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First Drive 2015 BMW M135i By Henny Hemmes


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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel


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Lisbon, March 19, 2015. When BMW introduced the 1 Series a decade ago, many people doubted whether customers would be prepared to opt for a smaller Bimmer. But with sales of well over 2 million units, it proves BMW was right. The current, second generation was introduced in 2011 and, according to what is now common practice in the industry, it gets a mid-life cycle facelift.

The renewed 1-Series made its world debut during the Geneva Motor Show at the beginning of this month and was ready for test drives last week in Lisbon, Portugal. We could choose between two models, the 125d and the M135i.


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In the case of the 1 Series, the facelift is somewhat more than the usual new bumpers, a freshened-up interior and additions to the standard equipment. First of all, the renewal offered the possibility to exchange the current engines for BMW’s fuel efficient, new engine family of 3- and 4-cylinder petrol and diesel units. Because the new power plants need more air capacity, changes in the front’s aerodynamics were unavoidable.

Therefore, the 1 Series got a new front end with larger air intakes and a wider kidney grille. The designers used the opportunity to give the vertical bars in the grille the shame bend shape, which the designers call three-dimensional. Flatter headlights come with standard LED daytime driving lights and can be ordered with full-LED as an option. With those changes the front end of the 1 Series looks more aggressive. At the other end of the car, we see L-shaped LED rear lights, The thinner design is now more in line with the other BMW models and looks better then the bulky ones of the outgoing model.


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The interior offers the same premium look as before, but with some more chrome and glossy black details around the center console.

New is the free-standing 6.5-inch display that comes with the iDrive system that is now part of the standard equipment, which also features Radio Professional, automatic air conditioning, a tire pressure monitor and a rain sensor. There are four packages available: Advantage, Sport Line, Urban Line and M Sport. The latter brings us to the model we tested in and around Lisbon, the M135i.


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This variant has the latest version of the 6-cylinder turbo engine with 326 hp, nearly 7 hp more than before. You are not able to notice a difference, unless you take both the old and the new variants to the race track for a direct comparison. But why should we care? The engine offers the same well-appraised performance as ever. It is smooth and delivers the power willingly and with torque available between 1,300 and 4,500 rpm, the I-6 makes the car sprint forwards in many situations. Even though there were some test cars with the optional 8-speed automatic, I choose the 6-speed manual. With 5.2 seconds, it is 0.2 seconds less fast in the sprint from 0-62 mph, so be it. In the mountains and on the roads along the beautiful Atlantic coast north and south of Lisbon, going quickly through the shortened gear distances offers a lot of fun..

With respect to the M Sport suspension I noticed a somewhat softer set-up in Comfort Mode. Later one of the engineers confirmed that the ‘gap’ between Comfort and Sport has been widened a bit in the direction of Comfort, by a change in the set-up of dampers and springs. Good for customers who have to deal with roads that are not so smooth, or worse.


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Our dynamic drive, however, asked for going into Sport or Sport+ mode and that is where the M135i is at its best. Thanks to the optimal 50:50 weight distribution, the car feels well-balanced. When you steer into a corner the car reacts immediately, the tires offer lots of grip and there is practically no body roll and the BMW does not show a sign of under steer. Not so strange, when you realize that the compact BMW has rear-wheel drive. Once settled mid-corner you can ask for more power and on you go! In this set-up you are more aware of bumps and if you hit one when acceleration out of a bend, the car hops a little bit sideways.


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1 Series diesel
Since we started our test drive in a 1 Series diesel, I noticed that the steering is a bit firmer in the M135i. But it could be more firm and give more feedback through the steering wheel.


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It was not until the team of photographers took us to a very quiet area, that we could try to force the car to go sideways. You will only succeed with DTC disconnected and by really aggressively provoking. Customers who want to take the M135i to the race track will undoubtedly chose for the limited slip differential that is optionally available. Those who do not have such aspiration, will have nothing to complain about either. The renewed M135i offers real driving fun in modest M-trim. The new 1 Series goes on sale by the end of this month.

Technical details BMW M135i

Engine  6- cylinder in-line, turbocharged.
Capacity: 2979cc.
Power: 326 hp@5,800 rpm.
Torque 332 lb-ft@1,300-4,500 rpm.
Transmission: 6-speed manual.
Curb weight; 3,197 lbs. 
Tires fr/rr: 225/40 ZR18 / 245/35 ZR18.
Top speed: 155 mph,
Acceleration 0-62 mph: 5.1 sec.
Fuel Economy: 36.2 mpg imp.
CO2-emission: 188 g/km.