BMW 135i Coupe Test Drive Report


Click to enlarge

UPDATE: The BMW 135i Coupe is now on sale in Malaysia for RM423,800 OTR without insurance.

The BMW 1-series, along with the compact crossover X3, are BMW’s most recent additions to their product line. Although, of course, if you consider the 3-series based BMW Compact to be its predecessor, then this isn’t a very new product series at all.

But this was obviously launched in 2004 as a very different product from the BMW Compact, signified by the prevalent 5-door hatchback variant, thereby, setting its crosshairs firmly towards the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 instead. But being a BMW, this one was special – it was and is the only vehicle in its class featuring rear-wheel drive and a longitudinally-mounted engine.

Yet while BMW continues to extol the car’s superior handling, critics have pointed out that the harsh ride and the miniscule rear cabin room means that this is essentially a sports-hatch, unlike the more livable Golf and A3. BMW’s response in introducing the 1-series coupe can be interpreted as both taking up the livability challenge and also steadfastly prioritising driving dynamics.

Shannon Teoh reveals all after the jump.


Click to enlarge

The 1-series has enjoyed very surprising sales figures for the company and has hit close to 440,000 since being launched in 2004. In its first full sales year of 2005, it sold nearly 150,000, behind only the 3 and 5-series.

Tellingly, the 3-door version has not even breached the 20,000 mark since its unveiling in January, well short of the figures enjoyed by the 5-door hatch. People still want practicality out of their car, especially when it’s going to cost you the way a BMW will cost you. In Malaysia, this still means in excess of RM168,000 for the entry-level 116i and in fact, the 120i saves you only 10 grand over the 320i. So, if they want to sell to the petrolhead, they’ve got to make it worth the while/cash.

Enter the 1-series coupe. Ostensibly, from the marketing schpeel, this is the driver-oriented daily car to have. It still seats (barely) four and when you go zooming crosscountry with just two, it affords you some 815 litres of luggage space thanks to the 60:40 split-folding backbench.

Hence, what we’re talking about here, is a car that takes BMW’s pride in handling a step further into the driver-focused world of coupes, but yet with increased livability, especially for two – think of it as a Z4 but with space for luggage.

Because while even the Z4 had better ride than the 1-series hatch, the coupe has improved on that especially up front. Although admittedly, this was experienced on the very smooth roads of Gotland, an island which is both Sweden’s biggest tourist destination – 50,000 population but greets 800,000 visitors in summer – and the site of one of the newest racetracks in Europe, the Gotlandring.

But still, this is far better ride than 35-profile run-flat tyres at the back deserve to offer. With a more rigid coupe body, one suspects that the suspension could be relaxed somewhat and that’s even with the M variety that comes standard – along with its own unique M aerodynamic package to differentiate it from any other variant with an M Sports package – with the 135i.

The comparisons with the Z4 though, end right after peering at the side profile, where the door sill is reminiscent of the Z4. In fact, you’ll notice that the curve has been made somewhat assymetrical as compared to the 1-series hatch, making it look less like a bulldog with its belly dragging on the floor.

Instead, when you step back a bit, it bears some resemblance to the 3 coupe, and this is due to how BMW have set up their design philosophy. The BMW Coupe design is basically a mould which they wrap existing cars in. And from the result, they craft out a cabriolet.


Click to enlarge

So of course, a 1 convertible is already ready for booking and will be launched in spring 2008. BMW definitely intends to keep its traditional design paradigm for their 4-seating cabs and if you close your eyes and imagine the 1 coupe with its roof sliced off, you can see how the coupe-cab relationship is very similar to the one in the 3 series.

But the stronger relationship is with the legendary BMW 2002. Although it is technically the forerunner to the sports sedan idea that birthed the 3-series, the 02 Series introduced back in 1966 was what cemented the company’s status as a maker of compact sporting cars.

Rear-wheel drive, powerful engines and space for four – for 12 years these were the elementary fortes of this successful model series. Of course, cars have gotten bigger since then and it is the 1 coupe which is a closer match in size and dimensions.

The similarities can be seen in the short body overhang at the front, a stern shoulder-line, a long engine compartment lid, pushing the greenhouse to the back and a proportionally long wheelbase in relation to overall length. Coincidentally, it was also the 2002 turbo – a rare thing in BMWs for many decades – that was considered the most exciting model and today the 135i coupe sports the twin turbo 302hp 3-litre straight-6 power unit that first appeared in its 3-series counterpart.


