PRO’s: Quick, nimble, smiles-for-miles little hot-rod.
CON’s: Big price tag, lack of limited-slip-differential.
FINAL THOUGHT: The 2013 BMW 135is is a little pocket-rocket of a car that will make you rediscover driving at its core. It’s fun, fast and has the ability to make even grown men giggle.
Buying a car is not a rational decision, it’s an emotional one. We look at style, performance and how that particular vehicle makes us feel. Does it make us smile when we open the garage door. Does it make the right sound when we turn the key. Above all, does it get our adrenaline flowing when we simply go out for a drive. In a day and age where cars are weighed down by government safety regulations, technology and each company trying to outdo the next guy, it’s nice to see that BMW makes at least one car that throws up its middle finger and shows us that a car can still be a good time.
Enter the 2013 BMW 135is. A little pocket rocket of a car that not only puts some serious fun back into driving, but reminds us of a time when cars were cars, not computers. Before we begin let’s get one thing straight. The 135is is not a BMW “M” car, regardless of the fact that it has a few “M” badges here and there. Instead, it’s a BMW 135i with some nifty add-ons from BMW’s parts bin.
A performance exhaust system and power performance kit (updated engine ECU software) help bump horsepower from the standard 300 hp and 300 lb.ft of torque, to 320 hp and 317 lb.ft. Not a monumental increase mind you, but enough to make you feel like you got something for all that extra cheddar. The single turbo straight-6 engine is as smooth as they come. Power delivery is linear all through the rev-range, however once you’re over 2000 rpms, you’ll feel this thing pull like a mini freight train.
My tester was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission that was nothing short of sublime. Gear changes were crisp and smooth with short throws, while a perfectly weighted clutch made driving, even in traffic, a pretty enjoyable experience. I flogged this little car mercilessly on my favorite back roads, and the harder I pushed it, the more enjoyable the car became.
Wrap your hands around the thick steering wheel, turn the traction control off and dump the clutch and you’ll find that the 135is is a deceivingly quick little car. 0-60 mph comes up in under 5-seconds with reserve power always on hand. Find the tightest road you can just so you can shift gears at every opportunity.
I have to say that the Performance Exhaust is a nice touch, as on deceleration you’re treated to some wonderful burbles and pops that will definitely turn heads. If there is one slight in the performance department, it’s the absence of a limited slip differential. I did the ole’ one-wheel peel more than a few times while tearing up the canyons. Not a deal breaker by any means, but something I would definitely remedy if I were to take the 135is to a track day.
Climb inside and immediately you’ll notice that the fit, finish and materials used throughout the cabin are all top notch. However one thing that struck me immediately was the lack of a large screen in the center of the dash, something that we’re so accustomed to seeing these days in newer cars. There was no navigation, no touch-screen and nothing that took away from the simplistic appeal of the cars interior. In short, it was fantastic.
Even though the 135is is a small car that doesn’t mean the interior (at least the front portion anyway) was tight. At 6’4″ / 245-pounds, I not only had ample head and shoulder room, but my right leg wasn’t butted up against the center console, something that usually happens in smaller cars. The front sport seats, while comfortable, will be a bit on the narrow side for larger drivers, but never once did I find them annoying. The 135is does come equipped with rear seats, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re child-sized. The same can be said for cargo space. Yes, you’ll get a few duffel bags in the trunk, but I wouldn’t plan a month long getaway in this thing.
This is a car that’s based around the enjoyment of driving, something that I almost think BMW has forgotten about. With the exception of the M3, I honestly can’t think of another BMW that I would actually own as most their cars as so crammed full of tech and luxury that they’re simply no fun to drive. Are they good cars? Absolutely, but for some reason the company has lost their emotional way. The 135is however is the exception, as it inspires it’s drivers to have fun, to enjoy the drive and push the limits a little bit. This car is what the original M3 was; small, light and a riot on the road.
As you can tell I like this car – a lot. However after pricing it out you’ll find that there is a substantial cost for all this fun. With a base price of $43,250, the 135is is not an inexpensive machine, and in fact our tester (loaded with options) was price at just under $49,000. The real question here is – how much are you willing to pay for a little car that has the ability to put a smile on your face every time you drive it?
My bet… it’s around $49k.