2008 BMW 135i: Not Interested
January 05, 2009
Why? Rest, readers. The answers are coming.
1. Irredeemably ugly. To paraphrase Wesley Snipes' character in White Men Can't Jump, it is hard, god-damn work, making the 135i look good. I did it once before, and I think I've pulled it off again in the shot above -- but I had to work for it. What's the secret? Get below the car and shoot up, which gives those sagging rocker panels a purposeful downward slant and minimizes the goofy top-hat profile of the greenhouse. Otherwise, only the big wheels stand between the 135i and monumental ugliness. This is a deal-breakingly unattractive car.
2. Lacks BMW suspension magic. The 135i handles great. But unlike its 3 Series stablemates, for example, it doesn't ride great, as Warren C has attested. BMWs are justly renowned for striking a magical balance between sporty handling and ride compliance. The 135i doesn't have it.
3. Feels less stable than 3 Series. I had the pleasure of a sport-packaged 2009 BMW 335d's company before snagging the keys to the 135i on Friday, and I spent the whole weekend muttering to myself, "Durned if that 335d didn't feel more planted through the corners." By comparison, the 135i feels narrow and tall. Sure enough, I checked the specs this morning, and the 3 Series is a tenth of an inch shorter than the 1 and almost 3 inches wider. Forget the slalom numbers and all that; the 3 Series inspires more confidence while driving fast. That's what I care about.
4. Low-rent and impractical interior. Yeah, I said it. Hear me out. The lower half of the dash is cheap hard plastic. The upper half is cheap hard plastic with a paper-thin sheet of rubbery something-or-other top of it. The back of the center console -- the part you see from the rear seat -- is one big HVAC-vent-less slab of, that's right, hard plastic. Not only is the 3 Series far nicer inside; I'd venture to say that the new 370Z also has the Bimmer beat in materials quality. Plus, headroom in back is unacceptable for my 6'1" frame, and legroom is barely adequate.
So what? Make my 328i sedan Crimson Red, give me the sport package, and I won't think twice about the 135i. Sure, that twin-turbocharged motor is a thing of beauty, but the 328i's 230-hp mill is no slouch (shame it's not the old 330i's 255-hp lump though), and in all other respects it's a superior car for roughly the same price. Hey, they even got rid of the 3 Series' disastrous Daewoo taillights for 2009. For the driving enthusiast who wants the complete package at this price point, the 328i is where it's at.
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 15,504 miles