2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Introduction
Is a pretty basic formula in the automotive industry.
Take your smallest and lightest model, place the most powerful engine in it you have that will fit, add brakes, suspension and steering to match and you’ve got yourself a new high performance model.
In this case, the model is the BMW 1 Series Coupe and the engine is twin-scroll turbocharged inline six. The result is the 2013 BMW 135is, out and out fun, as well as a bit of an apology. The apology comes because there was at time when the 135is would have been the second most capable 1 Series model because the BMW 1 Series M Coupe was still in existence.
An absolutely delightful car, the 1 M Coupe had an aggressive bulldog stance, a 335-horsepower twin-turbo inline six cylinder engine capable of generating up to 369 ft-lbs of torque and weighed just over 3400 pounds. If that sounds like a prescription for some serious quickness it was.
It was also rare.
BMW only produced the model for one year.
So, in a seeming gesture of appeasement, we get the 135is. While it gives up 15 horsepower and 62 ft-lbs of torque to the 1 M, it gains 20 horsepower and 17 ft-lbs on the 135i, and the 335i. So basically, what you have in the 135is is a car that will surprise your average 3 Series driver should they ever deign to look down their nose at you at a traffic signal. When the light changes, you can leave them in your dust.
A subset of BMW’s 1 Series Coupe line, the 135is is a model unto itself. With specific design cues, enhanced mechanical features, and a level of performance above the standard 1 Series car, the 135is is available in both coupe and convertible formats. Pricing for the coupe starts at $44,145, while the convertible starts at $48,845.
Pricing for both models includes BMW’s handling and destination charges of $895.
Most of the pieces added to the car to create the 135is are available as the Performance Power Kit option for the 135i. Priced at $1,447 the PPK is a dealer-installed option. Another optional feature for the 135i included in the 135is as standard equipment is the $1,250 BMW Performance exhaust system. The 135i’s optional $1300 M Sport interior package also graces the 135is.
All told, with the 135is you get a 135i with some $5300 worth of extras when the dealer’s installation fees are also taken into consideration. All told, this would run some $45,000 for the 135i Coupe, as opposed to the $44,145 if you buy the 135is Coupe pre-configured from the factory. While not an overtly substantial savings per se, cheaper is still cheaper, and when you can get this much fun for a lower price—well—why not?2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Design
Setting the 135is apart from its more mainstream sibling visually are a set of 18-inch M Sport wheels unique to the model, a black gloss grille, black exterior side-view mirror caps, 135is badging, and other components of the M Sport package (side skirts, chin spoiler, etc…). A subtle tail spoiler graces the trunk lid.
These tweaks work in concert with the standard design features of the 1 Series car to improve its appearance and aerodynamics. In fact, the 1 Series already features some pretty innovative aero kit before the “is” package is installed. This includes the “air curtain” effect generated by the front spoiler. Designed specifically to reduce turbulence in the front wheel arches, it permits the 1 Series to slip through the atmosphere more easily, improving both performance and fuel economy.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
The interior of the 135is features a pair of electrically adjustable sport seats with extendable thigh bolsters and variable side support—in addition to the lumbar support and other typical adjustments one expects in a premium automotive seat.
It’s a BMW, so the driving position is first rate, and there is more than adequate legroom up front for practically any human being. The 135is is BMW’s smallest coupe though, so rear seat legroom is non-existent if an average-sized pair of persons occupy the front seats.
Still, there’s a handy storage tray between the rear seats and the front doors have the requisite complement of storage pockets. There are also storage nets on the backs of the front seats. Two cupholders grace the interior of the 135is, one larger one and one smaller one, both positioned in the center console just aft of the shift lever. So yes, if you have a tallish water bottle in the front one (which has the larger diameter of the two) it will get in the way when you’re shifting gears.
The glove box is reasonably sized, although by the time you fill it with the rather thick owner’s manual package, you’ll be looking for someplace else to store things. The center console’s armrest opens to reveal a pretty shallow space, and there are some clever partitions in the center console itself to hold items. One particularly nice touch is the iPod holder built into the underside of the armrest, situated just above the USB/iPod interface port.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
The M Sport steering wheel included in the 135is as standard kit is a fat-rimmed, three spoke delight. Blessed with the perfect heft for controlling a car with the performance capability of the 135is, the wheel is as handsome as it is functional. The horizontal spokes contain buttons for the cruise control system, the communications system and the entertainment system.
Pushbutton start and keyless entry are standard equipment, along with xenon headlights, and a sunroof (on the coupe). Standard 1 Series features inherited by the 135is include automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-speaker audio system featuring a CD player, an iPod interface, the USB/iPod input port and an auxiliary audio input jack.
