Of all the vehicles that made their debut at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show, one will likely have more impact on North American enthusiasts than any other. The BMW 1-series is outfitted with nearly everything your average motorphile could want: small size, big power, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 50/50 weight distribution -- the list goes on and on. That's why, rather than rattling off a few sentences littered with a handful of jokes and statistics, we wanted to spend a bit more time on the 1-series, much the way you would if you had attended the show.
BMW had no qualms about making the connection to the 2002 when presenting its newest entrant into the 1-series lineup. The presentation included the stereotypical short-attention span cuts that went back and forth between details shots of the crimson coupe and film of the 2002 running in countless motorsports events. Once the show was over and the crowd dissipated, we took our time for a long walk around the 135i model, one of two that were on display.
The styling language of the new 1-series coupe is more attractive in person than the press shots (and even ours) would indicate. Whether or not you're a flame-surfacing fan will likely dictate if you're partial to the coupe's angular front end and dramatic swage line running the length of the car. BMW chose a deep red for the 1's launch color, and it's striking enough, in an understated way. There was a jet black 123d on hand as well, but it held less visual cachet than the 135i on its right.
Size wise, it's comparable to the E36 3-series coupe, coming in at 172 inches, versus the previous generation 3-series coupe at 174 inches. Size is probably one of the defining characteristics of the 1, but for cash-strapped buyers (or bloggers) it deserves mention that a second hand E36 M3 could be had for well under half the price.
After a number of hyper-obsessive laps around the car to take in details and snap photos, we finally lifted the handle on the driver's side door and slid into the 1's mildly bolstered black leather throne. The quarters inside are hardly cramped, but this is coming from a blogger who is 5' 10" and just over 140 pounds. We'd guess that a few super-sized frames might find the 1-series to be a little cramped, and may be better suited upgrading to the marque's (former) entry-level offerings.
Regardless, once you've gotten the seat adjusted to your liking, everything important falls to hand immediately. The steering wheel is suitably chunky and the six-speed shifter is easily at the ready with only a few inches of travel from the 3-o'clock position. The gas and brake are perfectly placed for some pre-corner heel-and-toe action. The gauges should be an easy read, as will the iDrive display that pivots back from the middle of the dash to reveal a right-sized screen. Climate controls are easily accessed and the passenger side co-pilots should be in good shape after a long journey. Those unfortunate enough to get stuck in the back seat are another matter. We've seen worse, but we've also seen better – make sure that if you're taking friends along for a trip, it's just to pick up some groceries or for a quick dynamic sample of the turbo'd three-liter mill. The aforementioned groceries shouldn't be a tight squeeze in the trunk, as it looks to provide ample room for a few pieces of luggage or maybe even a couple of tires and wheels for a track-day excursion.
Until we get behind the wheel of either the 128i or 135i, there's not much more we can report. But if there's any manufacturer that can do the FR layout, it's BMW. And judging by what we've seen so far, the 1-series could be the driver's delight of the decade.