The BMW 1 Series was designed to deliver the sporty dynamics of rear-wheel drive, agile handling, powerful engines and seating for four, all those attributes we've come to expect from the Bavarian automaker, in a smaller, less costly package than its other models. Inspiration for the 1 Series came from the BMW 2002 of some 40 years ago (1968-76).
The 2011 BMW 1 Series comes in Coupe and Convertible models in two versions: the BMW 128i and the BMW 135i.
The 2011 BMW 135i benefits from an all-new inline-6 engine, here using a single turbocharger to produce 300 horsepower, and paired with the sporty 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission from the Z4 Roadster. (Code-named N55, the 2011 engine replaces last year's 300-hp twin-turbo inline-6.) The 2011 BMW 135i is also available with a 6-speed manual gearbox, which we found silky smooth and a pleasure to operate. Fuel economy from the 135i even edges that of the 128i, with an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg City/Highway for a 2011 135i Coupe.
The 2011 BMW 128i Coupe and Convertible continue to be powered by the normally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6 that generates 230 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. They're available with 6-speed manual or 6-speed Steptronic automatic.
An M Sport Package adds a sports suspension that favors handling over ride quality.
The BMW 1 Series is nearly seven inches shorter overall than the 3 Series. The 1 Series wheelbase is four inches shorter than that of the 3 Series, and it's a significant 2.7 inches narrower in width. The 1 Series brings BMW's highly developed rear-wheel-drive platform to compete with cars in the entry luxury coupe class that mostly use front-wheel drive.
In many ways, the 1 Series is nothing more or less than a scaled-down version of the 3 Series, with similar looks, similar equipment and similar performance and handling. Indeed, it uses many of the same components and systems. The 135i is a smaller, lighter package with the same engine as the 3 Series for a lot less money. The BMW 1 Series was launched in the U.S. as a 2008 model, initially only as a coupe.
We like these cars. They're comfortable, sitting in one is like sitting in a 3 Series. Underway, they are sporty and agile, driver's cars, with the feel of rear-wheel drive. We found a 128i Convertible is a delight and it has enough power. Most fun to drive is a 135i Coupe, though we recommend against the M suspension due to the hard ride. The new single-turbocharged engine turns the 135i into a little hot rod, and it seems to have a bit more torque lower down, where we use most of it in everyday driving.
The BMW 128i Coupe ($29,150) comes with leatherette upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; AM/FM/CD/HD audio with auxiliary input jack; tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel; height-adjustable front seats; cruise control; high-gloss black interior trim; split folding rear seat; power windows, door locks, and heated mirrors; remote keyless entry; trip computer; outside-temperature display; rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers with heated washers; rear defogger; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights; and P205/50R17 run-flat tires on alloy wheels. A 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard, a 6-speed automatic is optional ($1,375).
The BMW 135i Coupe ($36,050) includes a firmer sport suspension and high-performance brakes, M Sport aero body kit, adaptive xenon headlights with washers, sunroof, Gray Poplar wood interior trim, and P215/40YR18 front tires leading P245/35YR18 rears. A 6-speed manual is standard. New for 2011 is an optional 7-speed DCT dual clutch automated manual transmission ($1,575).
The BMW 128i Convertible ($34,200) and BMW 135i Convertible ($40,350) are equipped similarly to their coupe counterparts, except they don't have folding rear seats or a sunroof, and they ride on less radical rubber. The 128i soft top comes with P205/55HR16 run-flat rubber front and rear, while the 135i convertible gets P205/50R17 run-flat tires. Both come with a fully automatic fabric folding top. The 135i Convertible does not have the Coupe's body kit. A 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard on both 1 Series Convertibles; the 6-speed automatic is optional on the 128i ($1,375); the 7-speed DCT is optional for 135i ($1,575).
Options include a Sport Package ($1,300) for the 128i models includes the sport suspension, sport seats, Shadowline exterior trim, an increased top-speed limiter, and P205/50R17 front and P225/45R17 rear run-flat tires. You can also add the seats, top-speed limiter, and trim to the 135i ($1,100), which also comes with P215/40R18 front and P245/35R18 rear performance tires.
The M Sport Package for the 128i Coupe ($2,450) and 128i Convertible ($2,700) comes with the increased top-speed limiter, M Sport front seats, M Sport steering wheel, aluminum interior trim, Shadowliner trim, body cladding, sport suspension, and performance tires. The coupe also gets a black headliner. The M Sport Package for the 135i Coupe ($1,300) and 135i Convertible ($1,200) includes the increased top-speed limiter, M Sport seats, M Sport steering wheel, black headliner (coupe), Shadowline trim, body cladding, and 18-inch performance tires.
A Premium Package upgrades with leather upholstery, 8-way power front seats with lumbar adjustment, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, BMW Assist telematics service, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, auto-dimming power-folding exterior mirrors, wood interior trim, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, illuminated visor mirrors, and additional interior lights. The 128i coupe version also includes a sunroof. A Convenience Package includes rear park assist, keyless access and starting, steering-linked adaptive xenon headlights, and an alarm. A Cold Weather Package ($900) adds heated front seats, a trunk pass-through with a ski sack, and headlight washers.
Standalone options include leather upholstery ($1,450), heated front seats ($500), heated steering wheel ($150), navigation system ($2,100), BMW Assist ($750) with Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius satellite radio ($350), iPod/USB adapter ($400), Smartphone integration ($150), steering wheel shift paddles ($120), Harman Kardon audio ($875), 8-way power front seats ($995), and adaptive xenon headlights ($900). Wood trim is available on the 128i ($500) and can be omitted from the 135i (for no charge).
Safety features that come standard on the 1 Series include dual front airbags, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags (coupe only), ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, cornering brake control, and launch control for getting started on slippery surfaces. The brake lights include a panic-braking mode that lights up the entire lens extra bright whenever the brake pedal is stomped hard. The federally mandated tire-pressure monitor is standard.