Ever since the US was blessed with the “Year One of the One ” 1 Series Coupe back in 2008 we have been huge fans of it, or at least the step BMW took to make a smaller nimbler car. Sure the 1er is not perfect — the back seat is cramped and the materials are on the cheaper end of the spectrum for a premium coupe, but it ‘s a hoot to drive on the back roads or the track.
For 2011 BMW opted to change out the twin-turbo N54 inline six for the more technically advanced N55 dual scroll offering, they messed with what seemed to be a near perfect recipe and what made us love the 135, tons of power in a smaller package. When the motor swap was officially announced back in February we had feared the worst; BMW detuned our baby. We all knew that some N54 motors came off the line as ‘ringers with an excess of 325hp as many a dyno test had proven since its launch back in ’07. We had thought this new motor was not going to be near the award winning twin turbo six or even worse- it was going to be less of a beast. Fear not, things have not gotten worse and in some ways they have gotten a bit better.
The previous motor offering and the latest are technically identical in advertised output (300 hp /300 lb-ft); in real life they are more similar than we originally had thought they would be. The new N55 inline six is blessed with direct injection, VANOS, Valvetronic, and uses a dual scroll turbo. What all that mumbo jumbo means is that that response is better, the torque comes on sooner and fuel efficiency is improved. You can ‘t argue with that, well unless it drives like a limp noodle on the track. Thankfully it doesn ‘t. We put a 2011 135i Coupe with DCT through the paces on the Lightning track at NJMP as part of the 2011 model year launch of BMWNA. The motor felt lively and sounded as good as the N54 in base form.
For 2011 the suspension in sports package/ M Sport 135i cars has been tweaked a bit more towards our liking. In previous years, BMW was using progressive spring rates but now the springs are linear and the rates have even been increased. These changes lessen body roll and provides the driver with more control, allowing smoother transitions from corner to corner and the ability to set the contact patches where and when desired. The rear end is less likely to kick out under full throttle corner exit than in the past, it just feels more consistent and as a result surprisingly quicker. The car is well balanced overall and feels at home on the track though the steering still feels less precise than some other BMW offerings. Braking is fade free thanks to the Brembos doing their thing out on the corners, the 135i is still the only mainstream BMW with multi-pistons to our knowledge.
The greatest difference from ’10 to ’11 is not necessarily the technology under the hood or the suspension, it is the available method for switching gears- the Dual Clutch Transmission. Sure we are all left-pedal snobs here, rowing our own gears is like a badge of courage- we are the few left of a dying breed but the optional DCT is worth a mention in this review.What the DCT offers up is a transmission that does a good job at negotiating the insane congestion/traffic jams of our over crowded highways and providing shifts on the track that even Schumacher would be hard pressed to compete with. Seriously, it is that good. The DCT ‘s lighting quick shifts should improve 0-60 times by a .10 at least while also providing rev matching for those spirited back road romps.We find ourselves liking the DCT more and more each time we drive it, but then we think about how less involved driving on the street would become without shifting. Our roads in the US do not allow us to carry the speed of those in the EU and the last thing we have as an intimate connection to the road is that third pedal. If you plan on frequenting the track, live in area where the commute consists of bumper to bumper stop and go, the DCT is a no brainer. Otherwise, learn how to heel-toe while you still can.
What BMW has accomplished for 2011 in the 135i is offering up a new motor that does not lose character to the previous benchmark all the while improving efficiency and response. Why do we even question BMW when it comes to motors? We are not sure, maybe it is because we are so passionate about driving and never want to see things move backwards for the sake of efficiency or change just for the sake of change. The 2011 135i does not disappoint, it is more similar to last year ‘s model than different, with the fast shifts of the DCT and improved suspension being the main character differences. A few things we took away from this on the track experience is that the 135i is a turn key weekend warrior for HPDEs and that the motor swap has not taken anything away from this venerable sporty coupe.
Dyno Chart: BimmerBoost