2008 BMW 1-Series
BMW billed their 1-Series
as a return the company’s roots and was intended as a modern update to their famed 2002
, which ran in production from 1968-1976. The 1-Series, like the 2002, is small, nimble and packed with plenty of power under the hood. The 1-Series was highly anticipated by BMW purists for years and, as one might guess from its numeric label, it enters the market as BMW’s entry model, providing a welcome alternative to the significantly more expensive and larger 3-Series. Available with either a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine - 128i - or with our choice, a twin-turbocharged version of the same mill - 135i - both rear-wheel drive models are a refreshingly fun blast from the past and provide a driving experience that harkens back to a time when premium sports cars were small, agile and didn't cost a fortune.
What's to Like
This is a BMW, so build quality, workmanship and interior fit and finish are fantastic. With the 135i, there’s no lack of power – the twin-turbo inline-six puts out massive horsepower and torque to the rear wheels. Drop the clutch and mash the throttle and the laughs kick in immediately. While the six-speed manual transmission is the preferred gearbox, the paddle-shifter equipped auto isn’t bad either.
What's Not to Like
The 128i seems somewhat underpowered, the interior is somewhat cramped, the price is quite high, but it is a small BMW. Aside from that, the 1-Series is almost faultless.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
To say that the 135i is quick would be an exercise in minimalist diction. Mash the gas and the twin-turbo engine spools to life with no lag whatsoever, providing abundant power from low rpm. The suspension provides a comfortably stiff ride through town but comes into its own once properly apexed. Both the 128i and the 135i feel planted to the road even after charging the corner and braking late, inspiring confidence that you can rely on the car’s massive brakes to slow you down. The drive is spirited and inspires glee and happiness, something you can’t say for every sub-30k car.
Engine and Drivetrain
The 128i delivers 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque thanks to its 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. The 135i’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine puts out 300 horsepower and the 300 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and both are rear-wheel drive.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Key Technology Evaluation
The 1-Series comes with a pretty trick key fob that plugs into the dash, allowing the driver to start the vehicle via push button. The cabin is laced with Bluetooth goodness for hands-free calling, in addition to a navigation system. An optional premium sound system complete with HD radio and audio in addition to USB inputs rounds out the otherwise utilitarian cabin.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Though the 1-Series is petite compared to its larger brother, the 3-Series, it’s no more eco-friendly, especially in 135i trim. The 128i delivers 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway when equipped with the manual transmission and 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway when you opt for the manual. Even with the dual-turbo set up, the 135i churns out 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway in manual, 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway as an automatic.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
BMW took the Mies Van Der Rohe’s motto of “less is more” to heart. The 1-Series has one of those near-flawless utilitarian interiors that has made BMW the industry benchmark. The coupes come stock with leatherette seats that should hold up well to everyday wear, but non-vegans can opt for genuine leather for an extra $1,450. A number of beautiful accents are available inside as well, our favorite being the Gray Poplar Wood.
With styling distilled from the company’s larger coupes and sedans, this car reeks of sexy. A different front fascia with a more aggressive air inlet distinguishes the 135i from the 128i, as do HID headlights.
Market Segment and Pricing
BMW’s 128i has an MSRP of $28,600 for the coupe and $33,100 for the convertible. The more powerful 135i coupe starts at $34,900 and the convertible version starts at $39,100. Since this is a BMW, the price rises with every option. The 1-Series finds itself in odd company with rear-drive competitors like the Ford Mustang GT
at $28,375, the Mazda RX-8
at $27,085 and its truest competition, the Infiniti G37 Coupe
at $34,900. Also, it seems that BMW may be poaching its own sales with the 328i Coupe
starting at $35,600.
What We Think
The 1-Series is a great step in the right direction for BMW. The concoction of small and fun-to-drive is nearly perfect, with one glaring exception – the price. The 1-Series’ MSRP puts it in direct competition with the German manufacturer’s 3-Series. If it were up to us, we would drop just a little more coin ($41,200) for the 335i Coupe and enjoy a larger cabin and comfortable ride, even at the expense of performance. The 1-Series is a remarkable car not because of any one aspect, but because of the holistic beauty of all the parts working together. BMW took a gamble bringing a small, powerful sports car to America and pricing it as a larger car.