August 14, 2009
Remember the Focus' faulty door grab design, which places the handle too far forward, preventing you from getting enough leverage to easily open the door? And at the same time causing the grab itself to pop out?
Well, the 135i isn't that bad, but it could use another door grab located somewhere in the middle of that armrest. Not only would it be easier to reach, but it would require less effort to close the door.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 26,293 miles
June 18, 2009
Can somebody please explain to me how the big brains at BMW can do suspension, steering and brakes so well and still screw up something as simple as a useful cupholder.
Hard to believe, isn't it? The same company that designed and built the astonishingly good turbocharged inline six cylinder engine in our long-term 2008 BMW 135i also created the stupidity above.
How the hell does that happen?
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief
May 18, 2009
As a single guy who loves small rear-drive performance cars, I should be totally smitten by our longterm 2008 BMW 135i. Yet the 135i doesn't haunt my dreams. In a way, I'm in a similar boat as my colleague Mr Sadlier is with the 370Z.
Not that the 135i isn't enjoyable to drive. On the contrary, it is a fine car. It rides well, is plenty quick and has a big dose of refinement in the way it takes to the road. The engine is flat-out sensational in just about every way you could conceivably ask for. Maybe the interior doesn't offer the last word in gadgetry, but that's not what I'm after. The seats in our long-termer do suck, though, as you're already well aware.
In analyzing my indifference, I've finally settled on this well-rounded docility as the source. 300hp in a car this small? On paper the 135i should be a cold-blooded assasin. It should be the performance car to take on all performance cars. A hooligan's delight. A rabid wolf in a droopy clown costume. You get the idea.
Instead, this small car is accessible and has the comport of a larger car. To BMW's credit, this no doubt helps with appealing to the masses. But there's another reason they're keeping the 135i meek. Fully exploiting the potential of what they hath wrought with the 135i would tread on the territory of the 335i and possibly the M3 too.
I can't deny that this is probably smart business sense. But whenever I drive the 135i, I think about what might have been.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 22,095 miles.
March 25, 2009
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.
March 18, 2009
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
March 05, 2009
Let's settle this once and for all, people: the 1 Series interior is a step down from the 3 Series. As it should be -- the 1 is, after all, BMW's entry-level car. But I'm tired of hearing that the 1 and the 3 have comparable interior design and quality. They don't, and here's proof.
First, the lead photo. Bryn posted a similar shot awhile ago, but she was talking about the wood trim strip. This time, let's talk about that random four-inch-wide chunk missing from the end of the dash, which a 3 Series would not be caught dead with. As I wondered in a comment on Bryn's post: "Maybe this is the interior equivalent of flame-surfacing? Or maybe this dash was originally intended for a car that was four inches narrower? Or maybe German passengers have really long right femurs?"
February 26, 2009
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
2008 BMW 135i: Spoiled by the N54 or; Why I wouldn't buy an E46 M3 or; Why Sadlier is off his rocker.
February 13, 2009
Last week Associate Editor Josh Sadlier went all Tom Cruise on us. (Although he did it via internet tubes instead of Oprah's couch, but hey, we take the soap boxes we can get.) He's in love, it's cute. But it's also scarred a scary amount of psychosis on his already shredded psyche. Like Katie Holmes, I think he's got Stockholm Syndrome.
Following the jump will lead you down a path to understanding why the 135 is a fantastic drivers car. Why the M3 is overrated and why Sadlier needs an M3 intervention. (That, or it'll be a fantastic waste of about 5 minutes.)
1) Old BMWs smell: Every BMW more than four years old smells like crayons. It's an acrid burning smell that certainly causes the driver's brain to melt. I need to carry aspirin and drive with the windows open in our M3 just to tolerate the excellent drive. They also smell like old oil as every single one of them has spare oil hidden somewhere in the car for when the light inevitably turns on. The 135 smells like new car and burning rubber. Maybe it's just ours that smells that way. Whatever, it was worth it. (Neither Sadlier nor Editor In Chief Oldham mentioned the smell when picking the M3 as his darling. No idea how. Too much M3 stink to remember?)
