2013 BMW 135is Coupe Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 BMW 1 Series 135is Coupe

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2013 BMW 135is Coupe

If BMW came into the American consciousness when the 320i made "The Preppie Handbook", that's only part of the story. Before the 3-Series was the 2002, a car originally made especially for the US market (as a way around early emissions laws). The 2002 was a two-door sedan with styling that dated from when the Germans apparently idolized the early Corvair. It also was a sedan that could hold its own against, or even beat, any similarly-powerful two-seat sports car of its day. If the Bavarians hadn't actually invented the sports sedan (post-WWII credit there to Alfa Romeo, in particular the Giulietta and Giulia), they certainly perfected it with the 2002. And grabbed the hearts of enthusiasts.

One of the most sought-after 2002 models was, and is, the tii, especially the early examples. Using Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, which was also good enough to be used for Formula Two race cars, the tii (Touring International Injected) developed 130 horsepower from its 2.0 liters, versus the regular `02's 100 hp.

Over the years the 3-Series has evolved more than a few models that have satisfied the enthusiasts, but its real success has been more true to the Preppie Handbook 320i - German automobile as status symbol. No complaints here, that allows BMW to build M cars and also things like this week's test car, the 2013 135is.

The 1-Series is smaller than the 3, and so more in keeping with the 2002. American-spec 1-Series means two-door "coupe", as a 2002 would be considered today. (Or convertible, a rarity in 2002 days.) Like the tii, the 135is is the factory performance car. Only in this case, it's with 320 horsepower to the regular 135's 300 - somewhat more than any tii, or the ultra-rare factory 2002 Turbo. The 135is starts with the regular 135's M Sport Package of suspension and appearance upgrades, and then adds power in the form of a factory re-tuning and performance exhaust. If you missed out on the 1M a few years ago, the 135is is close, if not as exclusive, and likely easier to live with on a daily basis.

Unlike the usual press fleet spec, but appropriate to its mission, my test example was not loaded up with every possible option. No "Technology Package" of navigation and other gizmos, no Premium Package of yupgrades, no active steering, no Harmon Kardon sound system, not even the default seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, just a good old six-speed stick, thank you very much. Excellent leather seats, heated in front, and signature Le Mans Blue paint were the only options, and there's nothing wrong with a little comfort and style, especially when the effect on performance is nil.

Make no mistake, this is a performance car first and foremost. Yes, there's a sticker on the driver's-side rear passenger window that says "BMW Efficient Dynamics - Less Emissions, More Driving Pleasure", but that just states BMW's ability to combine high power output with low emissions and (relatively, depending driving style) good fuel economy. The ride is appropriately firm and the steering requires appropriate effort. The dual-clutch automanual may be a little quicker, but the pleasure from the stick's excellent linkage trumps that. With the 135is, BMW proves yet again that it knows how to build a proper sports sedan.

APPEARANCE: With rounded lines offset by sharply-creased edges and the signature twin-kidney grille, there is no doubt as to the 135is's manufacturer, even without a peek at the blue-and-white roundel on the hood. The coupe's proportions are more graceful and athletic than those of the current larger BMW sedans and coupes, and the moderate fender flares and sculpted rocker panels suggest performance without being overly flamboyant. The is replaces chrome trim with black and gets black outside mirrors.

COMFORT: Inside, there's no doubt as to the manufacturer, either. As has been the BMW way for many years, the design is simple and efficient, and centered around the driver. Driver comfort and visibility are key characteristics for both performance (for any length of time) and safety; no criticism here - and visibility to the rear is good even without a backup camera. With the is you get M Performance Package's M-badged door scuff plates and steering wheel, plus textured aluminum trim and sports seats. The wheel is appropriately thick-rimmed, with stitched leather and auxiliary audio controls. The seats provide excellent comfort and support, and are power-adjustable. The state of German premium compact sports sedan equipment level and comfort has come a long ways from the 2002 tii's manual everything, optional air conditioning, and flat, vinyl-covered "bucket" seats of 40 years ago. Except possibly in the rear seat and trunk -- the 135is is strictly 2+2 in accommodation, with adequate room for medium-sized people. Access is improved by rocker switches on the front seatbacks, to move said front seat forward for rear passenger access.

SAFETY: BMW 1-Series Coupe passengers are protected by multi-stage front, front seat-mounted side airbags, and full-length head-protection airbags as well as seats and headrests designed to reduce injury from rear impact. For active safety, Dynamic Stability Control is standard equipment, as are strong antilock disc brakes, here all with ventilated rotors and check out those front calipers! -- and excellent handling characteristics for avoiding trouble.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Rigid unibody construction with fully-independent suspension and near-50/50 weight distribution has been BMW's domain since the "New Class" sedans of the early 1960s that led to the 2002. The 1-Series, like all current Bimmers, is a development of this. Front suspension is still strut, but is now double-pivot with aluminum components to reduce unsprung weight and improve response. The rear is a multilink design. The M Sport calibration is appropriately firm, but not harshly race-tuned as was the case with early M cars. Steering and pedal efforts are appropriately heavy, but not overly so. It's definitely a sports sedan, but one that can be comfortable for a long day on any sort of road -- the curvier the better.

PERFORMANCE: With 320 horsepower (at 5800 rpm) and 317 lb-ft or torque from 1300 through 5000 rpm, the 135is is tame only compared to the late 1M, but not by much. The engine basics are the same, a 3.0-liter twincam inline six with BMW's double-VANOS variable cam timing system and direct fuel injection. The earlier twin sequential turbos have been replaced by a single double-scroll turbo. The result? Quick throttle response, a very strong midrange, and no reason to get acquainted with the rev limiter although there is still plenty of top-end power. Your engine will thank you for that. The M exhaust sounds wonderful -- why bother with the expensive audio system when you have this? BMW shift linkage has long been the standard by which others are judged, and that won't change soon. Maybe the dual-clutch automanual makes logical sense, but the stick pleases those of us who can still shift for ourselves, and who value driver involvement, much more. Driven as enthusiastically as possible as much as possible and on the highway as little as possible I got a bit over 21 mpg for the week. BMW claims 25 mpg highway, which should be attainable if you keep to the slow lane. Which will be hard…

CONCLUSIONS: The 135is Coupe is another gem from BMW.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 BMW 135is

Base Price			$ 43,250
Price As Tested			$ 46,645
Engine Type			turbocharged and intercooled DOHC
				 24-valve inline 6-cylinder
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 182 cu. in.
Horsepower			320 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			317 @ 1300-5000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		104.7 in. / 172.2 in.
Curb Weight			3373 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		10.5
Fuel Capacity			n/a gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
				F: 215/40R18 85Y R: 245/35R18 88Y
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around, 
Suspension, front/rear		independent double-link strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon		21
0 to 60 mph					4.9  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Le Mans Blue Metallic paint			$  550
Black Boston Leather with blue stitching	$1,450
Heated front seats				$  500
Destination Charge				$  895

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