All change with the 1 series
The M140i, the predecessor of the new BMW M135i xDrive, notably featured a 3.0L 340hp 6-cylinder inline engine with either rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive, but BMW has now removed two distinctive features - the 6-cylinder engine and the rear-wheel drive - from its best sport model, which, of course, gives it a whole different feel. That didn’t stop the successor to the M140i impressing us in a way that was simply different from what we’re used to with the Bavarian compact, though!
The new engine now has a capacity of just 2 litres and has lost 2 cylinders, but it does have a dual supercharger to compensate. The engine unit, which has been hailed as the most powerful standard 4-cylinder engine in the brand's history, achieves 306hp and provides an impressive 450Nm of torque from 4500rpm for the standard 8-speed automatic transmission. With BMW's new drive architecture, the 1 Series has switched to front-wheel drive, much to the displeasure of many BMW enthusiasts, but the xDrive all-wheel drive system that comes as standard allows the transmission to direct up to 50% of the driving force to the rear wheels. The 8-speed automatic transmission makes a good impression on the whole, with the exception of the noise it generates in Sport mode under load, which is sure to leave your ears ringing.
The sound is pretty much what you would expect of a 4-cylinder engine, despite the petrol particulate filter. It purrs nicely enough, even if it does lack a little volume and spirit compared to the 6-cylinder engine of its predecessor. In terms of power, response and thrust, it is just as good as the previous model, and despite a kerb weight of 1.6 tonnes, the M135i certainly isn’t lacking in drive. It takes 4.8 seconds to cross the 100km/h barrier from a standing start, with speed automatically limited to 250km/h. The 135 Series is also built on a specially adapted M Sport chassis that sits 10mm lower and has 10% firmer suspension. Surprisingly, these sporty features seem to have barely any impact on suspension comfort.
In terms of handling, there is really no comparison with its predecessor. The steering behaviour of the new 135 Series, meanwhile, is so agile that it reacts to even sudden changes in direction without batting an eyelid. The Torsen mechanical differential on the front axle and the targeted braking action on the inside wheels when cornering mean that you really do feel you’re being sucked into the bend. When accelerating out of a bend, however, especially on poor roads, you can feel a juddering and a sometimes violent tugging at the wheel. The 1 Series has also undergone something of a visual makeover. The most recognisable features of the M135i xDrive are its motorsport-inspired mesh-style nostrils, complete with raised mesh grille rather than the classic version. The headlights are now set at an angle and give the vehicle a fresh, young look, with the optional full LED lights also creating a particularly modern effect.
The passenger compartment seems to be of a slightly higher specification than before and now resembles that of the new 3 Series in that it is chic, well finished and fits the sporty image of this little Bavarian number perfectly. The dashboard is much more modern than on the previous model owing to the digital instruments behind the steering wheel. When it comes to spaciousness, this latest model offers increased leg and head room, notably in the rear, whilst the boot space has also slightly increased.
In terms of the price, the top-of-the-range 1 Series model starts at around €48,000 and, as usual, is available with a very long list of optional extras.