2008 BMW 1 Series Long Term Road Test


2008 BMW 135i: Do You Really Want the Bigger 6?

July 24, 2008

BMW 135i vs. BMW 128i
Click above for larger image

As Karl wrote in his blog this morning, you really don't need the 135i. The 128i is plenty of fun -- if you didn't know the twin-turbo 3-liter was out there, well, ignorance is bliss.

But, should you want the 135i? Is the difference really that big? To find out, John Di Pietro (JDP) and I just got back from bombing through Topanga and Old Topanga canyon roads back to back in the 128i and 135i. No matter what the answer is, what a blast.

I should first note that the LT 135 is handicapped by its lack of manual sport seats, which are in this particular 128i and offer more adjustment and support. We've said it before, but buy these.

Anyway, during our drive we were lucky enough to have clear sailing on Topanga, which is usually filled with leisurely minivans and sewage trucks going about 25 mph. Without them, it was practically a roller coaster as we flew through the canyon, the 1's gripping through turns with tenacity. With its bigger wheels and tires, though, the 135 was a tad grippier. We could have gone faster -- especially the 135 -- but going 90 on a main canyon road isn't the wisest move.

128i and 135i Badges - CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE I readily admit I'm no finely tuned driving machine, but every time I get behind the 135's wheel, I feel like a champion. The steering is brilliant and only when you push the crap out of the thing, do you start to feel the understeer BMW's engineers built into it to prevent novices from fishtailing their 300-hp little Bimmer off into the great beyond. Most of the same excellent handling is found in the 128i and it too is an absolute blast, which as Karl said means the smaller engine is certainly enough.

Actually, 128i has more than enough power, but it just doesn't have the "weeeeee!" factor of the 135i. Through the higher-speed, less twisty Topanga, I found myself just leaving the 35 in 4th; so plentiful is the torque. JDP argued that this made the 128i more involving and the 135i more of a lazy man's car, and he's probably right. But that effortlessly smooth, rocket ship acceleration in such a small package is wonderfully entoxicating. I just adore it.

So count JDP as needing and wanting the 128i. Count JRiz as admiting he really only needs the 128i, but desparately wanting the 135i. With Topanga in my backyard and the right lease rate, why the heck not?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,655 miles

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