2008 BMW 135i: Textcast -- The One Against The World
March 22, 2009
The latest Long-Term Blog Textcast finds flag-waving Associate Editor Josh Sadlier debating the merits of sub-$40k performance cars with a snarky Canadian who suffers from Euro envy. Freedom fries and liberty cabbage were served.
Sadlier: So, the question before us, courtesy of our man Bob Holland: "If you had to spend your hard-earned money on a vehicle--to be used as your daily driver--which would you pick and why? 135i? STI? Evo? Keep in mind, this would be your do-it-all car. Which would you pick?"
Sadlier: Sounds like we're keeping to the $40k-and-under crowd.
Sadlier: I'll add the G8 GT/GXP to the list of prospects, and the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track, and the Infiniti G37, and the Mustang GT/Challenger RT/Camaro triumvirate.
Sadlier: And I will arbitrarily exclude the 370Z. Well, actually, I've got reasons -- it doesn't have a backseat (hence Miata, S2000...um, Solstice Coupe...are also out), and it got a lot of face time in the last textcast, and the G37 is an able stand-in.
Sadlier: So. What say you?
Riswick: I'd pick the STI because I like rough plastic interior flaring digging into my skin and my stereo to sound like its speakers are encased in Jell-O-filled metal drums
Riswick: I also enjoy road noise. Mmm, yeah. Lots of delicious road noise.
Sadlier: All this for only $35 grand!
Riswick: Oh, and we'll make it simultaneously ugly and boring-looking
Sadlier: Personally, I would take a four-door VW GTI in a heartbeat and keep the $11,000 difference
Sadlier: ...and if I really thought it needed more power, I'd spend a grand or two of the savings on a chip or whatever.
Riswick: I'd wait for the better-looking next generation GTI, but I hear you. Although I'd personally go for the Mini, but that's a digression from the task at hand.
Sadlier: Oh, yeah, forgot about the Mini. Hell, even if the STI were as cheap as the Cooper S or Clubman S, I think I'd still go with the Mini.
Riswick: No question.
Sadlier: Alright, we're agreeing too much. Let's narrow the field. $30k-40k. Discuss.
Riswick: Amongst STI, Evo and 135i, I'd pick the 135i. Most definitely. Not a moment of hesitation.
Sadlier : Yeah, me too. With the STI and Evo, you're basically paying for the impressive performance numbers. That's about all you get for your money. Otherwise they're miserable to live with.
Sadlier : Which is a shame because the point of four-doored vehicles is supposed to be daily livability.
Riswick : That's true. Even though the Evo MR's Twin-Shift SSST-USS ESSEX transmission or whatever makes it pleasant around town, the ride, the noise, the neck-snapping accelerative tendencies, the dinky trunk, would make it tough.
Sadlier : Yup. So the 135i is the no-brainer daily driver choice of those three.
Sadlier : But in the $30-40k price range, there are at least two others I'd choose first.
Riswick : Let me guess. 328i and Lincoln MKS
Sadlier : Hah.
Riswick : The MKS is a starship, you know
Sadlier : Dude, you can, like, get a turbo in the MKS now.
Riswick : Which makes it 50% sportier than my grandfather's sofa
Sadlier and Riswick : [laughing uncontrollably for three minutes after realizing that the "EcoBoost" MKS is probably too expensive for this conversation. ]
Riswick : Whew, okay, anyway, 328i and...
Sadlier : Ah yes, 328i sedan, 6MT, with the Sport Package, that's my first pick. My second pick, and I say this without having driven it...
Sadlier : Camaro SS .
Riswick : Alright, we'll get to the burn-out machine in a moment.
Riswick : In regards to the two BMWs, though, I'd still pick the 135i. Though I'll grant you the 1er's less than attractive looks. I'd have to get a dark color just so I couldn't make out all the bulbous details of the nose.
Riswick : Maybe I could graft one of those Aston Martin Miata body kits onto it.
Sadlier : Now that's just ridiculous.
Sadlier : But you know, even if the 135i looked good...I mean, actually, that is hard to imagine. I'll have to reserve judgment on that for if/when it ever happens. But for me, I just prefer the feel of the 3 Series, from its more planted character in corners to its nicer interior.
Sadlier : I'll take the hit in power in return for that edge in feel.
Riswick : See, I like how the 135 feels so small -- more sports car than sedan. The 3 is remarkably agile and does indeed feel planted, but it doesn't have quite the same tossable nature. Even around town, there's something about driving such a tiny rear-drive car with 300 wacky turbo horses that feels just right to me.
Sadlier : I'll agree there. The 135 feels more tossable. Steering is hyper-responsive too.
Sadlier : Here's one thing that bugs me about the 135i though: the engine's so damned refined you can hardly hear it. What you can hear sounds good, but it's so smooth, it doesn't really do it for me.
Riswick : Ooooh lordy, I can hear it. I love that smoothness. That throaty exhaust bark when you change gears. Yum.