2) Old BMWs are expensive: Service Inspection II is over a grand. And that's just periodic maintence. When things break it's even more expensive. The 135 still has a warranty.
3) The interior on the M3 is sad: Some call it patina, I call it old. The buttons sort of stick and the plastic is scratched and worn virtually everywhere a human could touch.
4) The M3's shifter is BEAT: The clutch is in similar shape. Each time I take that car I'm sure that this will be the clutch's final ride. When we tested it with the new tires, the driver asked, "Is the clutch going to survive this?" 135's shifter is light, precise and unabused. Just like the clutch. Go ahead and rip a no-lift 1-2, it can take it.
5) The E46 M3 looks dated: Yeah, I said it.
6) The 135 has an iPod adapter: The M3 has a cd changer. In the trunk. This is 2009 people, going fast doesn't need sacrifice anymore. If I can go faster with more convenience features I'm going to.
7) Sadlier has a beard: Kind of. Who do you trust: an upstanding gentleman with a new haircut, or some guy with a beard who went to school in Massachusetts?
8) The title item N54 engine: Useable torque everywhere. And unlike the S54 it doesn't sound like it's about to spin itself into oblivion. You're worried about CERN's LHC creating a black hole? It's more likely that an S54 would do it. The N54 is the strong, quiet type only offering a dull whir when pushed to the limits. It's less engaging than the S54, but also more refined and less frantic.
9) M guys: Like buying a Corvette or a Mustang or a Ferrari, when you buy an M car you have to buy a jacket with the M badge on the back. And the keychain with the M. And some cool M badges with the colors of the German flag instead of the M stripes. And you've got to wave at other M cars. And then you've gotta disapprove of every other fast car for not being an M. It's a vicious circle and I just don't have the time to join a cult. Drive a 135 and nobody looks. Ever. It's under the radar masquerading as a chick car.
10) Love ruins everything: Sadlier and others in the office love the M3. They love the image it offered when new. They love the direct feel and feedback. They love the performance advantage it used to have over virtually everything. Love is blind and if you fall into its trap you'll soon be the same way. The 135 offers a better ride, better interior and more features. It's faster and less harsh. It's also soulless. I don't care about soul. I want to go fast and be comfortable. It's why I don't own anything British.
When we ran a comparison test between our 2002 M3, a 335i and a 135, I wrote a second opinion that pretty much said the same thing.
At the start of the M3's long term test I was excited, the E46 was on my short list for a weekend toy. It's not anymore. I just don't love it enough to deal with the flaws. I'll still gleefully take the keys on a clear day and head to the mountains, I just don't want to own one.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant
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.
September 09, 2008
Of the many BMWs I've driven over the years, I can't say too many of them are memorable in terms of interior storage. The 135i continues the trend. Following is a detailed report on where you can or can't store stuff. It's hard-core investigative journalism at its best.
August 06, 2008
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
June 04, 2008
Once again, my quarter-mile commute turns into a trivial observation about our 135i. This time the odd-looking little BMW gets a pat on the back for showing some restraint.
Turns out, when you put anything of significant weight on the passenger seat, the airbag sensor assumes it's a person. So, of course, when I fail to buckle up my computer bag it lights up the dashboard warning along with a pleasant chime...
Well, pleasant for the first ten seconds, then it becomes annoying. On most cars it continues on endlessly until you push your bag onto the floor out of frustration.
Not so, on the 1 Series. The warnings actually stop after a brief period of time. Those Germans actually take into consideration that you might have a brain, one that would take into account the 30 seconds of chimes and multiple dashboard lights. In other words, if you don't want to put your seat belt, it's not their problem. It's nice to know the nannies have yet to infiltrate Munich.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 3,622 miles
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
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.
May 23, 2008
So our 135i drives great. Flawless engine, smooth shifter, blah, blah, blah. Letís get to the real important stuff. Are you seeing that dash trim?.. Doesnt really fit right does it? Sure, its on there good and tight, but clearly it was designed for another dashboard. Cant blame BMW for reusing a few parts to keep costs down, but maybe it should have picked a piece of trim that wasnt right in the drivers line of sight. It looks shoddy, and when you just dropped $37K on a new coupe thats not good.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 2811 miles