Continuing our series of reviews, today MSN UK has the floor. From the get-go, we can tell that the journalist Richard Aucock is a car enthusiast and his review it's one of the best I have seen so far. Starting with the end, here is the final verdict given by MSN.
Ratings out of five: BMW 135i Coupé
Ride & handling
MSN Cars verdict
October 21 2007
- What – BMW 135i Coupé
- Where – Gotland, Sweden
- Date – October 2007
- Price – £29,745
- Available – November 2007
- Key rivals – Audi S3, Audi TT, Alfa Romeo Brera
2.0 turbo, 2.0 twin-turbo
Top speed (mph)
C02 emissions (g/km)/tax (%)
128/18 – 220/31
- Likes: Styling, super engine, handling
- Dislikes: Cramped in rear, steering could be more detailed
The 2002 was the sporting Coupé that made BMW famous. Today's 3-Series is as engaging as it is because of that crisp, compact classic. No wonder, then, that the launch conference hall of the 1-Series Coupé was full of them. For the new model is, according to BMW, the 2002, reborn. Has to be, really, in order to be distinct from the dearer, more upstanding 3-Series Coupé. This is the rabble-rouser, the loud, bold upstart to drag young-affluents away from their TTs and reignite some of that old-school BMW brashness. It's also the car that takes the 1-Series to the US. Americans, see, hate hatches.
To Sweden. And the stubby, chunky Coupé looks as good in the metal as it looked three-box and boring under the Frankfurt Motor Show lights (and in the first press shots). "Light never lies," says the Brit designer responsible for all 1-Series, Kevin Rice. Let there be, to reveal a complex shape, full of surprises, dominated by the strong shoulder line – cabin floating above, rear wheels bulging below. The front wheels are pushed forward, as if they've overtaken the car – no surprise, given the choice of 177bhp or 204bhp diesels they're shoved by. Or, the engine we tested, a 305bhp straight-six turbo.
1000rpm. Floor it. Immediately, the 135i responds and with vigour. Two small turbos, each feeding three cylinders, exploit natural resonances to yield 295lb/ft of torque from 1300rpm – and direct injection helps maintain it to 5000rpm. Astounding. With all that power too, you bet it's fast. Infinitesimal turbo lag means cocked trigger throttle response, that will drag you to 60mph in 5.3 seconds, and past slower traffic in an instant (you needn't bother with a gearchange; savour the smoothness right to the 7000rpm redline if you do). How BMW' has made a turbocharged engine so linear, so 'classic carburettor' precise, is as mystifying as the tailgate badge pretending that it's not a 3.0-litre.
It even sounds like a classic BMW. And the throbby straight-six wail is even better from outside, with an '80s 3-Series rasp to the black chrome twin exhausts (new trend alert) that's just a little naughty, ever so slightly bad boy. Speaking of which, the stubby six-sped gearchange controls a smoothly taut drivetrain, equipped with clever electronics that imitate, effectively, a rear diff. So you can deploy it all without an inside tyre smoking it away. Perfect for giving it a bootful and getting the tail out.
Ride and handling
The Coupé has a bodyshell stiffer than the hatch, and it's been tuned to offer a more fluid, confident feel. The lower centre of gravity yields better poise, and the 'hunkered down' sensation means you're reassured from the off. Crisply-responding steering has a tiny bit of straight-ahead stiction, but despite being short of feel too it proves weighty and accurate. On the track, understeer was apparent; surely BMW hasn't intentionally dialled it in – with narrower front tyres than rears, to dull the 135i for the US market? – but it's less of an issue on the road. The bite to small steering inputs, and the immediacy, is very impressive.
This is particularly apparent on that circuit BMW laid on for us. DSC off, I had the confidence to get the tail dramatically out under power within two laps; it's a playful but friendly machine, as precise as you wish, feeling every inch the oversteering '70s saloon car but with all the sophistication you expect 30 extra years to bring. Fear not the ride, either, despite 18-inch runflats. It's fittingly firm, given the M Sport sill kickplates, but the latest-generation Bridgestone runflats remove the harshness that afflicted past M Sport models. And, if it's all goes awry, brakes? Specific to 135i, 6-pot anchors (with embossed grey callipers) are sharp but imposing.
It's as per 1-Series hatch, so much improved by the facelift last year. In the rear, it's similarly tight, too, despite BMW reckoning it's a full four-seater. Ironically the saloon-like tail has yielded a boot bigger than the 'more practical' hatch – 370 litres is 20 litres up. A multitude of seat and dash trims gives over 200 interior permutations, though all have basics the M3 fails to get right: low-mounted seats and a steering wheel that's neither ridiculously thick nor squashy and spongy. Like the M3, the dial pack includes an oil temperature dial, for some sporting kudos.
Economy and Safety
This is a 30.7mpg, 305bhp car that, next year, will cost £8 to hit London's Congestion zone yet still hit 62mph in 5.3secs. BMW's admirable Efficient Dynamics at play. Instead of spending on a niche hybrid, it's put the money into reducing the CO2 of cars we actually all buy, and should be congratulated for it. As for safety, the stiffer structure of the Coupé may help crash integrity, as will six standard airbags, but the very well-sorted DSC stability control should also keep them at bay. As will, if you turn it off, the Coupé's fluidly benign, well-sorted handling.
The MSN Cars verdict: 5/5
We went from being cool on the 1-Series Coupé, to seeing it transformed before our eyes on the road, to discovering it lives up to this promise from behind the wheel. Below £30k for the super-fast 135i – and £21k for the volume 120d? Really, BMW admits it's without direct rival. Even so, queues have got to be forming…