A baby Bimmer.
BMW adds a new 1-Series in 128i or 135i coupe and convertible versions for 2008.
Some see the 1-Series as the low-priced initiation into the BMW performance club. Others see it as just another high-performance member of the family, only smaller than the compact 3-Series, with wheelbase shorter by 4 inches, length by 8 and width by 2.
The 128i has the same 3-liter, 230-horsepower inline 6 cylinder as the larger 328i coupe, and the 135i boasts the 3-liter, 300-h.p. twin-turbo inline 6 from the 335i coupe.
We tested the 135i, which comes dressed with rear spoiler and side skirts. Its sticker is also shorter: roughly $8,000 less than a comparably equipped 335i.
Top speed is electronically limited to 149 m.p.h.. Where you can do 149 m.p.h., of course, is even more limited than that.
BMW boasts zero- to 60-m.p.h. acceleration of 5.1 seconds. We were unable to verify the claim despite several attempts. It seems the the speedo needle had crossed the 80 or 90 m.p.h. mark whenever we tried to check on 60. Oops.
Credit acceleration that's so smooth and quiet, so shake and shudder free in a rock-solid, rear-wheel-drive sports subcompact that it takes a moment to realize just how quickly the trees are passing in the opposite direction.
It's obvious the 135i isn't an entry-level car, and best BMW not try to promote it as such. Several years ago Porsche added a low-cost 924 to get more folks into the sports car family. But that put Porsche owners' skivvies in a knot and protesting the cheapo version, saying if anyone could afford one why not just call it a Chevy. The 924 didn't last long.
This is a car for enthusiasts. Not just quick on straightaways, but also agile in corners thanks to the sports-tuned suspension and 18-inch performance tires. Those "summer tires," however, better be replaced with all-season or snow tires in the winter unless you answer the phone "Aloha." All-seasons are a no-cost option, but we suspect many enthusiasts will take the summer treads and buy a set of winter tires on their own.
Also gluing the 1-Series to the pavement is the sports suspension. Stability control with traction control ensures you go where pointed. Those who envision serpentine travel around bright orange pylons at competitive events will be pleased. No free lunch, of course, because ride is a little stiff and counting tar marks you cross in the road will become a pastime.
The 135i seats four, in theory. But when you give up 8 inches in length and 2 in width, a sacrifice has to be made and the 1-Series makes it in the back seat. When granddaughters Ashley and Haylie were asked to slip into steerage on the way home from school, the two noted the mission was nearly impossible. The engineers, it seems, had forgotten to allow legroom—for second and third graders. That explains why the front seats don't slide far enough forward to create an aisle to even let you get in back.
Yet the trunk is huge and will devour all the luggage you can feed it.
Luggage 1, Legs 0.
Nice touches include free oil changes, brake pads, wiper-blade inserts and other wear-and-tear items for four years or 50,000 miles and BMW Assist, an emergency satellite tracking and response system like GM's OnStar, that's optional at $750 for four years or included in the $3,300 premium package.
A gripe, other than rear seat snugness, is the single cupholder on a stalk sticking out the right side of the center console. It's too big, too bulky and too high. But BMW offers a solution: "Give it a hard yank" to remove it.
The 135i starts at $34,900, versus $28,600 for the 128i. Standard equipment includes AM/FM stereo with CD/MP3 player audio, adaptive headlamps with automatic leveling and cornering, head-lamp washers, power moonroof/locks/windows/mirrors/seats, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and side-curtain air bags.
Besides the stigma of entry-level, options quickly wipe out any pretenses, with $3,300 for a premium package in which the most "premium" feature is heated front seats. Then there's $2,100 for a navi system, $1,275 for the automatic trans, $1,000 for the sports suspension and bolstered seats, and $400 for an iPod/USB adapter. Though a $34,900 base, when the options were all added, the sticker neared the $46,000 mark.
This baby should come with a silver spoon.
The 1-Series went on sale in mid-March and sold 1,500 copies in the first 10 days.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at email@example.com.
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