BMW has made it six wins in a row for the high-performance offering among its 1 Series range, with the M135i hot hatch going back-to-back on top of a ‘four-peat’ by the 135i Coupe.
Such is the competence of its design and function qualities and on road prowess, that the M135i, metaphorically speaking, took the chequered flag after starting towards the back of the grid as an average to below-average value for money proposition. It scored less than nine out of 10 in safety and environment, while leading the class in comfort and finishing equal-top for ergonomics, performance and smoothness/quietness.
Handed a power boost before last year’s judging, the M135i is absolutely single-minded in the way it goes in pursuit of peak power of 235kW at 5800rpm and beyond to a 7000rpm redline. An optional eight-speed sport automatic transmission is quick-witted and works intuitively in extracting the best of the silky-smooth, TwinPower turbo 3.0-litre engine. All the while, the big inline six-cylinder entertains with induction noise and a snarling exhaust soundtrack. Peak torque is a brutish 450Nm, administered across a broad spread of 1250-5000rpm. Claimed 0-100km/h is 4.9 seconds.
Driving Experience Control enables adjustment of drivetrain settings: select Sport Plus mode for pursuit of fastest lap at a track day, Sport to enjoy a sinuous mountain road, Comfort when highway cruising or EcoPro when commuting to work. It works superbly, as does the Variable Sports Steering, which gains weight and directness as speeds increase. Indeed, Sport mode seems almost the ideal default setting for a car like this. Enabled, it fosters interaction between driver and car. You can corner hard and flat to the point of controlled twitchiness, but all the while with the safety net of traction and electronic stability controls in place. The ride quality, meantime, is not bone-jarring brittle.
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The concept of putting power to the ground through the rear wheels, leaving the front wheels to simply point and steer, might be simple, but in cars like this it makes for the purest of driving experiences. The standard braking package is M Sport, incorporating four-piston fixed calipers on the front axle and two-piston fixed callipers at the rear, and works indefatigably. M double-spoke alloy wheels, fitted with high-performance 225/40 R18 front and 245/35 R18 rear tyres, are specific to the M135i and offer prodigious grip.
Ergonomically and comfort wise, the M135i measures up brilliantly. The sports front seats, in Dakota leather, support in all the right areas (particularly laterally), controls and switchgear fall easily to hand and there is an air of quality build and finish. And a full M aerodynamics exterior body package - anthracite individual roof liner, door sills with M designation, M leather steering wheel and high gloss shadowline - helps give the BMW its identity.
To use the Aussie vernacular, the BMW M135i is a ‘good thing’.