So, is this the 1 that I want?
You betcha. When it arrives at the end of November, the 1-series Coupe - re-engineered from the ground up, powered a twin turbo engines and packing plenty of energy-saving technology – will install itself at the top of the 1-series tree. Initially here will be three models, the 120d, 124d and the range-topping 135i, available in BMW’s two familiar spec levels, SE and M Sport. Prices kick off at around £22,500 for the 12d Coupe in SE trim – about a grand more than the five-door model, rising up to around £26,000 for the 123d and onto a £32,000 for the M Sport-only 135i. BMW’s gawky 1-series has racked up 390,000 sales since it’s launch three years ago, and now that the Coupe will also be sold in America, BMW is hoping to boost that figure to over half a million, helped by the upcoming convertible version which arrives in the autumn. The 135i Coupe will be an answered prayer for many buyers blanching at the thought of handing over £50,000 for the new M3. At £33,000 is not cheap for a small coupe, but there’s arguably little else out there that delivers that kind of performance, dynamism and feel-good factor.
It’s an odd-looking creature, isn’t it…
The 135i Coupe may not be the best looking car – Bangle’s oddly incongruous mix of curve and line still takes some squinting to grow accustomed to – but there's something fabulously desireable about its compact, squat stance. It's a striking bit of metal, hunkered down on big chunky 18inch Motorsport alloys with its standard body kit. BMW rather coyly call this a 2+2 rather than a full four seater. In truth, rear passenger accommodation is not that tight – it’s ideal for parents with young children, but swallowing four six-footers calls for some serious acts of contortionism. But forget the still-not-sure looks and check out the engine bay. Squeezed into the 135i’s nose is BMW’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight engine, the company’s most powerful six-cylinder engine on offer. It’s the same engine that’s installed in the 3-series and earlier this year picked up a gong for best engine of the year. In the 1-series line-up, it will be exclusive to the coupe.
So it’ll be a mover, then...
The direct injection 135i promises to be blindingly quick with 306bhp at 5800rpm and 295lb ft of torque that arrives at 1300rpm and doesn't taper off until 5000rpm. It will rocket to 60mph in 5.3seconds, needs electronic minders to limit it 155mph and like the 335i, is expected to deliver fiercesome mid-range acceleration. Economy will hover around 30.7mpg and it has a CO2 rating of 220g/km. It also promises to be a scalpel sharp drive. Dr Dieter Konik, head of vehicle dynamics on the 135i project completely overhauled the 135i to put the driver first. “We achieved a perfect fifty-fifty weight distribution by having a heavier rear end and using lighter metals up front,” he told CAR. “We also introduced new spring and dampers, redesigned the front anti-roll bar for sharper turn-in and widened the rear track by 20mm. And we worked hard on the electric steering to heighten feel and response, improved the brakes and recalibrated the traction and stability controls, so the driver can have a lot more …” he opposite locks an imaginary steering wheel “… fun.” Both 135i and 123d get a version of BMW Motorsport’s electronically controlled limited slip diff.
What’s this 123d? Sounds like a car you’d find on Sesame Street.
Don’t snigger. While the twin-turbo straight six will get the knickers of most Beemer fans in a twist, the clever money will go on BMW’s new 123d. This new 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel with variable geometry technology develops 204bhp at a high-revving 4400rpm and a huge 295lb ft at 2000rpm. That’s the same amount of torque as the 335i. Like BMW’s six-cylinder biturbo diesel, the biturbo diesel fourpot uses a smaller more responsive blower at low engine revs and a larger more powerful charger for higher revs. The result is a run to 60mph in seven seconds dead and a 148mph max speed, while still returning 54mpg on the combined cycle and posting a meagre CO2 rating of 138g/km. The engine range is rounded up by the familiar 2.0-litre 177bhp/258lb ft turbo diesel already found in the three and five door 1-series. In the 120d, it returns 58.8mpgand 128g/km, touches 60mph in 7.6seconds and maxes out at 141mph. Both diesel get particulate filters as standard, and there’s a choice of six-speed manuals or automatics for all three engines - on the 120d from the start and on the twin turbo engines later on in the year.
Anything else I need to know?
Yes. The 1-series coupe will also be the first model in the BMS family to tick every box in its Efficient Dynamics. So –deep breath – you get energy-saving powered steering, water pump and climate control that work on demand, auto-stop start on the manual transmission versions and regenerative braking that decouples the alternator under power but recharged the battery when braking or slowing. BMW’s thinking on this is clear – better to have a smaller incremental savings on a vast number of cars than just one or two ultra-economical but slow-selling cars with limited outright appeal. The 135i will be a very tasty car, but that’s as tasty as it will get. BMW has categorically ruled out a hotter Motorsport version, probably because it would pose a badging problem (the M1 holds a very special place in Munich’s heart) and it would also step on the toes of the M3.