Most people won't be buying the 135i for its cabin electronics, however. On the track, the compact coupe feels nimble when tossed into corners and blisteringly fast when opened up on the straightaways. With a short wheel base, suspension calibrated for sport driving, and precise steering, the 135i tracks well into turns with plenty of power on-demand to unwind out of the exits. Its wide power bands means that third gear will easily take the car to extra-legal speeds.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/ CNET Networks / Caption by:
As well as its different body styles, the new M3 features a number of transmission options including a double-clutch transmission with Drivelogic. Using two clutches lets the car engage two gears simultaneously with one clutch closing just as another opens. The result is split second shifts and almost seamless acceleration.
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Unlike its predecessor, the 2008 M3 comes with a four-door option. The new M3 sedan is a shade heavier than the coupe, but it handling is comparable and its straightline speed is equally breathtaking.
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BMW's slogan for the new M3 states that "race cars shouldn't be confined to racetracks". That might be so, but it certainly helps to be able to open up the 414-horsepower V-8 on a closed circuit. The M3 has near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, giving it great poise in cornering. The optional driver-selectable M Dynamic Mode also allows for more wheel slip and yaw angle in aggressive driving, resulting in a refreshingly raw driving experience.
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The 1 Series also includes the entry-level 128i, which packs in the same 3-liter inline 6-cylinder engine but without the twin turbochargers. The result is an impressively quick ride, but without the whirlwind boost of the 135i at higher rpms. Cosmetically, the 128i feature features a slightly different air intake and headlight arrangement. Both the 128i and the 135i are available as convertibles with the roof mechanism adding around 240 pounds and 290 pounds to each respectively.
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The best looking, worst performing, and most expensive of the M3 class is the convertible. Based on the 3 Series retractable hardtop, the M3 convertible is nearly half a second slower to 60 mph than the coupe. Nevertheless, its 4-liter V-8 is still more than adequate to mess up your hair.
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As the flagship of the new 1 Series, the 135i combines the twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder engine found in the 335i and 535i with a compact body style to produce a baby Bimmer with blistering performance. While the 135i's 3373 pound curb weight makes it something of a porker for its size, its advertised 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds shows that it is no slouch off the line. The 135i comes with many of the tech toys that we associate with modern BMWs, including available navigation with real-time traffic, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and an iPod integration system.
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The most unique car to come out of Munich in the past year is the X6 crossover. BMW calls it a "sport activity coupe," suggesting a combination of practicality and sportiness. The X6 comes with two engine options in the form of the same twin-turbocharged inline 3-liter plant used in the 1 Series and 3 Series; and a more robust twin turbo 4.4-liter V-8. The X6 comes with some advanced technology features including a head-up display that projects navigation directions onto the windshield in front of the driver.
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From the rear, the X6's "Bangle-butt" fenders and prominent bumper give it a flabby three-quarter profile, while the raked roofline means that rear-seat passengers over six feet will have a hard time sitting up straight. Despite its ungainly shape, the X6 handles hard cornering well thanks to its xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters give the car the appearance of a sports car from the driver seat, but its 5,000-pound curb weight means that the 3-liter version of the X6 can feel sluggish.
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