BMW 135i M SPORT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Two-door performance coupe
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.6 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.6 l/100km
BMW’s ‘entry level’ 1 Series now covers an enormous span of models. Top dog among the coupe variants, if you put the stunning 1M in its own model category, is the muscular 135i M Sport variant.
It might be compact, but it packs a hefty wallop.
And while the 135i M Sport might be in a bit of a squeeze thanks to the 1M sledgehammer at just under $25k more, don’t discount it as a lusty sporting drive.
Quality: As expected from BMW, build-quality, fit and finish are of a very high standard. Surfaces are spiced with dark veneered wood, suede, chrome and aluminium.
Comfort: The BMW ‘performance seats’ and thick-rimmed suede steering wheel underscore the 135i’s sporting intent.
However, although designed for hip-hugging support (and even with holes in the back-rest to pass a racing harness through), the seats are too wide for someone with a smaller frame.
Also, the lack of height adjustment had this vertically-challenged writer staring straight at the dash instead of over it.
The rear seats are short trip only, and, with just a manually-adjustable rotary knob for tilting them forward, getting in and out of the back takes more than a minute or so.
Equipment: Standard equipment is high, as you’d expect at the price; the 18-inch alloys are set off with a swoopy bodykit with front splitter, side flares and rear diffuser (carbon-fibre in our test car, and certainly not standard!).
The exterior also gets foglights and bi-Xenons set in a newly nipped-in bumper.
Inside, you get dual-zone climate control, cruise control, and the usual array of creature comforts. Options include a sunroof, adaptive headlights, seat heaters, and metallic paint.
The optional stereo in our test car was the delicious 10-speaker Harmon Kardonn, connected with Bluetooth and sat-nav to the centre-mounted i-Drive multimedia wheel control.
Storage: The boot is generous in the Coupe bodystyle. Thanks to run-flat tyres, the floor is deep and flat, with small netted recesses and rubber tie-downs to keep things in place and a chute or longer items.
Storage is not so flexible for the driver – only one cupholder sits in the centre console, and the driver’s armrest needs to be up to access it.
More than once, the armrest was put back down and once even slammed down under braking, sending drink contents flying all over the iDrive wheel.
Where are the funky in-dash cupholders of the 3 Series?
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 225kW 3.0-litre inline six provides a lush 400Nm from as low as 1200rpm. Thanks to its twin-scroll turbocharger, it maintains this flat peak right through to 5000rpm.
In the manual, this can produce quite a hit of power. However, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) dispenses the flow of torque so rigidly that it leaves you waiting for a headkick of boost that just doesn’t happen.
Instead, the car just piles on speed in a precise and almost clinical manner.
Not that it’s slow: for all its luxury weight (1470kg), the little 135i DCT claims 100km/h from standstill in 5.2 seconds.
But despite the wheel-mounted paddles and a ‘Sport’ button that noticeably livens up throttle and shift response, the semi-auto DCT just doesn’t have the same interactive wow-factor as the manual.
It’s lovely to drive, and fun around a flowing road, but loses something in its perfect, clinical execution.
Refinement: The turbo six is a finely balanced jewel, is free of any unpleasant harshness and makes a delicious lusty noise when at work. There’s a little road noise, but in keeping with a sporting drive (and the ample rubber down below).
Suspension: The M Sport’s suspension is firm, yet supple - a result of finer rebound and bump settings in the dampers to compensate for firmer springs.
It’s actually quite livable as a daily driver.
Braking: Slightly oversensitive and over-servoed, the brake assist is very obvious in the pedal.
But it certainly inspires confidence – this car will readily haul to a stop on the uprated ‘performance’ stoppers, and just keep on doing it.
ANCAP rating: Not yet rated
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags, front load limiter/pretensioner seatbelts, rear pretensioner seatbelts, front active headrests, Brake Assist, Corner Braking Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, reverse parking sensors with proximity screen
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year with roadside assist
Service costs: Service costs and intervals for BMW products vary depending upon the use of the car. Check carefully with your BMW dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi TT ($74,784) - The Audi has a lovely two-litre turbo engine for this price, with a six-speed Steptronic auto – but is only front-drive. For a more comparative 250kW/450Nm five-cylinder and Quattro all-wheel-drive, add $50k! ?(see TT reviews)
Alfa Romeo Brera ($79,990) - The all-wheel-drive Brera is a good looking thing, but is nowhere near the Beemer in handling ability, and its 3.2-litre V6 develops less power with 191kW/322Nm. ?(see Alfa Romeo reviews)
Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec R ($65,990) - It may seem a little out of place in this company, but the 221kW/350Nm STI Spec Ris a stunning performer, is now available with an automatic, and has a long list of standard features. ?(see Impreza reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
BMW’s 135i M Sport is a lovely little package; it’s a genuine sporting drive and beautifully appointed, but now cast in a very deep shadow by the thumping 1M.
We have no real gripes about the DCT dual-clutch auto, but real ‘Sport’ fans will go for the manual model.