BMW launched its 1 series a few years ago in Europe, as its 3 series has outgrown its entry-level roots. For the U.S. version, BMW turns it into a performance monster. The 135i gets an M body kit to differentiate it from its more conventionally engined siblings. Note the big air scoop in the spoiler.
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The heart of the beast, this twin-turbo, 3-liter, straight-six-cylinder engine more than impressed us in the 535i and 335i convertible. We can't imagine what it will do in the much-smaller 1 series. BMW has a few clues, such as 5.3 seconds to 62 mph. The engine puts out 306 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs. of torque.
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With its coupe styling, the 135i looks to be a real sleeper, a car you can blast off the line, surprising any number of gaudier sports cars. The 135i has a practical element, as the trunk is fairly spacious, although rear seat room is a little cramped. The rear seats have a 60/40 fold-down split, for extra cargo space.
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With this engine, the 135i needs a little extra on the wheels and suspension. BMW opted for low-profile tires and beefy disc brakes to help traction and stopping power. It also gets a sport-tuned suspension as standard equipment. With traction control turned off, the car still applies computer-controlled differential slip to improve cornering without being intrusive.
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We found it easy to slip into the driver's seat, although getting into the rear seats is another matter. The 135i has a thick steering wheel, providing a good grip surface. It can also be had with a full array of cabin electronics, including navigation, Bluetooth cell phone integration, and voice command. iPods and USB thumb drives can also be used as audio sources.
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The standard transmission in the 135i is a six-speed manual. The navigation option is controlled through iDrive. BMW refined iDrive to include eight user-programmable buttons, making it easy to access your most commonly used functions.
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