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2008 BMW 135i Review – yes, it’s that good

Monday October 13th, 2008 at 6:1010 AM
Posted by: peter

2008 BMW 135i (E82)

By Peter N.

Pros:

  • Powerful acceleration at any speed
  • Tight handling
  • Crisp radio system
  • Clean interior design with good fit and finish

Cons:

  • Scant cabin storage
  • Slightly restricted visibility towards rear

Introduction
Having been a fan of BMW for years, I was looking forward to checking out the new 1-Series cars that are new to the United States this year. The 1-Series has successfully sold in Europe since 2004 and it was now time for us to get in on the fun. The promise of a small, light vehicle coupled with a powerful engine, wrapped up with BMW’s precision handling tempted me with the possibility of adrenaline-pumping acceleration and confident control. Read on to find out if BMW delivered the goods with the 135i or if our expectations came up shorter than an 8 year-old who couldn’t meet the minimum height requirement to ride the roller coaster at the annual state fair..

Driving Impressions
The 2008 BMW 135i is indeed an impressive car designed around the focus of raw power and precision handling. The standard 300 hp six-cylinder engine launches this coupe like a rocket while dynamic stability control and four-wheel dynamic brake control keep it on the road. I drove an appropriately colored Crimson Red model with the Sport and Cold packages, as well as black leather seats. The Sport package provided the deep driving seats that came in handy, while the Cold package gave me seat warmers. While I didn’t need them for a summer test drive, I’m a firm believer that all premium cars should include seat warmers. Integrated support for iPods is available, which I also consider a minimum requirement in this class of car. While I only drove this 135i for a few days, it was clear that BMW made all design decisions based on the simple question, “Will this make the 135i fun to drive?” Some mundane features suffered as a result, but this coupe will thrill any driver that dares to take the wheel.

2008 BMW 135i (E82)

Build
The car is put together well, as you would expect from a company that prides itself on German engineering. The doors were solid and formed a tight seal with the cabin, resulting in low road noise. The seats presented a solid wall of unblemished, smooth leather, tied together with tight seams. The dashboard, metal accents, steering wheel and instrument panel all reflected the premium quality image of BMW. Unfortunately, the sun visors did not continue the trend. They were covered in what appeared to be a cheap vinyl and felt small, cheap and flimsy. It surprised me that BMW has not found a better solution to this, as it was the only aspect of the car that did not exude high quality performance.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
The layout of the cockpit reinforces the obvious purpose of this machine- to drive fast with confidence. The two large dials immediately behind the smallish M racing steering wheel are the speedometer and tachometer. Wedged between them are the various warning lights and small clock, enabling you to keep your eyes on the road and monitor your situation with brief downward glances. The steering wheel integrates controls for the radio and phone, making it simple to keep the perfect music playing while keep both hands on the wheel and your head up scanning for traffic. This turned out to be a very good thing, as I was not able to read the radio display while wearing my polarized sun glasses. The radio was the only electronic display that had this issue. Phone control is also located on the steering wheel, but I did not get around to testing that feature. The automatic temperature control system was laid out intuitively and successfully kept the car cool in the warm California weather. The deep seats comfortably cradled my tall frame and kept it firmly in place on many high speed turns. The ceiling arched well above my head giving a feeling of spaciousness in the cabin. The rear seats were surprisingly comfortable (I had low expectations) and would do well for short trips, but the roof was so close that I almost felt the need to hunch over. There are two minor areas that I think could be improved on the interior- storage and cup holders. The interior offered only a few areas for storage and curiously devoted some prime real estate to an ash tray! Additionally, the cup holders are directly behind the stick shift, with one under the arm rest. With my travel coffee mug in the only possible cup holder, shifting was a little awkward. In BMW’s defense, this car was built for driving, not drinking coffee, but it’s something to be aware of.

back seat legroomsteering whell controlsBMW 135i front seat

Performance
BMW designed this car to go fast and they succeeded quite well. This machine is a rocket. With 300 horsepower pushing about 3,000 lbs, this baby is designed for speed. It continually surprised me with how much acceleration it offered in every gear that I was able to test. From a strong start to a ‘whiplash’ second gear, the 135i will get you up to speed in a hurry. Merging with traffic was not the issue, but rather it was the potential to merge into a slower car ahead! In driving around the Northern California freeways, I was able to almost instantly put the car into whatever spot on the road. The 135i would leap into any available space that I directed it, even when traveling at 65 Mph. The steering was tight and controlled, which provided confidence in piloting around corners or slower, less capable cars. The powerful four-wheel brake system brought the car to a quick stop and a tight turning radius made it easy to turn around on a tight residential street.

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