Click to enlarge

Obviously, BMW provided this top-of-the-line model for test, but it was disappointing not to be able to try out the new Variable Twin Turbo diesel that had its world debut in the 123d. The new 2-litre four-pot diesel with its weight all-aluminium crankcase featuring third-generation common-rail fuel injection, is a rather elegant thing for a diesel engine and comes with some exciting numbers.

With 201hp at 4,400rpm, it is the first all-aluminium diesel engine in the world with more than 100hp per litre. And it boasts 400Nm, as much as the 135i, albeit only from 2,000-2,250rpm, strange for a turbodiesel, but heck, it still gives you 300Nm minimum from idling to redline.

The reason this is so is because of the VTT – first seen in a BMW engine with the 3-litre twin turbodiesel – which you can think of as a multi-stage, sequential turbo. Its behaviour is somewhat similar to a hybrid engine, except it is controlled by valves rather than ECUs. At low revs, only a small charger is activated, and then at midrange, a larger charger joins in, giving us a puny but clearly defined torque ‘sweet spot’.

As the engine revs towards the 5,000rpm redline, the smaller charger takes a break and leaves big brother to huff and puff. The reason for this seems simple enough. At low speeds, the inertial mass of the large charger actually inhibits performance and efficiency (at the same time, the low mass of the smaller charger basically eliminates turbo lag) and while both chargers are not running at optimum in mid-revs, it’s a necessary compromise and once the engine starts pushing, the smaller charger is the one that will limit performance. This is due to the smaller bandwidth, if you may, through which, large amounts of air will not be able to be forced through.

In a single turbo engine, you nowadays get variable geometry turbines to simulate the same effect, changing the load characteristics according to engine speed. This is available in the single-charged 120d, where 174hp at 4,000rpm and 350Nm maintained from 1,750-3,000rpm brings the car up to 100km/h in just 7.6s and gets up to 226km/h. Comparatively, the 123d does the sprint in 7 seconds flat though and touches 238km/h.

On an aside, fuel in the 123d is being injected by common-rail direct fuel injection incorporating piezo-injectors operating at a pressure of 2,000 bar. At this sort of pressure, one of the engine experts at the launch was hopeful that it might be able to deal with impurities in our lower fuel-grade although our own local BMW guys aren’t so sure about this so you may not see this here until we hit Euro IV standards at least.

All well and good but unfortunately, you’ll have to read about how it feels firsthand elsewhere on the net. The rest of us had to settle for our 135is but moods soon changed once we had turned the roads of Gotland into a sea of Sedona Red (a new metallic colours specific to this model) coupes.


Click to enlarge

There were several problems that cropped up here, namely, how the hell do you stay under 70km/h in a car like this? Even in sixth gear, the amount of torque (that’s 400Nm from 1300-5,000rpm) meant that the speed just kept creeping up.

After awhile, we decided to defy the one police radar on the island (we were briefed on this beforehand) and push towards the racetrack at extralegal speeds. Meaning, we could still drive in sixth. Anything from 70 onwards can be handled by that one gear alone.

Of course, it didn’t provide wheelspinning drama but it got you there with zero fuss and effort. If we had dropped a gear, it’d only have taken 6 seconds to go from 80 to 120 and dropping another shaved another second of waiting. However, the gearshift change indicator would’ve suggested we go back to sixth anyway.

This is just one of several fuel fuel-saving innovations that make up BMW’s Efficient Dynamics programme. But this is a story for another post. Just a quick runthrough of the features available include (but not limited to) Brake Energy Regeneration (the battery is charged only after reaching its minimum charge level during application of the brakes or in overrun, and is disconnected electrically when accelerating) and Auto Start Stop for manual gearbox models with four-cylinder power units (only the 120d comes with an auto actually).

This results in just 4.9 litres of diesel required to power the 120d across 100km of road in a combined cycle and an astounding 5.2 for the 123d, which, let’s not forget, is the first 200hp car that manages to tuck under 140g/km in terms of carbon emissions. The 135i, still drinks 9.2l/100km as technology like the Auto Start Stop has not been developed for bigger capacity engines yet.


