Untapped Potential - 2008 BMW 1 Series Long Term Road Test

2008 BMW 1 Series Long Term Road Test

2008 BMW 135i: Untapped Potential

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.

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