The BMW 1-Series is intended to be a throwback to decades before now. It is meant to resurrect the beauty and grace of the old 2002. Well, I got the chance to drive it thanks to Gary Morgan and Schaeffer BMW. I drove a black/coral red 135i Sport. The car looks beautiful to me. Most people say how small and how smashed it looks, but I love the styling. All I could think about was if this car would be as good as I expected. I was almost afraid to drive it. Then I realized this was BMW and then I was reassured that I wouldn’t be let down.
Let us just get over one topic right quick, the 135i is a great representation of a 2002 in the modern world, but it is so much more than that. This is the greatest modern interpretation of a BMW on sale today, outside of the M cars of course. There won’t be an M version of the 135i, simply because I’m not sure that you can better it. It’s just that good. Expensive? My God yes! Worth it? Even at over $42,000, To me, hell yes!
I got into the car and the absolute first thing I noticed was the start button had an inscription on the top of the silver rim around it, “Year one of the 1.” Catchy, but more importantly unique and that alone sets the 1-Series apart from any other BMW ever made. I was impressed and quite surprised. I’ve never really seen BMW go out of their way like that to impress the driver. When we think BMW, we think great luxury and enough sport to satisfy a racing driver. This car is that and so much more. It’s the car that puts BMW back in the way of its true past. Then you grab the thick M like steering wheel and all of your predetermination’s about the new 1-Series fly right out the window.
I started the car, and the inspiring bellow from the twin-turbo I-6 coming from the dual pipes out back was intoxicating. I had to unfortunately shift this car into drive instead of into first, which was a little disappointing, but oh well, I got over it quickly. I flipped into the sport mode and started using the paddles to shift. What’s this? Usability and effectiveness? Yes, they were quick responding and incredibly smooth for upshifts and well placed when downshifting. The throttle blipped quickly and in good time. No doubt a feature that wouldn’t make the 135i more than .2-.3s slower than a manual version. I remember the automatic trannies of old in the Bimmers. They were slow and somewhat sloppy when shifting yourself. BMW reported a 7.0s 0-60 for a steptronic 330i Sport back with the E46. They have certainly fixed that as this new steptronic transmission is fantastic.
Another unfortunate thing is that it was 5:00 traffic in Wilmington, NC, so there really wasn’t any place to go and speed, except for the highway, and even that was rather crowded. So I start the trek out to the highway and while doing 35 mph in a 55 mph zone, I was trying to be courteous, but after a young lady decided to tailgate a car that wasn’t mine while I was trying to move over to the right, I saw that there was an open opportunity in front of me and decided to plant the loud pedal to the floor. HELLO! 80 mph came up quicker than I anticipated and I didn’t even realize I would go that fast that quickly. I moved over to the right and got onto the highway.
A normal 80 mph cruise was a nice time to talk to Gary, the BMW salesman, someone who was also a big BMW fan himself. We bashed on Mercedes-Benz a bit, and then I felt like adding a little more speed into the test drive and cruised up to about 100 mph. Man did it feel good and smooth. One thing that I was shocked about was how much more of a BMW this actually is than you expect. It doesn’t really skimp on luxury and has more sport than a 335i. This is the baby M3 from BMW.
The highway that I was driving on has a famous little roundabout that takes you up and around and back down and around to get going the opposite way. This is the area where anyone and everyone who has a performance car, loves to test their skill and the handling of their cars. Am I any different? In this case, I am not. I pushed the paddle down to reach third gear; a very common and great gear for all BMW’s, this car is no different. I hit the roundabout and lightly increased the gas, 50 mph was what I got, I felt well planted, no worries from the traction control and I was quite surprised that for a RWD car that it would handle such a tight turn at that speed. My Mazdaspeed 6 with AWD starts to get a little loose in the rear end when I reach 47-50 mph in the same roundabout. Going back around was the same. 50 seemed to be the perfect match for that turn and this car. Could I have pushed the car more? Yes, but it felt so right, why would I want to interrupt it? As soon as I got out of the turn I increased the speed of the car a little more rapidly hitting 100 or so mph. This is all undoubtedly helped by the rather large for the car 245’s in the rear. the paddles this whole time were serving my purpose of trying to find the right gear, speed, and shift time. There were no hiccups in the transmission at all. It builds as much confidence with you as the car does with you.
I got back to the dealership, and on the cruise back I took it easy and checked out the overall feel of the car in traffic and ride quality. For its smaller size it isn’t small at all. At 3420lbs, this isn’t exactly a Mini Cooper. But damn does it feel like it. But at no time does it feel less safe than the bigger BMW’s. You feel a little bit smaller than the cars around you, and then you pack your stuff in the trunk and the back seat and you feel like you have as much room as an E92 3er. The brakes too are amazing. With 6-piston calipers up front and 2-piston calipers out the back this makes this another new thing for BMW. Usually Bimmers have 2 pots all around; this one does with 6 pots up front and with a rotor size of 13.3 inches front and 12.8 inches in the rear. All in all the brakes will make this car stop on a dime and give you nine cents change.
The ride quality was great going back to the dealership, and the seats were fantastic. There was no need for extra bolstering because they hugged you in all the right spots. The other great thing is the driver and passenger room between one another is quite good. Think the middle ground between a Mini and a 335i. Not too small, not quite as big, but not that bad really.
In every way shape and form you get a great sense of confidence in the new 1. There isn’t anything that you don’t feel like you can’t do with it. If you feel like taking it to the track then do so, if you feel like packing the trunk full of gear and going to the mountains, this car can do it. There is a modern misperception that small is bad, unsafe and unrealistic. BMW just changed that with the new 1. This may be year one of the 1, but this is a car that will stick around for more than a decade. The Europeans had this beauty and now it’s our turn. Just when you thought that the automotive market was dry for anything new, BMW defies the odds once again just like they did with the 2002, and invented an era. Now it’s a cult. I would love to see how others try and compete with this car.
Thanks so much to Gary Morgan and the guys over at Schaeffer BMW for giving me the great opportunity to drive such a great car. If you have any questions about this or any other BMW, please feel free to give Gary a call at 910-392-2700 or Toll Free at 1-800-473-2995.
The car photographed is that of a red/beige 135i Sport that was the clean and detailed car. Also included are a few shots of the 128i Convertible that was right nearby. This way you can also see the back seat room with the front seats pushed all the way back.
Videos:The first video is the exhaust of the new 135i. The black/gray smoke is due to it sitting in the showroom the whole time it had been at the dealership. I was just blowing it out. I actually didn’t realize it until I watched the video later. The second video is of post test drive and walkaround of the new 135. I goofed when saying that the calipers were 2 pots up front compared to the usual 1 pots for BMW. I meant 6 pots up front 2 pots rear, versus the usual 2 pots BMW uses typically. I have no idea what I was thinking.