Click to enlarge

Aside from just grin-inducing straight-line acceleration, getting through B-roads was delightful. The car is so planted that skimming over surface changes was dismissed by the Dynamic Stability Control as a waste of time. However, so mighty is this engine that even in third gear, on admittedly damp and windy roads, we could get the car to kick out and the DSC to slap us on the wrist.

That was more due to the amount of torque being channeled through the rear wheels than the car’s handling. This car handles great on the road and the mixed tyres gave it incredible balance although its ability was soon to be tested on track.

Gotlandring was sporting a sheen of liquid on its back when we arrived and beneath an overcast sky, it never really dried up. Tyres were spinning, cars were fishtailing, and we hadn’t even hit Turn 1 yet.

So we could never really come close to the quoted 5.3s needed to do the 0-100km/h sprint but we didn’t really doubt that figure. After all, it’s only 0.2s faster than the 335i coupe. And that’s only curious until you realise that the 135i is only 40kg lighter. That’s basically the weight of a full tank of fuel or one of those Ah Lian girls you used to date in college… or….

But nevermind that it’s not much faster on the straights – do you really need to go faster? – it sure as hell took up the challenge in the corners. Find the proper line and this thing will zoom through them as prim and proper as your favourite Porsche.


Click to enlarge

The only problem with that is the steering doesn’t exactly let you find this line very easily. The biggest disappointment about this car is that it’s not very point-and-shoot. Perhaps if I had spent more than two hours with the car, I’d have figured it out, but whether on the road or on track, in fact, especially on track, the car never seemed to go where you wanted it to.

On the very wet surface, the DSC kicked in at every corner, inducing us to switch to the more lenient DTC instead. In this mode, while the amount of power churning through the rear wheels often made it easy to tail-out in this weather, understeering was in fact, the 135i’s most often seen method of at-the-limit cornering that day.

The car overcooks its 215-section front tyres much sooner than its 245 rears and so starts to point outwards but with some added punch at the throttle, you can definitely move the car completely sideways in the wet. I’d like to just give the BMW engineers the benefit of the doubt here because of what happened next.

When the car got into a skid, it only required a robust countersteer to regain footing. Nothing precise necessary, just apply some reverse lock and resume your previous heading.

It was unfortunate that the track never dried up. It meant that turning off DSC altogether was a risk beyond my manliness.


Click to enlarge

This also prevented me from sampling the electronically controlled differential locking function. No BMW that exists outside the M household has a locking diff and this probably makes the 1 coupe its most committed non-M driving car. Activated by switching DSC off completely in either the 135i or 123d, the e-diff will continue to ensure optimum traction in spite of the driver’s most brutal attempts to shake, rattle and roll.

But you’ll just have to take BMW’s word for it for now. And also the fact that the USB interface really works. Not armed with a memory stick full of MP3s, we resorted to the most common denominator – the iPod.

In fact, two iPods. It refused to recognise the iPod video (5th gen) which was formatted for Mac and although it did play songs of the iPod photo (4th gen), it did so without ever allowing us to navigate through the songs properly. We couldn’t access the songs by artist, album or anything. It just lumped the songs into random folders with random names (eg: assh, ffry).

Perhaps the car was telling us to stop fiddling with all that rubbish and attack the next corner.

Shannon Teoh


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge

Looking to sell your car? Sell it with myTukar.

Certified Pre-Owned - 1 Year Warranty

10% discount when you renew your car insurance

Compare prices between different insurer providers and use the promo code 'PAULTAN10' when you make your payment to save the most on your car insurance renewal compared to other competing services.

Car Insurance

Paul Tan

After dabbling for years in the IT industry, Paul Tan initially began this site as a general blog covering various topics of personal interest. With an increasing number of readers paying rapt attention to the motoring stories, one thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Comments

  • Ralliace (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Really a neat car. Am sure we’ll see it on our Malaysian roads soon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • cyborgx (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I love everything on the car except for the frontlights. The frontlight is just SO disappointing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • cetakbaju (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 10:33 am

    great! i like the design..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • aesthari (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Woah, if this isn’t a dedicated in-depth review, I don’t know what is, great write up, Paul, you’ve stuffed me with info than I can digest now. One question though: did you take those pics? Cause they look damn good :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • wong (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 11:28 am

