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DRIVEN: 2012 BMW 135i M Sport Coupe

Carhoots road test and review the BMW 135i M Sport Coupe. It’s not quite the full, fat 1M, but it offers plenty of thrills and giggles for the money.

Overview

My pet dog is a bit of a lunatic. She spends much of her day running around the house at warp speed, scampering about with paws desperately searching for traction on our slippery floor. Usually this results in her crashing into solid objects and getting a bit mangled. OR she sleeps while crafty birds eat her special, very expensive, sick preventing dog food. She is might I say, a little bit stupid, but very likable in a sort of hilarious way.

The car parked in the driveway is similarly bizarre. It’s a BMW 135i M Sport Coupe, it has quite a long name, a turbocharged straight six engine and rear wheel drive – it’s a good recipe. It’s a very likable car, the 135i. Usually it trundles about, burbling away lazily as if it couldn’t care less about the birds stealing its food, but every now and then it just goes completely mad. It’s hilarious!

Performance

That 3.0liter turbocharged six produces a healthy 300hp and 300lb ft of torque, which is enough to send the 1 Series’ – slightly bloated for the size – 1470kg curb weight to 62mph in 5.2 seconds, so it’s pretty fast, then. But it’s the broad spread of torque that makes it feel real-world quick. You just squeeze the throttle, the revs rise as the boost builds and the resulting thrust is just addictive. The accompanying straight six howl and whoooosh from the turbo are also extremely satisfying noises to hear.

The seven-speed dual clutch gearbox fitted to our car is excellent when you really wind up the motor, it fires through the gears with stunning speed and smoothness. But during every day use it can be a tad clunky at low speeds. Similarly, the throttle pedal feels bizarre. Unless you’re pushing it all the way into the carpet it’s difficult to judge how much input is enough for sufficient acceleration, it just isn’t linear enough.

Handling

As is the case with all BMWs, the 135i is not all about straight-line speed. Find a good stretch of twisty tarmac and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the little Bimmer. The chassis is very neutral in its balance, the way it flows from subtle hints of warning understeer to fun and rewarding oversteer makes it a truly great thing to drive.

In this car you’ve always got options in terms of how it’s behaving dynamically. When the inevitable safety understeer arrives you can trim it out with a squeeze of the throttle. And even if you hit the loud pedal hard mid-corner you find that there’s a really surprising amount of grip available from the 225 section rear tyres. Obviously, being a rear wheel drive car with a decent dose of power, oversteer is never too far away, but when the rear does let go it’s nicely progressive, controllable and less snappy than expected so there’s minimal ham-fisted flailing about at the wheel when the car decides to wag its tail. It’s not a difficult car to drive hard, the 135i.

The steering is nicely resolved. Granted, it does feel pointlessly heavy, but it provides plenty of feedback through the wheel. It’s accurate and the rack is fast, too. In a market that’s currently full of totally numb steering systems this BMW’s is refreshing to use, so we won’t complain too much about the heft of the thing. 

Comfort and refinement

Dial things back to mild everyday cruising speeds and the 135i is an easy thing to live with. The seven speed dual clutch auto that our test car was fitted with shifted seamlessly most of the time (heavy traffic made it angry), the ride is firm but not bone jarring, the interior is simple and uncluttered so you’re not bamboozled with millions of little buttons that do all sorts of useless things, and the seats are comfortable yet supportive and in this case very, very RED. 

It’s all very good. But, there is however a problem. It’s cup holders. On a Golf cart or even a Volkswagen Golf you get a plethora of cup holders to fill with small change, random bits of paper, business cards and even beverages. But in this BMW there’s just one in the entire car. And it’s under the center console so it’s both very difficult to put drinks in it without spilling liquid all over the iDrive controller – which takes the position of the other cup holder if you option it (you will) – and normal sized bottles won’t fit, so it is mostly useless.

Another problem could be the exhaust depending on which side of the petrol head fence you stand on. It doesn’t make a bad sound – it’s actually quite good – it’s just obnoxiously loud and bassy. And starting the engine when it’s cold will attract the attention of all the hippies in your neighborhood because it gets even louder. This can become quite embarrassing if you’re in the shopping center car park – the elderly will look on disapprovingly like you’re ruining their grandchildren’s future, women will think you’re an immature git, but five year olds and people in the know will look on approvingly. As a person who enjoys behaving like a child, I find this cool. You might not.

Conclusions

Overall the 135i is a brilliant little car. It’s composed when you want and hilarious when you want to fool about. It’s a car that enjoys scampering about, but is also deeply rewarding when you want to tackle a road with real speed and precision. Yet it’s still perfectly comfortable and usable as an every day car. It’s even kind of fuel efficient-ish. Maybe. Well, if you’re driving sensibly, which, lets be honest, you won’t be in this car – it’s a laugh.


The Specs

Engine: 3.0liter turbocharged inline six cylinder petrol

Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic (optional) – 6-speed manual and automatic are also available.

Power: 300hp @5800rpm, 300lb ft @1200-5000rpm

Acceleration: 0-62mph – 5.2 seconds

MPG: 33.2 (combined)

Price: From £32,495, $39,600 USD, $74,700 AUD

Rating: 7.5/10


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