2008 BMW 1 Series Long Term Road Test

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2008 BMW 135i Coupe: Something's Not Right About the Ride

August 12, 2009

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I don't mean to imply with this entry's title that there's something wrong with our 2008 BMW 135i's suspension. Everything's working fine. But after all these months, this car's ride quality still doesn't feel quite right to me. Well, at least it doesn't feel right to me on the freeways and a lot of the city streets in the LA area.

Every time I get in our 135i, I'm struck by how compliant it wants to be. Its ride isn't just smooth, it's downright soft. But as soon as I hit an expansion joint or an uneven patch of pavement, I realize I'm mistaken. Initially, the suspension compresses in its soft, forgiving manner, but then, a big dose of damping brings it back hard and you feel the brunt of that road imperfection. The sequence gets old after you realize what's happening, and it made my passenger queasy.

To me, the car feels conflicted, like the chassis engineers couldn't decide whether the U.S.-spec BMW 1 Series needed to be a cushy cruiser for people who ordinarily wouldn't buy a BMW, or a full-on sport coupe for people who think the 3 Series has gotten too big and luxurious. So it's both -- and neither.

Given how much engine is in this car, I'd vote for giving it an unapologetically firm, highly controlled ride. Save the cushy stuff for the 128i.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 26,217 miles

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2008 BMW 135i: Pre-Historic

August 11, 2009

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No sense waiting around for the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, I figured. You'd just spend the weekend looking at the back of people's legs instead of old historic racing cars. Most of the same machinery always runs the vintage racing event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the weekend before, an event fondly known as, "The Pre-Historics."

So I pointed the 2009 BMW 135i toward Monterey and looked forward to seeing some interesting cars, notably one of the John Wyer-run Porsche 917s in Gulf Oil colors that raced at the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans and gave Steve McQueen's Le Mans its timeless appeal.

And after I put a couple tanks of gas into the 1 Series over the course of 800 miles or so, I noticed that a lot of us have been choosing the smallest BMW for long-distance travel. Just check the odometer.

No mystery, as this car combines a great driving position, excellent visibility, supple suspension and an engine with a powerband so wide and seamlessly elastic that you never really have to use the gearbox unless you want to.

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2008 BMW 135i: Is the Backseat Better Than the Driver Seat?

March 25, 2009

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In a recent LT Blog textcast about our Nissan 370Z, Magrath wrote, "I like that the Z doesn't give a backseat. The option of four seats just makes people think it's okay to ask for rides."

At first I was inclined to agree (because Magrath is cool), but then I realized I have way too much baggage in my life to live out this reality. This morning with our long-term 2008 BMW 135i, I realized I need a backseat. I need the seatbelts to keep my laptop bag (and whatever other bags I'm lugging) secure through tight turns. If I risk having to take passengers along for the ride, so be it.

So I'll keep the rear seats in the 135i coupe, but if I owned this exact car, the driver seat would have to go.

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2008 BMW 135i: I Can Sit Behind Myself!

March 18, 2009

BMW 135i Back Seat with James Riswick action figure

An unfair test of a car's back seat is having a 6-foot-3 editor such as myself set his seat then attempt to sit "behind himself." While I can often technically fit, it's usually the type of fit on par with John Goodman in a Power Rangers unitard. OK, so that was hyperbolic, but you get the idea. I'd usually have to scoot the seat forward in order to allow myself to comfortably be seated in the caboose.

The above picture is the result of sitting behind myself in the BMW 135i. Lo and behold, I fit. Sure, my legs are straddling the driver seat and my head is cocked forward like a jockey to avoid the roof, but that's a technical fit. (I'd apologize for the picture not showing head room, but you try taking a picture by yourself in the back seat of a tiny BMW). If I were really to be sitting behind me, I could scooch the driver seat forward and still be reasonably comfortable driving. That wouldn't be the case in a Mini Cooper. Head room in the 1 would always be an issue, but it's much better than an Infiniti G37 or Hyundai Genesis Coupe, which is useless even for folks much shorter than I. Finally, both leg and head room in the 1's back seat are way better than in the 370Z.

Obviously, the 135's aft quarters are not meant for four-person long hauls. However, for those rare times when I would need the back seat (especially for average-sized people), this baby Bimmer would be more practical than most sport coupes.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 18,798 miles

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2008 BMW 135i: From the Big Daddy to Baby Bimmer

February 26, 2009

2008 BMW 135i

I've spent the better part of a week cruising around in the all-new BMW 750i, the flagship of the Bimmer line -- the big daddy if you will. There are certainly worse ways to spend time on the road. Then as fate would have it, I got handed the keys to the opposite end of the family, our long-term BMW 135i. I was going from the big daddy to baby Bimmer.

No longer would I have heated and cooled 39-way power seats. No navigation system with (surprise!) useable iDrive and 12-inch widescreen display. No HD or satellite radio. No rear steering. No adjustable suspension, steering, throttle or transmission settings. Speaking of transmission, I'd actually have to shift for myself. No habitable back seat with power sunshades. No leather upholstery and swanky stitched dashtop. No Black Panel super gauge cluster.

In other words, I was missing a whole lot of stuff. And yet (you knew this was coming), I was perfectly content.

