Sporty BMWs and aftermarket add-ons go hand-in-hand. Some AC Schnitzer aluminium pedals for your M3, perhaps? A set of Hartge rims? Maybe even a Dinan supercharger kit? Now BMW has decided to tap this lucrative niche, offering the BMW Performance line of exterior and interior accessories for the 1- and 3-series. Here we drive the firm’s fully loaded 135i demo.
Looks tasty. How much?
The basic 135i lists at £29,610, but the options on our car take that to just over £47k. Not all of that is accounted for by the Performance range, however. There’s Boston leather (£970), folding mirrors (£165), sat-nav (£1930), Xenons (£620) and more.
The remaining £11.5k goes to BMW Performance – and doesn’t include fitting or painting. But before we get too indignant about the price, remember that this very special 135i is still £3.5k cheaper than an entirely naked M3, and that the whole point is to showcase the kit you’ll mix and match in line with your tastes and budget. Saying that, I do want it all.
Okay then, break it down
Eighteen-inch 313 alloys (£2553), aluminium pedals (£53), uprated brakes (£1145), black kidney grilles (£57), rear carbon diffuser (£745), new front bumper (£630), carbon splitters (£310), handbrake grip and gaiter (£65), carbon mirror caps (£350), rear spoiler (£225), sideskirts (£215), sports suspension (£810), exhaust silencer (£550), short-shift kit (£220), sports seats (£2900), and – phew! – sports steering wheel (£675).
None of the mods are without merit, but the seats were excellent – proper race-like Recaros that combine comfort, safety (they retained side airbags) and adjustability with the business of holding torsos tight through bends.
Also tempting is the steering wheel. It’s clearly based on a regular BMW three-spoker, but adds tactile suede at the all-important quarter-to-three position, plus digital shift-light indicators and a lap-timer display – seriously useful if you do the odd track day.
Lastly, the short-shift kit made a huge difference for quite a small price, the gear level feeling pleasingly stubby and improving the directness of the shift too – it reminded us why it’s still nice to shift manually, however good dual-clutch gearboxes are.
What happens to your standard seats, steering wheel, bumper etc?
Therein lies the rub. There’s no buy-back scheme and a 135i comes only in M Sport guise, so it’s already got alloys, sports suspension, nicer seats – even if they’re not as nice as the Performance stuff. That leaves you with a pile of new stuff to store or flog cut-price.
It perhaps makes more sense for lower-spec or secondhand models, but the Performance range needs to be better integrated into new car purchases – after all, if you spec alloys you don’t usually pay for a set of 16-inch steels too.
It isn’t all bad news, though – your factory warranty is unaffected.
How does it drive?
We drove the 135i on track, back-to-back with an M3 and it was highly impressive. The twin-turbo engine had a muscular, linear punch; the steering was accurate, light and feelsome; the handling was impressively stable while also feeling nimble and chuckable; the brakes were strong.
The 135i didn’t, however, turn in quite as sharply as the M3, and the electronic rear diff didn’t deploy the power on corner exit with quite the same finesse, and the soundtrack wasn’t quite as raucous. On the road, though, you’ll surely only notice the punchy power and the nimble litheness of this excellent chassis.
Anyone who’s ever modified a car will know how careful you have to be. You might deal with disreputable companies (though Schnitzer, Hartge and Dinan all have good reps), have warranty issues (both the parts themselves and the effect mods have on car warranties), or suddenly be faced with knock-on effects that you failed to consider (losing the airbag with an aftermarket steering wheel or lowered suspension causing tyres to rub in arches).
BMW Performance removes these elements of doubt, meaning you can personalise your car with full manufacturer support. It’s expensive, yes, but it’s very well made, well thought out kit. Showcased on the 135i, it’s a very tempting proposition indeed, even if the lack of a buy-back scheme for the (possibly brand new!) parts you’re junking leaves a sour taste.