It's always refreshing when a car company goes back to basics. Like BMW. Like the 135i coupe.
BMW built its performance image around quick-handling small cars that almost defined "fun to drive."
BMW's current electronics-slathered luxury sedans might make a nice business case. It is vehicles like the 135i that stir the motoring soul.
The BMW 1351i is a real sports car. The steering is tight and accurate. Around curves, all the bumps are felt, but the car zips around without a care. All that's needed is fingertip control--the faster, the better.
The six-speed manual transmission comes close to filling that need. The shifter moves with fingertips and the heel of a hand. It goes where it's pointed, so missing a shift is a rarity. Throws are short and positive.
The joy of shifting is coupled with the visceral thrill of the throaty, growling purr of the 300 horsepower motor. It's a 3L inline six cylinder aided by twin turbochargers. That's enough to propel the BMW 135i to 60 mph in five seconds and change. Yet the BMW returns a respectable 18 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway.
A hill holder keeps the brakes on when stopped up an incline. Drivers don't have to fiddle with the parking brake.
There's oceans of front seat room at the expense of the backseat. Even the radio and heating controls are slightly angled to the driver.
What isn't so user friendly is a 160 mph speedometer. It scrunches in the numerals. The tachometer numerals are easier to read--and that's more important in a manual transmission.
The BMW can double as a long distance traveler for two. And it looks good, too.
Ok, so it does tread on the heels of the BMW 3 series. Who cares?
•Engine: 3L I-6
•Dimensions: 104.7" wheelbase; 172.2" length.
•Base price: $$35,675/tested $44,075.
•Fuel economy: 18/28 mpg.