2013 BMW 135is Review

Performance for a (high) price.

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July 28, 2013

2013 BMW 135is Review

Go ahead, slide it a bit, it won't mind.

Introduction
The BMW 135is that passed through our office gave us the blues. We're not only referring to its Le Mans Blue exterior paint job, but also its eye-popping sticker price. Both of them triggered Buddy Guy riffs in our heads. Indeed, the sticker made us not just blue, but a little green around the gills.

It's no shock that a Bimmer comes with its own Bavarian premium, and the 135is does do a few things that justify the wallet-suction action (we'll get to that). Still, the two questions most likely to come from an observers mouth are 'how fast is it?' and 'what's it cost?' The answers to both are on the same end of the low-to-high scale.

Smaller than the ubiquitous 3-Series, the 1-Series functions more as a performance car, thanks to its two-door only (coupe or convertible) configuration. Indeed, our test car showed no pretensions of being anything but it did sport an 'M' badge. Bimmerphiles know that an 'M' badge means business as the BMW in-house code for high performance, but in this case, a sports suspension is the only true 'M' go-fast bit -- the rest is décor. Still, our tester showed its colors with an honest-to-goodness old-school stickshift and no weight-sapping navigation system. This is the car for the young, overpaid lawyer who means business.

2013 BMW 1 Series Performance The number 'three' is key here -- as in a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that puts out 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Tromp the gas, and all those ponies and all that twisting force makes its presence known. Extra-legal speeds occur quickly, and the relationship between driver, shifter, and clutch feels like near perfection as you row through the gears. The music coming from the exhaust sounds great, too -- although it can be wearying in sedate commuting traffic.

As befits a sports car, the ride is stiff to the point of occasional annoyance -- smooth roads become your friend. That's a trade most will make for the precise handling and engaging steering feel from the 135is. Go ahead, slide it a bit, it won't mind. Not only does the steering feel accurate and true, it's also weighted nicely. Bump steer occasionally intrudes on less than stellar roadways, but it's a small price to pay.

BMW is targeting the Infiniti G37 with this car, as both are rear-drive sports coupes with hi-po V-6s under hood. Both are also satisfying handlers, but the Bimmer is just a bit more elemental in its driving experience. Rear-drive, manual-transmission sports cars are supposed to feel like this.
2013 BMW 1 Series Exterior The 1-Series has the BMW family look, with the twin-kidney grille and the slightly curved edges and everything else. It looks like a chopped and shortened 3-Series. It's less dramatic than the G37, and it tends to blend more (at least in affluent areas), but it's still a handsome car. Handsome in a cold, calculated way, of course.
2013 BMW 1 Series Interior We'd be less critical of the lack of a standard navigation system or infotainment system (they're available, if you feel like draining the checking account further) if the sticker price wasn't so dear. Nonetheless, the absence of a big screen in the center stack gives the dash a clean look -- a look that is spoiled somewhat by BMW's typical garish orange lighting. Interior controls in German cars often require an advanced degree in hieroglyphics to decipher, and the 135is is no exception -- unless this is your third or fourth BMW, familiarization will take a while. At least the gauges are easy to read.

Headroom and legroom up front are just adequate for taller drivers, and the seat bolstering bothered at least one tester's back on longer drives, but the real challenge is the rear seat -- adults probably shouldn't even think about it. Your more annoying co-workers will have to ride in the accounting manager's SUV during lunch carpools.
2013 BMW 1 Series Final Thoughts From a pure sports car perspective, the 135is checks all the right boxes. Just don't think of it as a sports car on the cheap -- the near $50K price tag and the lack of some of the luxury, safety, and convenience features that come along with that will be off-putting to some, although true enthusiasts will appreciate the weight savings.

It's also not a car for the daily drudgery of commuting. While it's better behaved at sedate speeds than many sports cars, its low-rpm exhaust noise, tight rear seat (and overall tight quarters), occasionally bumpy ride, and low-end fuel economy mean that sacrifices must be made in the name of fun.

Oh, but what fun it is.
2013 BMW 1 Series Specs, Features, and Prices Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drive Wheels: Rear-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway

Base Price: $43,250

As-tested Price: $48,245

Available Features:Bluetooth, USB, satellite radio, keyless entry, sport seats, 18-inch wheels, sport suspension, ambient lighting, heated front seats, cruise control, heated exterior mirrors, M trim.

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