I do love a good automotive ‘What if…’. What if Volkswagen brought all its cool models here. What if Audis were reliable. What if Porsche followed through on the promise of the 968 Turbo. Well, today’s example questions what would happen if BMW slotted all of its E9X M3 bits into the lighter, smaller chassis of the E82.
That was partially done with the 1M Coupe, though it retained ‘only’ a turned-up version of the N54. Auto Source Group decided that just wasn’t enough, and commissioned a build with the full assortment of M3 bits, including the EDC suspension and…more importantly…the 8,400-rpm 4-liter V8. And then they refinished in it San Marino Blue. The result? Wows throughout, including the pricetag.
The 1-Series sought to return BMW to its more affordable small car roots by shrinking the swollen 3-Series down substantially. What BMW unintentionally did was to create an E46 successor. The E82s are similarly sized, similarly equipped and were similarly priced to the E46. And in its most basic, most sporty form, the early 135i Sport is on paper a close match for the performance of the third generation M3. Okay, there’s no doubt that the 135i isn’t a M3 when you get behind the wheel. But is it a special car? Yes. And does it move? The N54/55 are rated at 300 horsepower – about 10% shy of the S54. But they’ve got 300 lb.ft of torque, almost about 15% more than the M3 had. And because they’re a turbo motor and they were able to tune that torque curve in, it’s about as flat as the Makgadikgadi Pan. That means roll-on performance, and the 135i rewards you any time you want in any gear you’re in. The strange thing is, it really doesn’t drive like it is a turbo motor. There’s no lag, no flat spots, no real woosh. It just feels like a very strong high-compression inline-6. It ALWAYS has power. And though it won’t corner like a E46 M3, it’s not far off in acceleration or driving feel.
So while it’s not quite the visual triumph that is the E46 M3, it’s a very compelling alternative. Better yet, the polarizing looks have meant that these haven’t taken off in value yet compared to full M models. Today, now just over a decade after launch, few come to market looking quite as fresh as this Sedona Red Metallic first-year model:
Recently, I’ve looked at two BMW 135i M-Sports. It’s a bit easy to be confused by the monikers of various models over 135i production. All 135i models came with most of the sport features that you’d associate with what BMW traditionally had labeled “M-Sport” models, but in the case of the 135i the actual M-Sport name was only given to models with option code P337A, which gave you Style 261 wheels and an anthracite headliner. Making it even more confusing is that when you decode VINs on non-M-Sport models, the term M-Sport pops up in S704A – the suspension – of all 135is.
Ready to be more confused? For its last model year, the M-Sport was dropped and replaced by this model – the 135is denoted by code P7MFA. The 135is had few changes from previous models; outwardly, they are virtually identical to the prior year’s M-Sport. Or, for that matter, they’re basically identical to any other 135i. There are two ways to identify the 2013 outwardly; one is the single “s” added to the back, and the other is the wheels. Like the M-Sport, one main difference was the new S2NFA M Double Spoke Style 313 wheels shared with the 335is. While they were 19″ on the E9x, they were 18″ on the 1 and carried the same size 215/245 tires as the prior years. Dynamically, there was a small change. Still carrying the N55 single-turbo inline-6, the last model year got the bump in power that was optional on 2012s. The remapped ECU gave you 20 more horsepower and 17 lb.ft of torque – not a big gain, but a gain nonetheless.
So here’s a 135is to consider, and since we’ve looked at Coupe 6-speeds the last few rounds, I went for a E88 Convertible equipped with the 7-speed DCT this time:
Update 1/17/19: This 135i is listed as sold at $18,000.
A few months ago I took a look at one of the best affordable driving packages from BMW in recent times – the E82 135i. The model I looked at was rare for a few reasons; clean, original 135is with a 6-speed manual are fairly hard to find, and on top of that the particular example was outfit in Alpine White and with the M-Sport package, plus it had the even more infrequently seen beige Boston leather interior. It was also fairly loaded and had lower mileage – all in all, a hard package to replicate.
2013 BMW 135i M-Sport
Well, I’ve come pretty close today. In some ways, this car may actually be a bit more desirable. Let me explain why:
Update 11/11/18: Price drop from the original $26,997 asking price by $2,020 to $24,977 today.
I casually mentioned in passing recently that we traded our E61 530xi Sports Wagon for an E82 135i Sport. While production overlapped between the two chassis, they are really polar opposites when it comes to BMWs. The 5-Series was obvious all about comfort and isolation, as well as carrying a huge load of anything you could throw at it through any weather. The 1-Series sought to return BMW to its more affordable small car roots by shrinking the swollen 3-Series down substantially.
What BMW unintentionally did was to create an E46 successor. The E82s are similarly sized, similarly equipped and were similarly priced to the E46. And in its most basic, most sporty form, the early 135i Sport is on paper a close match for the performance of the third generation M3. Okay, there’s no doubt that the 135i isn’t a M3 when you get behind the wheel. But is it a special car? Yes. And does it move? The N54/55 are rated at 300 horsepower – about 10% shy of the S54. But they’ve got 300 lb.ft of torque, almost about 15% more than the M3 had. And because they’re a turbo motor and they were able to tune that torque curve in, it’s about as flat as the Makgadikgadi Pan. That means roll-on performance, and the 135i rewards you any time you want. The strange thing is, it really doesn’t drive like it is a turbo motor. There’s no lag, no flat spots, no real woosh. It just feels like a very strong high-compression inline-6. And though it won’t corner like a E46 M3, it’s not far off in acceleration or driving feel.