The optional technology package will get you navigation as well as the BMW Apps suite covering smartphone integration, voice control, and BMW assist. Standalone options for the 1 Series include rear parking sensors, automatic high beams, BMW Assist and a Harman Kardon surround audio system.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
An entire raft of state of the art safety features comes with the 135is. Highlights include tire-pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, anti-lock disc brakes (with brake drying and advanced standby features), in addition to hill-start assist for manual transmission-equipped cars. Front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on the coupe, while the convertible gets auto-deploying roll hoops and side airbags that deploy higher to protect the heads of occupants.
The 135is is fitted with BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which also includes a Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) function providing electronic intervention to prevent loss of vehicle control.
Neither NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash tested the 1 Series BMW, however Euro NCAP has done so and awarded the BMW a five star rating.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy
Without question, the aspect of the 135is around which the car is centered is the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine featuring BMW’s Valvetronic throttle-less intake technology, direct fuel injection, and the twin-scroll turbocharger. Tuned to produce 320 horsepower and 317 ft-lbs of torque, the engine endows the diminutive BMW with both exceptional performance and outstanding smoothness.
Even though it makes more power than the version of the engine fitted to the 135i, the 135is powerplant returns identical fuel economy; an EPA estimated 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway.
The BMW’s free-breathing Performance exhaust system complements the increased engine performance and delivers a more robust tone. To cope with the higher performance demands, the engine cooling system has been upgraded to match the additional performance output by adding a larger, and more powerful radiator fan and an auxiliary radiator.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment; a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is optional. The 135is is equipped with sport suspension incorporating an aluminum double-pivot front suspension and a five-link fully independent rear suspension in lightweight steel.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
The first time you lay into the throttle on the 135is, the acceleration capabilities of the car will most definitely get your attention. My test car was equipped with the six-speed manual transmission and winding the engine through the gears was an absolute delight. The powerplant winds smoothly and progressively, with no hesitation whatsoever. And, it sounds like a racing engine civilized for the street in the process.
One of the reasons BMW has stuck with the inline six, while most other manufacturers have gone to V6 engines is the smoothness inherent to the inline six configuration. Fit that engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger the way BMW has and you get outstanding smoothness with very satisfying acceleration. The engine pulls strongly immediately, the twin-scroll design of the turbocharger keeps it spinning at all times so you don’t have to wait for it to spool up to produce boost.
Boost is already there.
I consistently saw runs to 60 from 0 in less than five seconds. Further, the sound the performance exhaust system gives the car is absolutely thrilling. Sophisticated and powerful sounding, the little BMW turns heads when it’s running down the street, even at partial throttle openings.
The 135is is equipped with sport suspension system, which incorporates an aluminum double-pivot front configuration and a five-link fully independent rear configuration forged in lightweight steel.
The differential in the 135is comes from a new generation of final drives optimized for running smoothness and fuel efficiency. Featuring double-helical ball bearings, the differential runs at a lower operating temperature, which is reached quickly thanks to the smaller quantity of lubricating fluid required in the differential. Electronic rear brake management is used to simulate a differential lock for stronger acceleration in turns and low-traction conditions.
These features allow the little coupe to go screaming into corners, cling tenaciously to the pavement through the turn and exit carrying a tremendous amount of speed. Nicely balanced and exhibiting minimal body roll, the 135is gives you a very strong sense of confidence. The braking system is strong, fade free, and readily modulated to enable the shifting of the car’s weight to the nose to aid turn-in, or to dial speed back as gradually as you desire, or to bring the car to a full stop in very short distances from exceptional rates of speed.
The Dynamic Stability Control system on the 135is is programmed specifically to enhance performance-oriented driving. Enabling you to go into corners hotter and hang the tail of the car out before kicking in on dry roads, the 135is DSC system also offers more flexibility when driving in more challenging conditions such as snow.
And yes, if you’d like, both the BMW’s DSC and Dynamic Traction Control can be disabled entirely.
The135is also gets BMW's variable-ratio active steering as an optional fitment.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
Many performance oriented cars are coming to market these days with a “Sport” button, which when depressed advances throttle response, sharpens the steering, and reinforces the suspension system—all in an effort to enhance the car's performance potential.
There is no such button in the BMW 135is.
The car comes from the factory with its “Sport” button already pressed.
Small, relatively lightweight (compared to the 3 Series), and remarkably agile, the 2013 BMW 135is is currently the most enjoyable six-cylinder BMW of all to drive, save (of course) the Z4 Roadsters.
Factor in the all business interior treatment, the elemental nature of the exterior styling, and the sheer enthusiasm for going places quickly the little BMW displays; and you’ll find all of these qualities endear the 135is considerably. If you really love to drive, but you have to have a back seat occasionally, this is the BMW model you want.2013 BMW 135is Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Outstanding powertrain
• Delightful handling
• Tidy size
• High performance with smoothness and sophistication
• Love it or hate it styling
• Rear seat for occasional use at best
• The speed limits on American roads
• It still ain’t a 1M though..