Recently I looked at both the M2 and it’s badder, madder brother the M2 CS. They’re both giant killers of cars, following the age-old recipe of ‘stick a big motor in a small chassis’. Well, there’s a third option BMW offered with that formula. It’s a bit less wild than the other two, but it also has a lot of stuff going for it.
The M235i effectively picked up the reigns from the outgoing 135i. BMW stretched the wheelbase an inch and overall length 3 inches, gave it 4-Series styling up front and a revised rear end, and a refreshed interior – but underneath, the important bits remained effectively the same. You got a 320 horsepower N55 turbocharged inline-six that could be mated with a six-speed manual, big brakes, and M Sport suspension. True, like the 135i it wasn’t a full M model, but it’s still a lot of the experience of one. And unlike the M2, you could get more color inside! And, you could get a convertible! On top of all that, you can grab one for relatively short money today:
The other day an Alpine White M2 briskly blew past me. It’s amazing how much presence that car has rolling down the road; it’s nearly square-looking and quite mean. Unlike the 1M that preceded it, the M2 hasn’t maintained its pricing on the used market in quite the same way. Right now, the M2 Competition (your only option) stickers at nearly $60,000 with no options but also has a derivative of the S55 from the M3/4. The earlier M2s aren’t quite as mean, and like the 1M they had a turned up version of the normal production motor rather than a “S” motor. In this case, it’s a 370 horsepower version of the N55 and they weigh a bit less than the M3/4 (though, only a bit), so performance is on par with similar acceleration numbers. Equipped in lovely Long Beach Blue Metallic with matching contrasting stitching, this particular example also has the ‘slower’ but preferable long-term 6-speed manual. And to make it a bit more sweet, it’s got a few Dinan mods tacked on:
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:
Do not adjust your screen. This is not a test. Yes, a BMW X1 is appearing on these pages. But, please stick with me because I’ll explain why.
When the X1 arrived, I – probably like you – considered it a bit of an affront to the brand. Following in the footsteps of the mission-drift but popular X5 and X3 models, the X1 made a fair amount of sense from a marketing standpoint. For about the same money as a loaded Subaru Outback, you could get an (arguably) better looking and performing BMW, after all. So the X1 opened BMW up to a whole new market as the least expensive option in their catalog.
I’ll admit, when they arrived I even went and drove one with my wife. We were considering replacing her…yup, Subaru Outback, and since the Outback’s build quality had proven so abysmal it was hard to get on board with throwing $30,000 at one. But for about two grand more, you could get into a basic X1 xDrive28i, and it really was a nicer car in just about every way.
We didn’t go down that route, as it turned out, for better or worse. And four years on, I’m not sure that the first generation X1 aged all that well. It received an update in the 2012 model year which made it slightly more slick-looking, but the proportions are still fairly awkward. So why is it here? Because it was also one of the best BMWs you could buy.
Underneath the rather upright body was the chassis borrowed more or less straight from the E91 Sport Wagon. But the E84 X1 had a few trumps over the 328i. Like the E91, you had two engine choices. “28i” models got the N20 turbo four rated at a pretty amazing 241 horsepower with 258 lb.ft of torque, or you could get what you see here. In the “35i” there was a N55 turbocharged inline-6 with 300 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque at the same time that engine choice wasn’t an option for the wagon fans. So if you wanted a fast BMW wagon, here it is:
Often we ignore really modern cars on these pages. It’s not necessarily that they’re not exciting – often it’s quite the opposite. For me, it’s just that they’re not exciting to see for sale because they’re still effectively cars that you can walk into a dealership and buy. And I’m sorry, while they can thoroughly out-perform older cars in virtually every way, you can’t just walk into an Audi dealer and buy a brand new Quattro, can you!
But impressive these cars are, and if you can look into the future in having one as a potential special car to see in the future, you can balance a hefty discount from new with near-new status and have quite a savings over stock, too. Two encounters with modern BMWs recently have my eyes trained on the pair you see here; the M4 and the M2. For around the same discount sticker price, which is the one to get?
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?
Just the other day, I wondered what kind of large wagon you could still buy. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class and recently introduced Volvo V90 seem to be the last two holdouts in what was once a robust market of longroof models. Back up a decade, and you could add the Audi A6 Avant and 5-series Touring/Sport Wagon to the mix, and both are still quite desirable in their last form.
With forced induction and plenty of technology as well as a sport ride, both the Audi and BMW entrants into the marketplace were expensive alternatives to the rest of the now traditional “Sport Utility” lineups. And both sold in very small numbers, giving enthusiasts precious few options to choose from when it comes to the used market. In the case of the BMW, the most desirable models are the M-Sport models offered late in the run, and they’re not frequently seen. So much so, that when this one popped up I was certain it was the same 2010 I looked at recently. The color combination of Tiefseeblau Metallic and Natural Brown Dakota combined with the M-Sport package seemed too unlikely to immediately come across again; yet, here we are, with a VIN only about 100 after the recent example. Is this one a winner?
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.
I’ve covered a series of BMW 3 series Individual cars recently, and I seem to be on a streak of finding neat ones. Today for your consideration are two E92s; one 335i turbo with low miles in a nice color combination compared to a M3 Individual with higher miles. The price is nearly the same between the two examples; which would be the one you’d select?