Offering the same rear-wheel-drive power train and competent suspension as the outgoing 3-Series but in a smaller and slightly lighter body, the BMW 1-Series coupe and convertible are intended to evoke the driving satisfaction of the oft-lauded 2002 of the 1960s and '70s. The 1-Series recently received a mild refresh with minor styling updates and BMW's single-turbo inline-six in place of the old twin-turbo unit.
In appearance, the 1-Series offers a pleasing combination of BMW styling cues - a dual kidney-shaped grille, of course, and the Hofmeister C-pillar kink - with the contemporary "flame styling" that BMW's designers are finally mastering. A few touches, such as the long hood, short deck, and nearly invisible B-pillar, hint at the 2002.
The 128i recently received a revised lower front fascia with new foglights and an "air curtain" ducting system that smooths airflow by directing it from the lower intakes to the outside of the front wheels. Both the 128i and the 135i make use of updated head- and tail-lights.
The latest model to join the range is the 135is, which is the spiritual successor to the all-mighty but now discontinued 1-Series M Coupe. It is now the highest-performing 1-series in the range, getting a 20hp bump from the standard 135i.
The interior quality is equivalent to the previous-generation 3-Series, and for the driver and front passenger space is also about the same. However, the 1-Series is nine inches shorter than the 3 and features noticeably less trunk and rear-seat room.
An improved version of the infamous i-Drive system controls the audio, HVAC navigation system in models equipped with the latter, and operation is almost intuitive now, though still requiring more clicks, pushes, and twists than a normal control system. Models without navigation use conventional buttons and knobs.
The 1-Series is powered by the same 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engines of previous model 3-Series, with the naturally-aspirated 128i engine producing 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque and the turbocharged 135i engine producing 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Both engines have on-demand engine coolant pumps to improve fuel economy and increase power.
The standard transmission is a six-speed manual transmission, the same satisfying performer as in the 3-Series, but a six-speed automatic is also available. The 135i accelerates to 60 mph in less than 5.3 seconds with top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. Focusing on a younger driver than other BMWs, the car makes more noise when producing this performance, a combination of less sound-deadening interior materials and a more audible exhaust.
The new 135is still uses the N55 inline-six, but it's upgraded to 320-horsepower and 317lb-ft of torque, gains of 20 and 17, respectively.
One of the least expensive automobiles on the market with serious track potential, the 1-Series complements its traditional rear-wheel-drive handling with an aluminum double-pivot front suspension and five-link fully independent rear suspension of lightweight steel derived directly from the 3-Series.
The car is equipped with BMW's Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Dynamic Traction Control that electronically intervenes to prevent loss of vehicle control. Reflecting the enthusiast uses to which this car is likely to be put, the DTC activates only at a high threshold of performance. BMW's Active Steering variable ratio steering system is available as an option.
The 135i comes equipped with M-inspired aero kit and larger rear spoiler for additional downforce. The optional Sports Suspension includes 18-inch wheels, performance tires, and a high-performance brake system with six-piston fixed calipers at the front.
The 135is gets a sports exhaust, stiffer suspension, and unique, 18-inch alloy wheels. Another way to tell the new model apart from the lesser ones are high-gloss, black exterior accents as well. Both a six-speed manual and seven-speed double-clutch transmission are on offer, as is a convertible model.
For the price of the 1-Series, one could also take coupes as diverse as the Ford Mustang GT, Audi TT and the Infiniti G37. The 'Stang is the accelerative champ of the group, while the G37 and TT offer a similar balance between luxury and handling as the BMW.