BMW 135i Sport Coupe Review
This is a potent bit of kit, no ifs or buts
Model tested: BMW 135i Sport Coupe with six-speed manual transmission: $74,700
It only takes a couple of shifts and a good old prod of the throttle, to figure out that BMW’s 135i Sport Coupe is laced with a more than generous serving of motorsport DNA.
I’ve only been driving the car for half an hour, and I’m already thinking that the BMW M3 might be overkill as a daily driver such is the explosive pace of this diminutive Beemer. This is a potent bit of kit, no ifs or buts.
The last car I drove that felt like this was a BMW CSL (an all-time favourite of mine) on some back roads in Germany, and it put exactly the same smile on my face as this car does.
Toey, agile, and wickedly quick in-gear acceleration, this is going to be one of those press cars I would rather hold onto for while – like permanently.
It’s a lot of engine for a small car, but this chassis has clearly been designed to handle this level of grunt. It makes you wonder what kind of weapon BMW will present at next year’s launch of the ‘M’ version of the 1-Series. It should be right off the scale, and a much in demand bit of ‘go fast’ kit.
At the heart of the 135i Sport is a 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged, extra light straight-six engine producing 225 kW and 400 Nm of torque in standard trim. But this particular press car is a little bit special, in the form of a BMW Performance Power Kit, which puts out a more serious 240 kW and 430 Nm.
You can feel it too especially up around 5000rpm when that growl develops into more of a Bobcat like snarl and the pace is frenetic. There’s a definite and unrelenting urge that makes this car feel quicker than it’s published 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds.
In fact, the 135i’s power delivery is so linear that you won’t pick the twin-scroll turbo spooling up. What an engine!
It’s uncanny how similar this car feels to the 3.2-litre naturally aspirated CSL, despite its 100-kilo weight penalty (CSL – 1385kg, 135i Sport – 1485kg). What I mean by that comparison is that the 135i Sport possesses similar cat-like responses as the razor-sharp CSL when threading a series of bends together (massive tick from me).
It’s not so much the car’s relatively lightweight, as it is the car’s perfectly balanced chassis and shorter wheelbase that’s partly responsible for this stunning performance in the twisty bits.
That’s no surprise really, as this is the same powerlant that earned BMW the title of International Engine of the Year in 2007, and broke the 100bhp per-litre output, previously the sole domain of the all-powerful ‘M’ cars.
There’s a tremendous amount of grip from the split size tyre set-up too. The 215/40R 18’s up front, and ultra-low profile 245/35R 18’s down back, make for prodigious grip in almost any situation. It doesn’t seem to matter how much throttle you lay down out of a corner, the rubber bites like a vice on the tarmac.
There’s really nothing quite like the feeling of a short wheelbase rear wheel drive hot rod, with a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution and the added benefit of an electronic differential lock, for extra traction under high load. Drill the accelerator pedal out of a corner, and there’s little if any slipping or sliding, just ballistic forward motion.
If anything, the steering could benefit from being even quicker, and perhaps less turns to lock, but that’s precisely one of the characteristics that might differentiate the “M” version of the 1 Series when it’s released in Australia during second quarter 2011.
I’m also not a major fan of this optional Alcantara steering wheel either, given that the sports leather variety from BMW is one of the best in the business and very grippy. While it looks great, it's just not that comfortable, unless you happen to be wearing driving gloves, and that’s simply not an option in an Aussie summer.
This car also fitted with the Short Shift Kit, which as described, provides a short shift from one gear ratio to another. While it works a treat, the shifts require some effort and are quite notchy, especially when changing from first to second.
Options can be expensive on many European cars, but priority one for the 135i Sport would have to be the 7-speed Double Clutch Transmission, with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
While the extra special SMG box in the CSL is indeed a quick shifting unit, the side effects are sometimes brutal and downright violent gear changes, especially when you’re on the pace. BMW’s Double Clutch transmission is a lot more refined, and will not only reduce shift times further still, but also allows the driver to select multiple shift maps from inside the cockpit. Moreover you get the added benefit of an extra 20 Nm of torque, or a total of 450 Nm, due to the gearbox being able to sustain more torque than the manual transmission.
For a relatively small and lightweight car, the 135i Sport is endowed with some serious stopping power. Stomp on the middle pedal, and the six-piston fixed calipers up front wipe off speed with consummate ease. Not only that, the pedal feel is entirely natural, and not grabby like some other German makes.
While the performance attributes of BMW’s smallest hot rod are beyond reproach, what about the styling?
It’s more functional than beautiful, at least through my eyes, but anyone looking at parking this little Beemer in their very own garage will surely appreciate its tough and deliberate stance.
Standard fitment on the Sport variant is the aero-optimised M Sport package, which means an extra-large central air-intake incorporated into the front air dam and more accentuated side skirts, among other additions.
It’s a similar story from the rear point of view. Slightly large twin exhaust tips are finished in dark chrome although, disappointingly, the car lacks a proper diffuser. Nonetheless, the 135i Sport Coupe has a wide rear track and an extra low stance that undeniably looks the business.
While BMW offers an expansive options inventory for the Sport Coupe, the standard equipment package is indeed extensive, and doesn’t preclude luxury items simply because it’s a stable mate in the entry-level series.
Every conceivable safety system (passive and active) has been loaded into the Sport, as well as creature comforts such as Bi-Xenon headlights, Park Distance Control (rear), Rain sensor and automatic headlight control, Automatic Climate Control and Boston Leather Upholstery. There are plenty of other goodies on board too, but far too extensive to list here.
The sports seats deserve special mention although, BMW rarely disappoint in this area. They’re mounted extra low, and have extensive side support, and are comfortable in any given driving situation.
I’m not sure who makes the audio head unit, but whoever it is, the 10 speakers produce a great sound, even when connected to my iPhone.
There’s also a reasonable degree of practicality with the 1 Series Coupe too, as it’s longer than the BMW 1 Series hatch by 121mm, and has room for two kids and a thoroughly decent boot for such a compact package.
Unfortunately, Satellite Navigation is a relatively expensive option in the 1 Series, but once you experience BMW’s “Professional” system with its 10-inch high-definition wide screen, anything else simply won’t do.
Don’t be deceived by its diminutive size, BMW’s 135i Sport Coupe is a proper fire breathing high-performance car with impeccable road manners, and a generous dollop of everyday practicality thrown in for good measure.
Check out: BMW 135i Sport Specifications.