Reviews

2013 BMW 1 Series Driving Impressions



The BMW 1 Series cars are sporty and agile. We found the steering, cornering, and braking performance of the BMW 135i to be exemplary, perfectly matched to the huge acceleration power of the engine.

Driving a 300-hp, 3400-pound rear-drive coupe built on a short-wheelbase chassis adds up to a great deal of driving enjoyment, especially when the engine's torque curve is absolutely flat from 1200 to 5000 rpm and the engine redlines at 7000 rpm. The 135i benefits from BMW's newest inline-6, which uses a single twin-scroll turbocharger instead of twin turbos. With more than 100 hp per liter, this 24-valve engine is engineering magic. BMW fans worried that the single turbo will sap power can rest easy. The turbocharged engine makes this car a hot rod. It's hard to tell, but power is perhaps more responsive at low speeds, though not quite as willing as speeds and revs increase. The engine is sprightly from a stop without a modicum of turbo lag. It keeps building power up the rev band, pushing a 135i with the manual transmission from rest to 60 mph in a mere 5.1 seconds. The DCT cuts off another tenth. Both numbers are impressive for a vehicle of this price point. Top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph (or 149 mph with the Sport Package).

The BMW 135i manual transmission is a pleasure to operate. It's silky smooth and clutch take-up feels natural.

The 7-speed dual clutch transmission, or DCT, available for the BMW 135i is an excellent transmission. It uses two clutches, one to hold the current gear and one to ready the next, so shifts are almost seamless. It can be used as a normal automatic or shifted manually via steering wheel buttons or the gearshift (push down for downshifts, pull up for upshifts). There are several modes of sportiness, ranging from relaxed to lightning quick. The sportier settings can make the shifts a bit abrupt. And there's a learning curve. Initially, we found shifting this transmission vexing because it requires pressing a button on the side to shift from Park to Drive to Reverse. Once we got used to it, it wasn't as annoying, but it does work in a non-standard way. Also, shifting from Drive to Reverse and back takes longer with this setup because often you have to look at the shifter to select the proper gear. A manual is much faster in this situation and a traditional automatic might be faster, also.

Fuel economy for a BMW 135i Convertible is an EPA-estimated 19/28 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual, 18/25 mpg with the 7-speed dual clutch automatic. The BMW 135i Coupe gets an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg with the manual, 18/25 mpg with the automatic. Premium fuel is recommended for all models.

Because the BMW 135i Coupe is in some ways a scaled-down 335i, its ride, steering, and handling carry the same exemplary qualities as the larger car, though with a greater element of tossability due to the lighter weight and shorter wheelbase. Its smaller front tires are matched to the job of pointing the car while the fatter rear tires lay the power down in wonderfully linear fashion. The car's weight is distributed 52/48 on the front and rear tires.

Ride quality in the 135i Coupe, or other models with the sports suspension, can be an issue. The ride is hard, with sharp bumps pounding through, and the car jiggles over broken pavement. It's a matter of taste, so try the firmer setup before you buy. We're inclined toward the standard suspension. Those moments of driving joy may be offset by too many everyday moments of annoyance as the car tries to beat the road into submission. The standard suspension is easier to live with every day.

The 135i's brakes use massive six-piston calipers at the front and twin-piston calipers at the rear, with 13.3-inch front discs and 12.75-inch rear discs and a built-in brake drying and anti-fade feature.

The 128i isn't quite as quick as the 135i, but it still delivers a fun and sporty driving experience. Its 3.0-liter inline-6 breathes at atmospheric pressure without the benefit of turbocharging. It does feature the same Valvetronic valvetrain management and aluminum/magnesium construction as the 135i unit, but it lacks direct injection, a system that aids both power and fuel economy. It develops 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, which, in the slightly lighter, 3250-pound 128i, should still get your attention when you put the pedal to the floor. BMW lists a 0-60 mph time of 6.1 seconds with the manual transmission and 6.7 seconds with the automatic.

Fuel economy for the BMW 128i Coupe is 18/28 mpg with either transmission. The BMW 128i Convertible is rated 18/28 mpg with the manual, 18/27 mpg with the automatic. Premium fuel is recommended for all models.

The standard suspension in the 128i is softer than in the 135i, but weight distribution is a marginally better 51/49. Brakes are 11.8-inch vented discs all around, but again, that is more than adequate for the 128i's more modest, no, make that less extravagant, performance.

We found the 1 Series Convertible impressively solid in both the 128i and 135i. We detected little cowl shack over even bumpy roads. While BMW added extra bracing to firm up the body structure, the convertible still isn't as solid or quick to react to steering inputs as the coupe. Nonetheless, it's still plenty sporty and it has the added advantage of open air fun.

Electronic driving aids abound in the 1 Series, including antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and cornering brake control, dynamic traction control, dynamic stability control, and a switch that can disable the DSC system for track days or generally more involving driving through the woods.

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