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2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review – The Hot Hatch Has Soul

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For years, the purest and fastest M cars had one number following the most powerful letter in the world, but in 2012, the M gurus …

For years, the purest and fastest M cars had one number following the most powerful letter in the world, but in 2012, the M gurus came to challenge that proven theory. Meet the M135i, BMW’s commitment to providing a true enthusiast car in this compact segment.

The three and five-door M135i has been often compared to its spiritual predecessor, the 1M, but the M Division has always referred to the hatch as a special M Performance car, very sporty and fast, made for everyday driving. An M vehicle has about 80% changed or completely newly developed parts as compared to its equivalent basic model, while the M Performance Automobiles are at around 30%.

2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul

Under the skin, the two fun and M-touched cars are quite different. While both models use a 3.0 liter engine displacement, the technology around it separates the two. The M135i is powered by a six-cylinder unit with a single turbo (N55) rather than twin turbochargers found in the 1M. Furthermore the 1M has a mechanic limited slip differential compared to the M performance control in the hot hatch (beemspeak for electronic rear limited slip-diff ) making the M135i less of a drifter. To fit the profile of a daily driver, the M engineers gave the M135i adaptive dampers instead of rock-hard fixed-rate suspension that make the 1M one of the stiffest Ms we have driven in a very long time.

Also new for 2013 M135i models is the xDrive intelligent 4×4 system which distributes the forward traction forces over several tires. The result is a much more stable car while cornering.

2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul

Lastly, the M135i customers have a choice between a manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 1M choice were only given Option A or Option A, meaning a six-speed manual transmission.

To not step on each others’ toes, the two special Ms are also separated by a few horsepower, 340 vs 320 in the favor of the 1M. 450 Nm of torque (332 lb-ft) at 1,300 rpm are registered next to the M135i name. Redline for both is 7000 rpm while the weight advantage goes to the M135i.

Because of the extra traction offered by all-drive system, the M135i xDrive model is 0.2 seconds quicker from 0-62mph than the conventional rear-wheel drive variant – 4.7 seconds.

The Exterior – It’s the soul that matters

Let’s admit it: the new F20/F1 hatches are not lookers. From their introduction to the market in 2011, customers from around the world, including journalists, complained about the bulky and funky looking front-end that stands out, not in a good way, with its oversized headlights and massive kidney grille. The car wasn’t built for runway, but rather for speed, and that could be seen in the design of the M135i which has been improved thanks to the M Sport package.

At the end, we have less complaints, the dimensions are typical of a BMW hatch with an unique bodykit and exhaust system with dual pipes. Our test car came with winter tires in 17-inch, but the standard model carries by default specific 18-inch wheels and 225/40 rubber up front, 245/35 in the rear.

2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul

2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul 2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul

The Interior- Driver-centric and sporty

No surprises here. BMW stays true to its DNA and core values, a driver-oriented cockpit and the extra sporty flavor brought by the M Sport package. The M steering wheel, carbon fiber trim and hugging seats are just some of the things you immediately notice. In the three-door configuration space for rear passengers is quite limited and the car is not suited for long drives with a full cabin.

On The Road – Purists rejoice

To see how the 2013 BMW M135i xDrive handles itself, we embarked on a long trip from Munich to Geneva, over 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) covered in three days, on the always fun Autobahn and curvy, scenic roads on the Swiss and French side of the Alps.

Since we have an 1M sitting in our garage, we feel comfortable sharing our first-hand impressions and differences. And the most noticeable difference compared to the 1M are the suspension and the steering. In ECO and COMFORT, the ride is significantly softer than in the 1M, and that’s without a doubt by design and intentional. Remember when we said that BMW M sees the M135i as a car built for the road first?

Thanks to the additional Sport and Sport+ adaptive driving modes, the gap between the 1M and M135i is much smaller. The hydraulic servo steering in the M135i xDrive is surprisingly good and sharp, making the hot hatch feel agile on its toes and responsive to input.

But if you’re a drifter or expect the M135i to behave or misbehave like the 1M, then you’re in the wrong car. While the M-tuned hatch can and will drift to a certain extent, it won’t ever match the 1M’s natural ability to just have fun in corners, even when not requested. Just turn off some driving assistance features and the fun can and will come back. (Not always advisable in a car of this size and with so much power).

2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul

On twisty and tight mountain roads, the on-road footprint of the M135i is more than perfect and inspires confidence even in less experienced drivers. It sprints with incredible agility and the shifts are fast. There is no long wait for the power to arrive. Here the excellent torque developed by the engine makes the driving experience even more superb. Quite a few times we put the car hard into a corner, then quickly hit the gas to simply launch out of the curve into the straight with so much ease that it makes you wonder.

Of course, the xDrive system has something to do with this as well. The all-wheel drive system directs 60% of the drive torque to the rear wheels and 40 per cent to the front wheels. By directing additional drive power to the rear wheels early on, it is possible to counter any tendency towards understeering.

Totally new for the M135i is an exhaust system tuned by M that offers enhanced acoustics, and raspy engine note, 90 percent “real” and 10 percent artificial via the speakers in the back. The 1M is still louder in that department but on long trips I think we prefer the more mild sound of the hot hatch.

