BMW already offers more different size and shapes of cars and SUVs than at any time in its history, and the North American debut of the 2008 BMW 1 Series signals another attempt to provide the sporty-minded buyer on a budget a car that he or she will really enjoy driving.
For its U.S. debut, BMW is adding a two-door coupe to the lineup, which will arrive at BMW dealerships in the first quarter of 2008, and a two-door convertible, which is expected to arrive just in time for summer weather. (The BMW 1 Series has been available in Europe and other markets for more than a year in three-door hatchback and five-door hatchback body styles.)
The 1 Series is currently offered with two diesel and three gasoline engines in most markets, but initially the U.S. will get only the full-dress, high-performance coupe, the BMW 135i, which offers more than 300 horsepower. This will be followed later on by a slightly less frenetic BMW 128i with a 230-hp inline-6 engine and nearly all of the same amenities as the 135i will have, for about $5000 less.
The 1 Series is about seven inches shorter overall than the next car up in the lineup, the popular 3 Series. The 1 Series wheelbase is four inches shorter than that of the 3 Series, and it's slightly 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 $4000 less starting money, said to be starting around $35,000.
The 1 Series convertibles will feature soft tops expected to be of the level of quality of the previous-generation 3 Series, which is to say top quality with three-layer sound insulation.
Initially, the BMW 1 Series lineup is limited to the 135i coupe, but it will soon be followed by a less-expensive, lower-performing 128i coupe. Both the BMW 128i and BMW 135i will be offered in convertible versions, but these will not be available initially.
The BMW 135i comes with a high-performance 3.0-liter inline-6 with twin turbochargers, with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission with conventional floor shifter and wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
An AM/FM/CD changer will be standard. An AUX input for MP3 and iPod players will be standard, with a USB port a likely option.
Options include bi-xenon headlamps, cornering lamps, premium sound systems, a demountable rear rack, and a choice of three interior and upholstery schemes, cloth, leather and cloth, and leather.
Safety features that come standard on the 135i include six air bags, ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, cornering brake control, and launch control for getting started on slippery surfaces. The 135i comes with run-flat high-performance tires. The brake lights include a panic-braking mode that lights up the entire lens extra bright whenever the brake pedal is stomped hard.