
To provide extra storage space, the all the rear seats can be folded downwards via two latches from the boot. There is also an option for an individual 60/40 split if so desired. Interestingly, the car’s battery is placed at the boot inside a cover instead of the usual position at the front with the engine.
The dashboard design is quite basic with the prominent LCD display being the centre of attention. The overall fittings and finishing is better than the hatchback version; if I can recall correctly. The sports leather seats and the Boston leather upholstery provided good support and comfort. The reddish brown coloured leather seats gave a nice contrast to the overall dark panels of the interior.
The high point of the car is the engine. Powered by the N54 engine block, the 2,979 cc twin turbo straight six engine produces a max power of 306 bhp @ 5,800rpm and max torque of 400Nm @ 1,300-5,000rpm. This is not the max performance of this engine block as it is capable of producing at least another 10% extra bhp and torque, as I have seen higher performance specs. The engine idles at around 700 rpm although it feels and sounds higher than that. As per the spec sheet, acceleration from 0-100km/h is achievable in 5.3 seconds and the car’s CO² emission is at 195g per km.
Upon ignition, the exhaust note is prominent even when the car idles. Since the insulation is first rate, you would not notice this when you are inside the car until you get some curious stares from the neighbours. There was a bit of turbo lag from a cold start. However, this disappears once the car is sufficiently warmed up. The car runs quite hot and the engine temperature gauge was around 105ºC.
One interesting aspect of this engine is that once you switch it off, it does not continue to idle (with the cooling fan running) unlike conventional turbo charged engines (ie turbo timer). BMW must have found a way to cool the engine quickly without the need to keep the engine/fan running to cool down the turbo system.
Floor the accelerator and the car comes to life. The car rockets forward with a loud roar as the speedometer quickly breaches 100km/h. The acceleration of the car is exhilarating when you push it hard and it is not for the faint hearted. Even at high speeds, the car felt stable and balanced. Unlike some cars, you would not get that feeling of concern that perhaps the chassis may not be able to keep up with all that power. Thankfully, the brakes are also top notch, with good bite and convincing stopping power.
The sampled car comes with the 6 speed automatic transmission. Gearshifts are smooth and refined so you would hardly notice it unless you push the car hard. There are also gearshift paddles on the steering wheel if you wish to engage the Steptronic system. The steering via the electrical power steering system is well weighted and provided good feedback. The steering was accurate and there was an assurance that as you turn towards the intended direction the car will follow through precisely. Although the steering feel is more on the heavier side, even at low speeds it was easy to maneuver the car.
Fuel consumption for this car was very high which surprised us and was the main drawback. During the entire test run, average fuel consumption was around 14.5 liters per 100 km which was well above the stated specs of 9.6 liters per 100 km. We did not go through heavy traffic nor did we push the car exceptionally hard but the car seemed to consume fuel very fast. The car was fed with Shell’s RON 95 (petrol) unleaded which is the usual fuel that we pump into the test cars. Perhaps without the Efficient Dynamics features, fuel consumption would have been even higher. The fuel tank capacity is 53 litres which is not a lot, and that would also cause the quick decline in the fuel gauge.
Tyres are 18 inch Bridgestone Potenza run flats with wider and narrower tyres at the rear (245/35 R18) than the front (215/40 R18). The tyres provided good grip/traction and acceptable road noise. Ride quality is on the firm to harsh side and there were some complaints from my rear passenger when road conditions are not ideal. This was not surprising as the car is equipped with the M sports suspension system which is stiffer than the norm.
The car’s entertainment system comprised the Hi Fi System Professional with 10 loudspeakers. Unique to this model is a surround sound function which gives a spatial feel of the sound emanating from the speakers. The overall system sounded bass heavy even at default but provided a balanced sound.
Radio tracking was excellent and it was able to lock into stations even in challenging places eg. basement carparks. The surround sound function works better with music from CDs as I noticed some echo effects with music from the radio. The top notch insulation ensured that the music is not drowned by the engine/exhaust note.
Xenon headlights provided good illumination of the road ahead at night. The interior reading lights are quite dim. As a plus point, the car is also equipped with reading lights for rear passengers. The lights package includes vicinity lights integrated in the door handles. These are activated when you remotely unlock the vehicle.
The BMW 135i Coupe´ delivers in the areas of driving involvement and excitement. Beneath the demure looks is a true performance vehicle that can give its rivals a run for their money. The only drawback is its high fuel consumption, which may prove to be an expensive proposition if fuel prices continue to rise.
|Engine||6-cylinder in-line petrol engine with 4 valve technology|
|Max Output||306bhp/5,800 rpm|
|Max Torque||400nm/1,300-5,000 rpm|
|Fuel Consumption||9.6ltr/100km (combined)|
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!