If there's a more ironic automotive juxtaposition, we can't conceive of it on this day. We're hooning the heck out of the 2011 BWM 135i Coupe on the sleepiest back roads that define Ohio's Amish country. If there's somewhere the silly-fast and technology-laden smallest BMW really doesn't belong, it's here where life remains deliberately simple, sober — and slow.
The 2011 BMW 135i Coupe is none of those. Its superb 3.0-liter inline-6 now has direct fuel injection and a new dual-stage turbocharger to take the place of the twin turbos that aspirated the previous iteration of the BMW six-cylinder, but that's only the beginning. The 2011 model year marks the first time the 135i Coupe gets BMW's mostly magnificent dual-clutch transmission (DCT), the automated manual that does the clutching for you and allows sequential up- and downshifting through the seven tensely packed ratios.
The 1 Series is BMW's smallest car (we don't count Mini), so the 300 horsepower from the redesigned engine makes it muscle-car mighty, while the availability of the slick, seven-speed DCT and its quick-as-a-blink gearshifts adds a new dimension for those who'd rather not deal with a clutch pedal.
The 2011 BMW 135i isn't as whippet-light as you might want from a car that's 8 inches shorter than a 3 Series, but the turbocharged inline-6 nonetheless generates the kind of slap-in-the-face acceleration and nonchalant velocity that make the 135i as much a premium muscle car as the mighty V8-toting M3 — not much slower, either. And it's $24,000 cheaper.
BMW's numbers say the 2011 135i Coupe with the DCT hammers to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds, one-tenth quicker than if you were using the conventional six-speed manual. Curiously, even 7th gear is not an overdrive ratio, so the DCT gives up 2 mpg on the EPA city cycle and 3 mpg on the highway cycle to the manual-transmission version of this car. Still, the combination's 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway is plenty good for a car with such outright performance.
We back out of our driveway onto a fairly steep hill and the maneuver underscores the only genuine foible with the DCT. That is, the gearbox doesn't transition smoothly or reliably from reverse to forward in this situation. The magnificent engine has a broad-shouldered torque delivery that covers the DCT's deliberate shifts in full automatic mode, but those can be hurried and sharpened by depressing the "Sport" button on the center console that calls up more aggressive shift and throttle mapping.
The DCT is rather dear as optional transmissions go — automatic or otherwise — at $1,575, but the performance is nothing short of remarkable, while those who encounter a lot of traffic congestion surely will consider the DCT an almost no-compromise godsend.
Stretch-out room is not the hallmark of the 1 Series, although most who approach the 2011 BMW 135i Coupe expecting nothing more than a genuine two-seat coupe won't be disappointed. The two front seats — the Sport package option is a must just to get these superb chairs — offer plenty of adjustment and legroom. Rack them all the way back, though, and the rear seats, already highly suspect, become useless for anything but lap dogs.
The rear suspension hacked from the 3 Series rides firmly and the 135i's standard 18-inch Dunlop run-flat tires don't bring any cushion to the party. The payback is the delicious, uncorrupted (if vaguely numb) steering response that keeps BMW enthusiasts coming back to this brand.
What function? The 2011 BMW 135i is a go-fast coupe that's best treated as a two-seater. The car feels narrow and intimate, which is mostly a good thing if you're considering a car of this ilk.
For the driver, the cockpit is a model of simplicity on the order of "everything you need and nothing you don't," a graceful tenet we still expect from BMWs, particularly the Series wearing numbers starting with 1 or 3. Nobody could quibble with the gauge cluster, but the center stack is basic and looks stark for a $37,000 car, and this test car lacks a navigation system despite its $43,000 price, another reminder that the value of the 1 Series is suspect.
Don't look for much capacity from the trunk (a meager 10 cubic feet), the opening of which doesn't encourage much beyond soft luggage or groceries.
Design/Fit and Finish
The 1 Series usually is derided for being a compact car with a high-end price, but the 135i's interior fit and finish appears to hew to the same standard as BMW's flagship vehicles, and there's a satisfying heft to all the controls and touch points. The car's standard "Boston" leather upholstery is decadently rich, while all the interior finishes are first-class.
The 1 Series never is going to be recalled as one of BMW's best-looking designs, however. There's something about the proportions that your eye never sorts out. And even with 2011's revised fascia and the standard aerodynamic-style sheet metal enhancements, this seriously fast car does not have the looks to live up to the performance.
Who should consider this vehicle
First, the BMW 1 Series is the lowest-cost entry point to the BMW nameplate, the cheapest way to buy into the family if you've decided it's time to try the brand.
But the 1 Series — and particularly the 2011 BMW 135i — should be bought first and foremost by those looking for arguably the most unfiltered BMW driving experience. At its base MSRP, the 135i's performance is practically unchallenged. Domestic muscle cars do it, but they have nothing like the 135i's build quality or interior robustness.
And did we already mention this is a nasty fast little car?
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Is the 2011 BMW 1 Series a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2011 BMW 1 Series and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2011 1 Series featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process All of our reviews are written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 2011 BMW 1 Series? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2011 BMW 1 Series and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2011 1 Series 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2011 1 Series.
Review If your objective is have a car that is fun to drive, you will do no better than a BMW 1. While our BMW 3 was a fun car it does not even come close to providing the fun drive of the BMW 1. It will bring a smile to your face every time you get behind the wheel. Because of the limited rear seat room this is not a family car.
How can Edmunds help? Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
What options are available on the 2011 BMW 1 Series?
Available BMW 1 Series 2011 Submodel Types: Coupe, Convertible
Available Trims: 128i, 135i, 128i SULEV, 135is
Exterior Colors: Jet Black, Alpine White, Blue Water Metallic, Titanium Silver Metallic, Black Sapphire Metallic, Crimson Red, Space Gray Metallic, Carbon Black Metallic, Cashmere Silver Metallic, Deep Sea Blue Metallic, Le Mans Blue Metallic, Le Mans-Blue Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, Sparkling Graphite Metallic, Montego Blue Metallic, Marrakesh Brown Metallic, Monaco Blue Metallic, Sedona Red Metallic, Vermilion Red Metallic
Interior Colors: Black leather, Black leatherette, Gray leather, Savanna Beige leather, Savanna Beige Boston leather, Black Boston leather, Coral Red leather, Oyster Boston leather, Coral Red Boston leather, Taupe leather, Taupe leatherette, Savanna Beige (Late Availability) leather, Taupe Boston leather, Taupe SensaTec leatherette
Popular Features: 2nd Row Bucket Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Auto Climate Control, Automatic Emergency Braking, Aux Audio Inputs, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Post-collision safety system, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Sunroof/Moonroof, Upgraded Headlights, Soft Top, USB Inputs, Bluetooth, Power Driver Seat, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Heated seats, Leather Seats, Navigation, Upgraded Stereo