Sadlier : Yeah, but you gotta have the windows down to appreciate it. Nice exhaust note, I agree, but the engine is a sewing machine behind 20 inches of sound-deadening foam.
Sadlier : Camaro SS -- no such issues.
Riswick : Admit it, you're the guy who invented those stupid Pimp My Ride speakers you install under your car to give it the most impossibly loud exhaust note of any car imaginable. "Hey, like my Escort ZX2 with the Aston Martin exhaust rumble?"
Sadlier : I'm the guy who can't wait for the Lightning GT electric car with the "sound module" that gives you like 11 driver-selectable fake engine notes
Riswick : I hope STI isn't one of them.
Sadlier : Hah. Now see, I will stand by the STI's engine note. Boxer grumble + turbo whistle = cool in my book. Leaps and bounds ahead of the vacuum-cleaner Evo, at least
Sadlier : But seriously, Camaro SS vs. 135i. This is an interesting comparison. Particularly since, um, neither of us has driven the former
Riswick : I'd still take the 135i. The Camaro is made by GM who unlike BMW hasn't provided me with my monthly bag of money.
Riswick : I also hate America. Vive la France!
Sadlier : Well, yes, I realize I am breaking my contractual obligation to pick the BMW no matter what. But still, I want the Camaro. I want a 426-hp V8.
Riswick : You have been growing that mullet out
Sadlier : I want to live on Gold Chain Lane .
Riswick : Here's why I don't want the Camaro (despite having an appreciation for it). It's abso-freakin-lutely enormous compared to the Bimmer.
Sadlier : Yes, Camaro's a beast. It's big, it's heavy. But it's got a 426-hp V8! 426 horsepower! V8! And it's five grand cheaper than the 135 !
Riswick : Which is such an American attitude.
Sadlier : And the Camaro's chassis, sourced from the G8 GT, presumably optimized for handling, no longer 27 feet long (like the G8)...
Sadlier : I bet it'll handle pretty well.
Riswick : ... compared to the good ship Challenger.
Sadlier : Hah, yes, dynamically the Challenger is a farce.
Sadlier : Just not competitive. It's about looks and attitude and tire smoke.
Riswick : Which brings me back to my dig at the American people
Sadlier : Ah, oui, bien sur
Riswick : Yank car nuts dig giant V8s stuffed into ancient F-body platforms with shiny Armorall dashboards that can lay down huge black stripes on pavement. Handling doesn't matter at all. If it goes stupid fast, it doesn't matter that you'll be sliding your rear end into trees like a hemorroidal bear.
Sadlier : I've never seen a hemorroidal bear slide its rear end into a tree, Dudley Do-Right , but I will take your word for it
Riswick : Meanwhile, Euros adorned in their berets and ascots are perfectly happy with a 170-hp hot hatch that can literally orbit a Camaro as it trudges through corners. They get a thrill from corner G-forces rather than drag strip mouth breathing.
Riswick : I'd fall into that category, which is why I like the tiny BMW. And the fact that it has 300 hp satisfies the North American part of me that still enjoys drag strip mouth breathing.
Sadlier : If you're talking about all previous Camaros, I'll grant your point. But I have a hunch this one will be different.
Sadlier : Look at what the Mustang GT Track Pack did with a solid rear axle...over 68 mph in the slalom . Camaro's heavier, but it's got a more sophisticated suspension. [Camaro SS managed a 68.6 mph slalom time in our first full test -- Ed.]
Riswick : Oh, absolutely.
Sadlier : I think it could strike a pretty bitchin' balance between the Euro and the American ends of the spectrum.
Riswick : But it's still enormous.
Sadlier : That I can't deny.
Riswick : You'll have the numbers, but that tricky bit about preferring a small-car feel would always be looming. I'm afraid driving the Camaro will be like running through a china shop with a water park inner tube around me.
Sadlier : But the current M3 is 3,700 pounds ...the Audi S5 must be pushing 4,000 ...
Riswick : Not weight. Dimensions
Sadlier : Ah. But is the Camaro really that gigantic?
Riswick : Gotta be. That ain't a small car. It's a smaller G8, but the G8 is XXL.
Riswick : It will never have the sports-car feel of the 135.
Sadlier : Alright, the Camaro's 8 inches longer than the S5. You might have a point
Riswick : holy schnikeys
Sadlier : 4.3 inches longer than a C63.
Riswick : Don't forget the Challenger is a smaller version of the Charger
Sadlier : Yeah, well, get this -- the Camaro is 190.4 inches long. The Challenger is 197.7 !
Sadlier : That must be almost G8 territory.
Riswick : G8 is 196.1 inches long . Challenger's actually longer.
Sadlier : Zoinks! No wonder the Challenger drives like a tugboat.
Riswick : Well, that and it was tuned on Lake Nurburgring in Wisconsin.
Sadlier : Still, the Camaro's more than 7 inches shorter than the Challenger, and within shouting distance of the C63. I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Sadlier : Let's revisit this after we get our hands on one.
Riswick [in Canadian ]: How a-boat we do that.