MY speedometer is reading 200km/h, but with minimal wind noise and a rock-steady ride, the all-new BMW M135i xDrive feels like it’s cruising at half that speed.
That’s testament to the work BMW has done for the third-generation 1 Series.
Styling-wise, the new 1 Series sports the current BMW design language – more creases, lines, angles and scalloped surfaces. The front gets a pronounced shark nose with the BMW kidney grille merged in the middle. It’s not the most elegant look when seen from some angles but the slim, drawn-back headlights help claw back some style points.
The rising beltline now ends in an integrated Hofmeister kink, similar to the current 3 Series sedan.
It’s a far more desirable style than the “bread van” looks of yesteryear, putting the car in better stylistic stead next to its Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class rivals.
The switch from rear-wheel-drive allows the engine to be mounted transversely (sideways), freeing up interior space.
The car’s footprint is nearly identical to its predecessor’s. It is 4319mm tip to tip (minus 5mm), 1799mm wide (plus 34mm) and 1434mm tall (plus 13mm).
In the rear, there is now 33mm more knee room and 13mm more elbow room than before, making the backseat a much more comfortable place to be in.
My 1.78m frame fit comfortably either in front or at the back with room to spare. It’s no X7, but you won’t be clamoring for more space either.
The boot has grown by 20 litres to 380 litres, putting it on par with the current Mk 7 Volkswagen Golf.
The 2-litre powerplant is the most powerful 4-cylinder engine in BMW’s arsenal.
The cabin also shows more coherent design thinking with a more driver-oriented dashboard.
Everything is neatly laid out in front of you. When BMW’s designers say they had the driver in mind when they designed the cockpit, I believe them.
That aside, the usual M Sport touches adorn the interior: a comfortable and squidgy three-spoke wheel, comfy and supportive seats and seatbelts with the M tricolour stitched along their length.
Singapore models will get BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional, consisting of a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and a similarly-sized central touch display.
They also get BMW’s voice assistant, wireless phone charging and both Parking and Driving Assistant.
The 118i and range-topping M135i xDrive were launched last month. The 118i is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder with 140hp and 220Nm. It is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, good for 0-100km/h in 8.2 seconds.
The rortier M135i xDrive, meanwhile, packs BMW’s most powerful four-cylinder unit: a turbocharged 2-litre with 306hp and 450Nm. That’s paired with an 8-speed Steptronic torque converter transmission that launches the car to 100km/h in a speedy 4.8 seconds.
Cockpit details are neatly laid out for the keen driver.
TYPE Inline-4, 16-valves, turbocharged
BORE X STROKE 82mm x 94.6mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 9.5:1
MAX POWER 306hp at 4500-6250rpm
MAX TORQUE 450Nm at 1750-5000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 200.7hp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS All
0-100KM/H 4.8 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.3km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 171g/km
FRONT Single-joint spring strut axle, anti-roll bar
REAR Multi-link rear axle, anti-roll bar
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Pirelli P Zero
SIZE 225/40 R18
TRACTION AIDS ABS, DSC
KERB WEIGHT 1525kg
TURNING CIRCLE 11.4m
PRICE INCL. COE From $235,000 (estimated)
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
+ ROOMIER CABIN, RAPID PACE, COMMUNICATIVE HANDLING
- NOT THE NICEST FRONT END, FAKE ENGINE NOTE, SLIGHT TORQUE STEER
THE M135i IS UNFAZED BY CAMBER CHANGES AND THERE IS EFFORTLESS ACCELERATION FROM THE TORQUE-RICH 4-POT.
At 380 litres (rear seats up), the M135i’s boot is now the same size as the Mk 7 Volkwagen Golf’s.
I had a brief drive in the M135i xDrive on the autobahn and some country roads around Munich. With its M Sport suspension set-up (with adaptive dampers), body control, as mentioned earlier, is excellent and the steering provides plenty of feedback.
The M135i spends most of its time in front-wheel-drive, but the xDrive system seamlessly sends power rearwards in just a quarter of a second in a 50/50 torque split.
There is minimal roll through sweeping corners. On windier stretches, the M135i is unfazed by camber changes and there is effortless acceleration from the torque-rich 4-pot.
A mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential between the front wheels and a quicker M Sport steering rack (14:1 versus the standard car’s 15:1) combine to make the car feel more agile in the turns.
It’s a sad day for enthusiasts when a BMW loses a straight-6 engine (and rear-wheel-drive), but with more space and refinement, it’s a better car overall.
Coupled with lots of tech and a fresh design, the new 1 Series is sure to win more fans this time round.
STORY WONG KAI YI LOCATION MUNICH, GERMANY