In the highly congested traffic in Geneva, the M135i ran through its gears in a smooth way making the stop-and-go traffic a little less painful. From a ride quality perspective, thanks to the superb sport seats, even after a few hours of continuous driving, the back pain has not arrived.

In our non-scientific fuel consumption test we recorded 11.5 liter per 100km or 20.5 US MPG.

Should I buy one?

If you live in Europe or Australia and are looking for the ultimate hatch, then the M135i should be in top 3 of your choices, if not at the very top. We believe that BMW managed, to some extent, to take away the worry that the M brand is being watered down. The M135i xDrive has impressive cornering grip, yet comfortable as a daily driver, but above all, it has soul and character, and that’s enough reason to own one.

2013 BMW M135i xDrive Review   The Hot Hatch Has Soul

  • http://twitter.com/FMazrekaj fadil Mazrekaj

    BMW ka vellga te heshme ekonomik ka heipsir te madhe perr mrenda ka motorr te mirfillt te fortt

  • Alen R

    Cool review! I wish there was a video though…

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      There was an issue with the GoPros, but fixing that right now, so future reviews will have video as well.

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  • Steven

    Awesome review Horatiu, very informative. Now I kinda want the car and I live in the UK so fortunate to have the option.

  • Mike S.

    Nice photos!!! And man, that car….it screams DRIVE ME HARD! Hope you gave it a good run.

  • Oniraider

    Horatiu, would you say that the xdrive option is a must for this car? Does it take away from the driving pleasure or would you recommend it for this model with this amount of BHP? Or does it only enhance the pleasure because it’s a bit easier to take full advantage of the power. I can’t decide wether to order xdrive or not because it would be safer here in Europe but is it necessary?

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Hi. I haven’t driven the RWD version, but honestly, I would get the xDrive just because of the snow in most parts of Europe. Plus, the car seem to corner better and feel safer on the road. Since it’s a 40-60 distribution, you can still have lots of fun with the car, just turn off some features.
      But as you said, taking advantage of the full power it’s pretty awesome!

      • Oniraider

        Thx for your reply Horatiu! For safety reasons I’d prefer xdrive as well. The only thing I hear people saying is that the 4WD system takes away from the driving pleasure you experience as a RWD owner. But I suspect it won’t that much besides I’m not a racing driver or anything and I would like to enjoy the car to the fullest with also keeping my safety in mind. I think I’ve decided and it will be xdrive. Thank you again for your help and reply!

        • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

          It does take away a bit….but only if you really push your car hard. Truth is that with most BMWs and especially M cars, regular drivers use about half of the car’s capacity. I would take the xDrive and enjoy it in all possible weather especially with winter tires on it.

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  • mckillio

    They really need to consolidate these two cars, I was confused reading the article (not attributed to the author). Just make a 1M, give it all the advantages of the M135 and offer X-Drive as an option.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      :) I know. For a moment I thought my ideas came across confusing

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  • Dede

    Any chance this will come to the USA after the LCI (like the X1 did)? This review makes me really want one. Perfect size for San Francisco.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      No, don’t think so.

      We are getting only the M235i.

      • Dede

        Sad. Need a hatch. Not a coupe.

        • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

          Absolutely agree. And trust me, I told that to BMW many times.

          • Dede

            Don’t want a GTI, don’t want an A3, don’t want a Mini. Had a Cooper S but not big enough for a family and dog. Not bad cars but just not RWD. Love my 328i but I need a hatch. Can’t understand why BMW doesn’t recognize the premium hatch market in the US. Demographics. More urban dwellers. Cost of housing in urban US markets. Cost of parking in urban US markets. Mini and BMW buyers are for the most part different customer segments. BMW should enlarge the pie.

            Just. Don’t. Get. It.

            Maybe Merc will figure it out and bring the A-class. Maybe then BMW will realize they’re late to the party.

          • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

            I truly hope that one day there will be enough demand for a hatch. I will ask next week why the business case for the hatch doesn’t make sense. Promise to update this thread.

          • Deed

            I would be very interested in learning that. Thank you.

          • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

            It would be interesting to know how big is the premium hatch market in the US.

          • Dede

            Hi Horatiu, did you get an answer to this at NYAIS? It would be great to hear. Thanks.

          • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

            No business case for hatch. And the fact that those don’t appeal to US customers. At least for now.

          • Dede

            Thanks for checking. I was holding out faint hope.

  • mike

    BMWNA burned themselves back in the 90s with the E36 318ti–they marketed it as a “cheap, entry level” BMW only with the 4 cyl engine available in the US (never the six) and then hardly advertised it. When it didn’t sell well, their conclusion was that Americans didn’t want hatches–not that they marketed it wrong. So…we won’t get the hatch. Why I’m still driving a 2002 and an E30 318is, not a new Bimmer.

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  • Luis Filipe F Biagi

    Do you know if is possible to put xDrive to the RWD model afterwards, like the rear diff?

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      No. You can’t.

      • Luis Filipe F Biagi

        Uau, that was fast, thank you! Do you know if theres a revelant differente in grip in a dry situation? What about in wet?

        • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

          There is some, of course xDrive will always have better grip, but with the right tires, you will be fine. They are both fun cars, just get proper winter tires in the winter and you’re okay.

          In the wet..again, I think it’s all about tires and how you drive, there is a difference clearly but you won’t notice it that much

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