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2008 BMW 135i Coupé First Impressions

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Amyot Bachand
The little M

Monterey, California. If you're looking for a track-ready road car (or a street-legal track car) at a fairly low price, the all-new BMW 135i will delight you. These words perfectly sum up my impressions after 300+ kilometers of testing. I simply could not get tired of pushing this little rocket to the limit. And it brilliantly responded to the slightest input.

A delightful driving experience awaits you thanks to a world-acclaimed powertrain and exceptional handling.

Queen of the road
The 135i benefits from an exterior treatment similar to M-Series cars. Sleeker and more streamlined than the base 128i, it proves better at splitting air and also sticking to the road thanks to larger, 18-inch wheels. The suspension was meticulously calibrated to deliver exceptional handling with no body roll.

The cockpit boasts various M-style features, like the thicker steering wheel. Unlike most of my colleagues, I preferred the 128i's; nevertheless, I quickly got used to it. As for the other controls, they're all intuitively positioned.

Both models use a 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine, but the 135i adds a twin-turbo system to generate 70 additional horsepower, for a total of 300. Combined with 300 lb-ft of torque, it allows the car to accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in less than 5.5 seconds (or 5.4 according to BMW).

The 6-speed manual transmission is wonderful to work with, but I have to admit that the optional Steptronic (semi-automatic) unit is not bad either. With paddle shifters on the steering wheel, you can upshift and downshift in the blink of an eye, with a simple flick of the wrist -- or thumb, to be more accurate. Pure pleasure. From one corner to the next, thrills always keep coming. What's more, BMW's Dynamic Stability Control seldom steps into play. The almighty brakes deliver safe, extremely short stops.

Made for two
The 1-Series is first and foremost a 2+2 car, meaning it's primarily designed as a two-seater. Rear passengers had better be small (read: young children) or pray that the drive is short. While interior storage leaves a lot to be desired, the generous trunk capacity makes up for it. Similar to the 128i, the front buckets of the 135i are fantastically supportive and comfortable. That's a good thing, seeing as how the firm suspension communicates every bump and pothole on the road.

The rear seats should only be used as an absolute last resort.

Amyot Bachand
Amyot Bachand
Automotive expert