    A car that don’t need to try very hard to look good,front lights do look awkward at first but it’s ok,interior reminds of the e36 and e46,neat..overall the Bmw trademark is still there, good..a very nice car to drive,thats for sure

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • superman (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Paul,

    The sideways pics looks damn cool. I noticed 2 different drivers doing them. Fellow journalist?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • geejun2 (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 11:53 am

    the car looks fantastic and i think it will perform FANTASTICALLY!! this will giv VW a run for their golf GTI

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • MisterBenjo (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Once upon a time there is a company that makes such great legend cars like
    ae86 and supra…but nowadays in the globalisation era they just lost their soul and make cars that can sell zillions…..even proton starting to go towards their path….thank you bmw for not following the path and continue to make great exciting cars….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Paul Tan on Nov 02, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    i was in japan so i couldnt go for this trip, so shannon teoh wrote this one for me. photographer is likely bmw’s corporate photographer.

    i cannot claim any credit to anything, heheh

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • bpkid (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    MisterBenjo said,

    November 2, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

    Once upon a time there is a company that makes such great legend cars like
    ae86 and supra…but nowadays in the globalisation era they just lost their soul and make cars that can sell zillions…..even proton starting to go towards their path….thank you bmw for not following the path and continue to make great exciting cars….
    ————————————————————————-

    Your opinion makes me curious. So, what is your definition of a soulful car?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • ilmondo (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    wow! look at tat 2002 tii lar.. haha..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    just for a design point of view,

    todays design a so called ‘canggih’ stylish, new design, new, latest ,terkini, cabfoward, innovative interior, central meter cluster, – designed by young enegiatic pocketfull of sketch pen with latest hair style, not that im saying its wrong,

    well i belive most of us would say, bmw a nice or beautiful car, why its that so,,,
    -look at the propotion of the car, id say its a classical approach in forming the volume of the car not the overly inspired cab foward bloby or a jet fighter look alike front, look at the interior, the dial is ment to be read by the driver, not for public display in the center,

    i might be wrong, but i belive beauty has its parameter,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • szw (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    this car will get the heart pumping .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    sorry for being too philosphical,
    well what i mean by beauty has its own parameter,
    where design is something that is not simply id say arbitrary,

    might want to read this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • rhoma (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    this car has fold down rear seat, the first in bmw sedan/coupe line i think
    btw where’s the spare tyre?and if u look at the black interior one, what’s that bon the middle rear seat? somekind of storage compartment?i dont think it shud be there

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • raybrig85 (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    the dsg is still suxx for me…but in term of other thing…i praise la dis car…still…dsg is my prior..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • lowprofile (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    if bmw is serious in lowering their current customer age profile, sell it cheaper just like how the 2002 was positioned and in this part of the world, offer it with a 1.8 or 2.0 for tax purposes. better still, have a 1.6 turbo as used in the mini and peugeots. this could be the car to really push numbers for bmw in malaysia… if they are serious about numbers for the 1 series.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • topgunthang (Member) on Nov 02, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    good car for people who cant afford the 335i

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • mystvearn (Member) on Nov 03, 2007 at 12:38 am

    mmm not that good really, since it only comes with 4 seats

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • king (Member) on Nov 03, 2007 at 3:10 am

    MisterBenjo said,
    November 2, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

    Once upon a time there is a company that makes such great legend cars like
    ae86 and supra…but nowadays in the globalisation era they just lost their soul and make cars that can sell zillions…..even proton starting to go towards their path….thank you bmw for not following the path and continue to make great exciting cars….

    ______________

    well said!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • BanyakMasukWorkshop (Member) on Nov 03, 2007 at 11:12 am

    there are no sparetyres anymore on bmw’s or mini’s. They come with runflat tyres.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • ob8 (Member) on Nov 03, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    prefer this one than the 3-sport. wicked

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • adamccl (Member) on Apr 27, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I’m afraid that when it comes to our shores, it’ll only be of “Auto-Trans” as the sole option. Then, people who have been driving Manual all the time like us will be disappointed…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • xmazda on Jan 02, 2010 at 8:36 am

    1-series could have been a great A3/GTI fighter, if only BMW wanted it to be one…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
 

Add a comment

required

required