Frank S. Washington, Sat, 21 Jan 2012 04:52:50 PST
DETROIT - One automotive Web site described BMW's 1 Series Coupe as "short, squat and compact." You might describe a brick that way but my 2012 135i Coupe was more like a bullet.
My test car was powered by a direct fuel injection 3.0 liter inline twin scroll turbocharged six cylinder engine that made 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Though there is a six-speed manual gearbox, my tester was equipped with BMW's seven speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
That transmission could be shifted manually by either the stalk in the center console or paddles attached to the steering wheel. The car was also equipped with high performance brakes to slow it down quickly.
At 3,373 lbs., the 135i could get to 60 mph from a standing start in 5.0 seconds. It takes it one-tenth of a second longer to get there with a manual transmission. My 135i had Go-Kart like handling qualities. In other words, just a twitch of the steering wheel and my driving direction changed.
I thought the short wheel base would make for a rather bumpy ride. But though the suspension was a firm sport set up my test car's ride was comfortable. There wasn't any wheel skip over abrupt bumps, road noise did not into intrude into the passenger compartment and wind noise, if there was any, I never heard.
And response to accelerator input was impressive. My test car could easily approach 100 mph with just a bit of pressure on the gas pedal. The car's top speed had been electronically limited to 150 mph.
It's been years since I had driven a Bimmer that turned heads as much as the 135i Coupe. That was because of its small size, it was 172 inches long, and its slick styling. It had a long hood, short rump, minimal overhangs and BMW's iconic kidney grille. The car really did look good. There was no mistaking that the 135i Coupe was a BMW.
My test vehicle had four seats but the back two, even though they were a fold down 60/40 split, were not meant for adult habitation, at least not under normal circumstances. However, my 3 year old passenger found the rear environs of my 135i Coupe quite comfortable. The point is that this car is for the selfish or the single or both.
And as stylishly stunning as the 135i was, its creature comforts were to me more impressive. My test vehicle had a leather interior which was trimmed with just a touch of Poplar wood veneer. There was a moonroof that surprisingly slid into the roof and not up and over it. I was disappointed that my test car did not have satellite radio but elated that the car would accept my iPod with its own USB cord.
That meant that my iPod charged while it was playing, thus, it expended none of its own battery power. What's more, I could operate it using the 135i's audio controls. This is fairly big news. It means that you don't have to purchase and auxiliary cord or a Y cord; you can use your iPod in the BMW 135i Coupe with what came in its box. I expect this relatively simple but extraordinarily functional feature to roll through BMW's product lineup.
What's more, in addition to Bluetooth, the 135i will "integrate" BlackBerry smartphones so that drivers can access email, text messages and their notes. The 135i's voice control system will read text messages and e-mails aloud to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road. I can't see BMW not being extended this feature to other smartphone brands.
Photos of friends calling will display on the navigation screen so will album covers of iPod music being played. Years ago a luxury car executive told me that the most successful luxury carmakers will be the ones who take care of the customer best during the first 100,000 miles.
It seems to me that in what's become an Age of Communication, BMW is ratcheting up the communicative ability of its vehicles starting with the 135i Coupe to match the iconic performance virtues of its brand.
My test vehicle had a base price of $39,050. Add on options and shipping fee and the sticker for my 2012 135i Coupe was $46,075. If that's too steep, there is the 230 horsepower 128i Coupe that starts at $30,950. And each model of the 1 Series comes in a convertible version.
The 1 Series is a great halo car for BMW that has an exclusive cachet because the company sells about 1,500 of them a month.