The dash changed and some of the operations are different, but the seats and small greenhouse will instantly remind you of the earlier chassis. Ours is about as basic as they came – 6-speed manual, manual seats, no iDrive, but with a sunroof. But probably the ultimate spec is the late N55-equipped M-Sport and ‘is’ models. They’re quite hard to find even though they’re fairly new. Why is that?
(Editor’s Correction: Though I originally listed this car as a M-Sport, it’s really a 135is with the Sport package. However, the equipment package on this car was renamed for the 2009 model year to M-Sport. This car does feature the upgrade 740 M-Sport suspension.)
It’s hard to judge the performance value of the BMW 135i M-Sport 6-speed as anything other than very tempting in today’s market. Get beyond the styling for a second and look at what this car comes with; stock, the twin-turbocharged N54 inline-6 pumps out an impressive 302 horsepower and matching torque, giving you E46 M3-strata performance. Equipped with the M-Sport package, you got shadow line trim, a black headliner, sport seats, M steering wheel and shifter, M door sills, and the M-sport M264 5-spoke wheels unique to this model. While performance wasn’t turned up, the 1M was no slouch, capable of sub 5-second 0-60 times. Admittedly, it is not the most beautiful product that BMW produced in period, but in gussied-up M-Sport form it is certainly more purposeful than the standard 128i your boss’s secretary ran out to get the moment it was off-lease.
But the real beauty of the 135i M-Sport is the price. Some dip into the mid-teens or occasionally below, but even a pristine one like today’s example hits the market below $25,000. A generation newer than the E46 M3, it offers plenty of sport, reasonable practicality, more affordable repairs and one could argue that it’s a bit of a sleeper compared to the S-motored cars:
In my search for an E46 M3, there was a nagging voice in the back of my head. As I looked at high prices of nicer examples of the M3, the voice kept saying “what about the E82?” So, what about the E82? In 135i guise, you got some of the styling from the M3 in a smaller chassis even though, generally speaking, it makes the E46 look pretty huge. In overall length, the E82 shorter than even the E30 as amazing as that sounds. But the standard roof height meant that visually the 1 series looked slightly out of proportion. Dynamically, though, that S54 must be a massive trump card, right? Well, again, not so fast, as the N54 twin-turbocharged inline-6 lay under the hood. Sure, it was at a slight horsepower disadvantage, but it makes up for that 33 horsepower deficit with 38 lb.ft more torque – and unlike the S54, that torque is available from under 2,000 RPMs. The result is that at least on paper, the 135i can run step in step with the E46 M3 acceleration to 60, 1/4 mile and 100 are all within a few tenths of each other – certainly enough that the driver could make a difference. And properly equipped, the E82 is a pretty neat looking car, like this 2009 M-Sport package:
This past Tuesday I wrote up what I consider a great alternative to the E46 M3; BMW’s own E82 135i. In many ways, the 135i takes the recipe for the M3 and creates a similar driving experience. But while I really liked the Hartge-modified look of that particular example, for me it ultimately comes down to not only the styling, but the colors. All too often, these cars are ordered in rather unimaginative shades of black, silver, blacker or silverer, and while I understand the appeal of a black car, I’d just prefer something a bit more vivid to stand out. My solution to how to make that 135i more appealing was to option it in one of the more brilliant blues; as if on cue, we were contacted to list this stunning Deep Blue Sea Metallic example of a 2012 E82. Equipped with nearly every package from M-Sport to Convenience, and with some factory options like the power upgrade and special Style 269 optional wheels, this is one trick package:
In my ongoing quest to get into a newer BMW, one car that keeps popping up is the 1 series E82 Coupe. The reason why is pretty simple; value. I love cars with the M badge, but it’s sometimes hard to justify the premium, and looking through the E46 market is a bit like one of those Sarah McLachlin-soundtracked mistreated animal commercials. Too many have suffered heavy modifications, mistreatment, and the number of salvage titles must exceed any other specific model – it’s simply amazing. In contrast, many of the 135is are just leaving their first owners as they begin to head into the used car market, meaning there are plenty of examples in good shape, with good owner history and with lower miles. Still, the E82 doesn’t really get me warm and fuzzy; I once described it as a E46 M3 that was in the middle of a 3-car pileup and then repaired by a high-school autobody shop as a project. It just doesn’t look quite right to my eyes, with the bending rocker accentuating the short wheelbase, while the “I’m somewhat surprised” look of the too-large and too-upright headlights begs for some internet meme action. However, once in a while one catches my eye and strikes me as a compelling alternative to a M3. With the twin-turbocharged N54 under the hood coupled to a manual transmission, you got the same feel as the E46 M. Couple that with some attractive visual changes from BMW specialist Hartge along with a bump in power, and suddenly you have a much neater package:
Here we have a very fine example of a car I still think falls into the drastically underrated category despite its reputation amongst those in the know. The 1 Series is viewed by most as a Bangle era failure to modernize the formula that made BMW famous, a tightly packaged two door with a solid powerplant under the hood. While the 128i is no slouch, the 135i with its 300 hp twin-turbo inline-6 isÂ the only spec I’d consider. Add in the M Sport package which gives the car six piston calipers up front, two piston calipers in the rear, a very nice perforated steering wheel/shift knob andÂ super comfortable sport seats. I’ve sat in one of these cars with and without the M-Sport package and in opinion, the M Sport package is a must. Without it the 1 Series appears rather basic, especially the 2008 to 2010 pre-facelift models. Aside from visual tweaks that really tightened up the overall look of the car, from 2011-on the 135i got the N55 inline-6 which used a single twin-scroll turbocharger to make the same power as the N54 and its two turbochargers. While having a twin-turbo motor sounds cool, it’s really just one extra part to worry about. The N55 has less turbo lag, better low rev torque, lower emissions and is more fuel efficient than its predecessor. I’d call that a no contest victory.