BMW 1 Series

The 1-Series is offered in two different two-door body styles: a coupe or soft-top-equipped convertible. Both of these body styles can be specified in 128i, 135i or 135is form. The 128i comes with a 230-horsepower, 3.0L in-line 6-cylinder engine, while the 135i models get a 300-hp, 3.0L turbocharged six. The 135is shares its engine with the 135i, but makes 320 horsepower, thanks to a freer flowing exhaust system.

All 1-Series are rear-wheel drive and come with a standard 6-speed manual transmission that, in BMW tradition, provides great car control as well as a satisfying, tactile experience. Available on the 135i and 135is is a 7-speed dual-clutch (DCT) gearbox that enables very quick automated shifts along with improved acceleration and fuel economy. With the DCT, the 135i can get to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds and brings a fuel economy rating of 18 mpg city, 25 highway--the same as the standard manual transmission.

The 1-Series has a responsive but not overly firm ride, with a double-pivot spring and strut front suspension and rear control arms. A variable-ratio Active Steering system, which varies both the ratio and level of assist for quicker response, is optional on the 135i.

In Convertible models, the top can be raised and lowered when moving up to 25 mph, and can go from up to fully down in just 22 seconds. The arrangement doesn't inhibit trunk space as some retractable hard-top systems do. In either model, there's also an opening with expandable bag that allows long items like a snowboard or golf bag to fit through. The silhouette of the 1-Series convertible is much like that of the coupe when it's up. A slightly different trunklid design in convertibles helps accent the design and improve visibility. Convertible models also include a special climate-control mode that reacts to the level of sunlight, and optional Boston leather has a sun-reflective treatment that helps reduce temperatures on hot days. An available wind deflector helps bring a quieter, less turbulent interior at highway speeds. Whether in the coupe or convertible, there's plenty of space to sprawl in the front seats, though the back seat is quite tight.

The BMW's Dynamic Stability Control is designed to allow a little more dynamic flexibility when driving the 1-Series quickly; the higher threshold helps not only in track driving but also in snow. A special rear-brake management mode helps simulate a rear differential to get better grip either out of a fast corner or in slippery conditions.

A much more aggressive look--almost like that of the larger M3--as well as a little more performance can be achieved with the M Sport Package. It brings aero upgrades, flashier wheels, sport seats, special M-branded trim pieces and an exclusive LeMans Blue Metallic paint color, plus functional improvements that include a higher top speed, better brake cooling, a Sports Suspension and performance tires. With the 135i, brakes are upgraded to a strong 6-piston setup in front.

Entertainment options include a harman/kardon surround-sound system, HD radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, USB/iPod controls, while a Bluetooth hands-free interface is available. Meanwhile, a heated steering wheel is available on both models as part of a Cold Weather Package and heated seats are also available. The optional navigation system is hard-drive-based and includes real-time traffic info.

Adaptive xenon headlamps, which help improve vision in dark corners, are standard on the 135i and 135is and optional on the 128i. Also, LED Adaptive Brake Lights grow brighter depending on the brake force. That's in addition to plenty of standard safety equipment, such as stability control, side airbags and brake-drying and brake stand-by functions.

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In brief

Most BMW model lines have a high performance sports version and -- finally! -- the company's smallest and most affordable model, the 1-Series, will soon spawn an M-badged version.

Dubbed rather ungainly as the 1-Series M Coupe, the new car features a turbocharged 3-litre six-cylinder engine producing 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque; 500Nm can be delivered via an overboost function. A six-speed manual transmission helps transfer all that mechanical rage to the rear wheels, while an M differential lock distributes torque between the rear wheels depending on traction.

Weighing 1495kg, the M Coupe is capable of sprinting from zero to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Driven like that it's unlikely to be within cooee of the official EU fuel economy rating of 9.6L/100km.

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