There's something about stripping away all the distractions, all the electronic wizardry and 1,190 pounds of car that leaves you with a certain purity. There's a sense of connection with the 1 that the 7 has long since abandoned in favor of being a technological and engineering tour de force (and an impressive one at that).

Obviously, this was hardly going from 7 Series to Civic. But if it came down to a daily driver and I had the cash for either, I'd go for the 1. Maybe that would change as I get older and/or need that back seat, but I'll take purity over that huge list of doo-dads today.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 18,199 miles

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2008 BMW 135i: Don't Impugn My Love You Lobster-Eater

February 02, 2009

2008 BMW 135i in Coto de Caza, California (Click to Enlarge)

I'm in love with the BMW 135i. Maybe not our 135i -- it's far too red and I hate the tan interior with its '70s shade of wood trim. I'd have the manual seats too. But aside from that, I love this car. Everything related to the driving experience is exactly how I like it. The small dimensions make it feel more like driving a sports car -- more Z4 than 3 Series -- but it's quiet and offers a comfortable ride. True, it's not supple, but I don't want supple and I never found it harsh during the extensive driving I did this weekend between Orange and Ventura counties. The engine provides tremendous thrust, but it's also civilized in terms of throttle response and noise. The steering is tactile and light, and its wheel falls exactly how I like it thanks to an excellent, tall-friendly driving position (and that's with the less-adjustable power seats). The pedals are also perfectly placed and the clutch/shifter is without fault.

If I were to buy a car today, I would buy this car that I so dearly love. But then Associate Editor Josh Sadlier had to describe the 135 as "monumentally ugly," comparing it to a pot-belly pig and lamenting hard-touch materials. He's "just not interested," he so coldly said. I just couldn't let that stand. How dare that lobster-eating Maine-dweller impugn my love in such a way. So I crawled over our cubicle divider and popped him. That's right, cold-cocked him I did. Of course, he then jumped up and flashed some fancy jujitsu moves he picked up in Japan. I quickly ran away.

Anyway, even if Sadlier had a point about the styling, I couldn't possibly care less. That's called unconditional love.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 17,317 miles

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2008 BMW 135i: Santa Barbara Road Trip

August 06, 2008

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Another California road trip , another Pea Soup Anderson's (the Buellton location), but this time, we left the kid with her grandparents and grabbed the keys to the long-term BMW 135i. Heading to the wine country of Santa Barbara county (about a 3-hour drive) for a vineyard wedding allowed us the opportunity to try out the 1-Series' road trip capabilities.

As expected, the 135i was stupid-fun to drive, even in the stop-and-go Saturday morning traffic that we experienced for most of the drive out there. Seat comfort was good, though lumbar support in the driver seat would have been appreciated, and neither my husband nor I attempted to nap on such a short trip, so we can't speak to the merits of the power seats for longer trips.

And I know I'll get blasted for complaining about cupholders in this car, but here I go: they're too small and their placement causes any drink that's put there to get in my arm's way when I'm working the shifter. We resorted to storing our tightly closed bottles of water on their sides in the center storage area of the back seat instead. In the grand scheme of all things 135, not a huge problem, especially when you've got someone riding shotgun who can act as "water monkey," and I certainly don't expect this to be a deal-breaker for anyone considering buying the 1 Series, but it's an inconvenience, nonetheless.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 6,204 miles

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2008 BMW 135i: The 1 does 2+2

June 02, 2008

How does the all-new 2008 BMW 1 Series handle 2+2 duty? Depends on the size of the "+2," but if they are over 5-feet tall it probably won't work unles the "2" are under 5-and-a-half feet tall.

With me (6'0") and my wife (5'4") in the front seats, my daughter (4'2") fit behind me and my son (4'8") fit behind my wife -- but only just. The entry/exit process was aided not only by the easy, flip-forward seatback release but by the power-slide button located at the top of the seatback.

My nine-year-old son didn't skip a beat when he first got into the passenger side of our long-term 135i. First he pushed the slide button to move the seat forward, then he pulled the relase lever; no direction from me required.

So right now, today, the 1 Series would be a viable family car for my family.

Another six months? Ummm...

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief, @ 3,527 miles

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2008 BMW 135i: Get the Sport Seats

May 27, 2008

Opting into our long-term BMW 135i for a trip to Sequoia National Park over the holiday weekend was a smart choice. Yeah, there's all the boring stuff like it's easy to park and snaps through traffic like a squirrel, but the more compelling reason is that the park's foothills offer roads from a driver's dream--switchbacks, sweepers and mercifully little traffic.

This is one well-rounded car. On the boring freeway slog, the 135i was relaxed and quick. Exploiting the quickness on the fun roads, however, revealed that these seats offer hopelessly inadequate lateral support... When I flung the 135i through the first fast turn, I may as well have been sitting on bench. The seat comfort is good, but what is this, a Buick? Don't even consider the non-Sport Package seats if you have any intention of ever driving this car hard.

I'd like the suspension to have a bit more compression travel, too, as the bumpstops got a solid whack a few times. Still, there's consistently good grip, and the steering is a delight. Seats aside, I'd choose the 135i for a trip like this again in a heartbeat.

Fuel economy for the entire trip including hooliganistic behavior worked out to 23.4 mpg.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 3,379 miles.

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