2009 128 New Car Test Drive
When it arrived here in mid-2008, the BMW 1 Series signaled the Bavarian automaker's serious intent to deliver BMW-grade driving excitement in a smaller, less costly package. As if to show just how serious, initially only one model was available: the high-performance BMW 135i Coupe, with 300 twin-turbocharged horsepower.
For 2009 BMW has expanded the series, adding the BMW 128i, with 230 horsepower and nearly all of the same amenities, for $6450 less. Better still, you can now buy beautifully made, high-quality convertible-top versions of both models.
The 1 Series is almost seven inches shorter overall than the next car up in the BMW line, the popular 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 is meant to be a serious, sporty competitor to all the front-wheel-drive Japanese, Korean, and domestic cars in the entry luxury coupe class. BMW brings its highly developed rear-wheel-drive platform to the fight.
In many ways, the 1 Series is nothing more or less than a scaled-down coupe version of the 3 Series two-door coupe, with similar looks, similar equipment and similar performance and handling because it uses many of the same components and systems, including the big twin-turbocharged engine that was introduced last year in the 335i, so the 135i is a smaller, lighter package with the same engine for about $6300 less starting money.
For 2009, the BMW 1 Series lineup has expanded to four models: the 230-horsepower 128i and the 300-horsepower 135i, each available as a coupe or a convertible. All are powered by 3.0-liter inline-6 engines driving the rear wheels through a standard six-speed manual or optional ($1,325) six-speed automatic transmission.
The BMW 128i Coupe ($29,400) comes with automatic climate control; premium AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input jack; a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel; leatherette upholstery; cruise control; power glass sunroof; high-gloss black interior trim; rain-sensing automatic headlights; fog lights; and 205/55HR16 all-season tires on 16-inch alloy wheels.
The BMW 135i Coupe ($35,850) adds, in addition to its twin-turbocharged engine, a firmer sport suspension and high-performance brakes; xenon headlights with adaptive light control; retractable headlight washers; Gray Poplar wood interior trim; and 215/40YR18 front tires leading 245/35YR18 rears, both of course on 18-inch alloy rims.
The BMW 128i Convertible ($34,000) and 135i Convertible ($40,150) are equipped similarly to their coupe counterparts, except that the 135i soft top rolls on less radical 205/50HR17 rubber front and rear. Both come with a fully automatic fabric folding top.
A Sport Package ($1,300) for the 128i models includes sport suspension, sport seats, M-style steering wheel, Shadowline trim, and wider tires on 17-inch rims. You can also add the seats, steering wheel, and trim to the 135i ($1,100), which already comes with the sport suspension and 18-inch wheels.
Options include leather upholstery ($1,450), heated front seats ($500), rear park distance control ($350), navigation ($2,100), BMW Assist ($750), Sirius satellite radio ($595), HD radio ($350), iPod/USB adapter ($400), Smartphone integration ($150), and xenon headlights ($900). Wood trim is available on the 128i ($500) and can be omitted from the 135i (for no charge). The 135i Coupe and Convertible offer variable-ratio Active Steering ($1,550) and, new for 2009, a heated steering wheel ($150). Both convertibles offer a rear-seat ski bag that loads through the trunk ($175). Various Cold Weather packages ($600-900) bundle some of the above-listed equipment, while Premium Packages ($3,400-3,700) combine leather upholstery with power memory seats and other amenities.
Safety features that come standard on the 1 Series include frontal airbags, seat-mounted 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. A tire-pressure monitor is standard. The 135i comes with run-flat tires.