Motorsports Monday: BMW Legends Collection

Let’s say you want to start a car collection, and for ease of argument’s sake, let’s say you’re really into BMWs. Which is the model you want? You could be a 507 enthusiast, love the classic 3.0 CSL or 2002, envy every E30 or lust over the modern muscle the company produces. But odds are if you’re reading these pages you, like me, gravitate towards BMW’s Motorsport models.

Within the Pantheon of classic models, there then comes the difficult decisions. How do you choose between the E30 M3 and the 1M, for example? Well, Enthusiast Auto Group has a suggestion. Why not have them both? Or, even better, why not assemble all of the greatest hits from BMW’s M division over the past 40 years and put them together into one curated, turn-key package?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: The Collection of BMW Legends at Enthusiast Auto Group

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2013 BMW 135i M-Sport

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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2013 BMW 135i M-Sport on eBay

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2008 BMW 135is

(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.)

Tempting.

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW 135is at Coventry Motorcar

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2011 BMW 1M Coupe

Much like the E28 M5, the E82 was a legend before it even hit the market. Press releases and journalists gushed over its superlatives; while most felt it was a return to the classic BMW form, some went so far as to suggest it was the best M product ever. Debate still rages over that and generally fans of each chassis manage to come up with plenty of justification as to why theirs is the most special M produced. However, one thing is undeniable; the 1M might be the only M car to ever immediately appreciate on the market. Perhaps it was the combination of those aforementioned press articles or the limited nature of the model; a scant 983 were produced for the U.S. market over a 10 month production cycle in 2011. As with the E28, color choices were quite limited (though, thankfully more than just black!) – 326 Alpine White III (300), 222 Black Sapphire Metallic (475), and 435 Valencia Orange Metallic (B44) – the model’s signature color. All were mated with the same interior: LWNZ Black Boston leather with contrasting orange stitching. They all featured the same drivetrain specification, too – the boosted twin-turbocharged N54 turned up to 340 horsepower and mated only to a 6-speed manual with a limited slip differential. Wheels were the Competition Package BBS-made Style 359M 19″ options from the E9x. The result was magical:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 BMW 1M Coupe on eBay

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2013 BMW 135iS

I don’t usually post newer cars, preferring to write about 80s and 90s machinery instead. That’s because I think many new cars are bloated in looks and overburdened with technologies that blunt the driving experience. But there are a few modern cars for which I’m willing to make an exception, like the E82 135iS. Offered in the US for the 2013 model year only (to make up for the absence of the recently departed, limited edition 1M coupe), the “iS” package added M-sport suspension and bumpers to the 135i, while a tune to the 3.0 liter N55 twin-turbo engine bumped power output to 320 hp (an increase of 20 hp over the standard car). Though some find the E82 a bit stubby, I love the look of the car, with its short wheelbase and squat, compact styling, while the hydraulic steering setup offers a relatively old school, connected driving experience. Sure, it’s not quite the unadulterated formula of BMWs of yore (6 naturally-aspirated cylinders, 5 speeds, 3 pedals) but it comes pretty close, and I think the E82 is a closer spiritual successor to the E30 than any contemporary 3-series.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2013 BMW 135iS on eBay

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2009 BMW 135i M-Sport

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2009 BMW 135i M-Sport on eBay

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2011 BMW 1M

Like many I was filled with excitement and anticipation when it was announced that BMW would release a M-package 1-series. We were all pretty sure it wouldn’t be called the M1, since that name was taken, but regardless of what it was called there was plenty to be excited about. The 3-series was getting too big and seemed a significant departure from the iconic E30 M3, which was for me, though I didn’t really know it at the time, THE CAR to capture my attention and it elicited “ooohhs” and “aaahhhs” whenever we passed the local BMW dealer. I only saw it from afar so I can’t say exactly what color it was, though I know it was bright – something along the lines of Zinnoberrot I’d guess. Of course the 1M isn’t quite to the E30’s stature, at least not yet, but it was smaller and better proportioned than its siblings and that definitely was a step in the right direction. But whereas the E30 possesses a litheness to its design, the 1M is all muscle and with 335 hp it packs plenty of punch to backup that sculpted appearance. There is an Alpine White 1M that runs around where I live and for a white car it’s pretty darn sexy, but ultimately I come back to that first M3 and look for something a little brighter like this Valencia Orange 2011 BMW 1M Coupe, located in Illinois, with 32,250 miles on it.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 BMW 1M on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2012 BMW 135i M-Sport 6-speed

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2012 BMW 135i M-Sport on Autotrader

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Tuner Tuesday: 2008 BMW 135i Hartge

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW 135i Hartge on eBay

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2011 BMW 135i M Sport

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 is 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 and 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.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 135i M Sport on AutoTrader

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