Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

Just like a kid writing a 10th-grade term paper, the 2009 BMW 750i is just begging to mention the guy who said, "The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal." In other words, one man's Thomas Jefferson is another's Guy Fawkes.

After being flamed with criticisms of its Bangle-butt styling and infernal iDrive controller, the last-generation BMW 7 Series seemed to be a shoo-in for criminal indictment. When this model was introduced back in 2002, car enthusiasts gathered with pitchforks in hand, carrying effigies of BMW chief designer Chris Bangle and yammering about an honored automotive brand being besmirched by styling blasphemy and misguided technological wizardry.

And yet the E65 has sold better than any of the three previous generations of the 7 Series, while both its controversial rear-end styling and iDrive control interface sprouted in copycat form all over the automotive landscape. Whatever you might say, the 2002-'08 BMW 7 Series has been undeniably successful — a revolutionary, not a criminal.

But like Thomas Jefferson, revolutionaries must move on and mellow through time. The all-new 2009 BMW 750i does just that, presenting a more enlightened approach to the full-size luxury flagship. The 2009 7 Series is quite simply one of the finest automobiles made today — no pitchforks needed.

Good-Bye, Bangle Butt; Hello, Habib Nose
The 2002 BMW 7 Series will be remembered for its Bangle butt — the curiously shelflike trunk lid and down-turned rear corners from Chris Bangle's design team that helped disguise the car's dramatic increase in overall height compared to the previous generation and the high, turbulence-reducing trunk that was required. Meanwhile, the 2009 BMW 750i will go down for its Habib nose, the enormous, vertical, kidney-shape grilles on the front of the new car that come from the 7 Series design team led by Karim Habib, a response to new European standards of safety for pedestrian impacts. It's an imposing new face for BMW's flagship, yet it seems appropriate. It's the most controversial element on a car that is otherwise tasteful, yet visually interesting, paying just enough attention to classic BMW cues as it establishes new ones.

It all adorns a body incredibly similar in size to the car it replaces, as if the engineering furniture has been only slightly rearranged. Compared to the E65, the F01 7 Series has an additional inch of length, the same exact width, 0.3 inch less height and a 3.0-inch shorter wheelbase. Though the structure is lighter (and 20 percent more rigid), than before, this 4,599-pound car is 113 pounds heavier than the last 750i we tested. The result, in any case, is a big sedan replaced by a big sedan.

Only the lankiest of long-legged drivers will impinge upon the legs of the rear-seat occupants, who occupy a supremely comfortable backseat virtually identical in size to its predecessor. If space should indeed be an issue, the 750Li adds 5.5 inches of wheelbase for a limolike backseat. By comparison, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class falls in between these two body styles of the new 7 Series.

Smaller Is Bigger
The deck lid might read 750i, but under the hood resides a 4,395cc V8 with a pair of turbos sandwiched in between cylinder banks that hums to the tune of 400 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 450 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm. That's more torque than pumped out by the former V12 (an engine that hasn't been ruled out for eventual application in this new car, by the way), yet it's delivered in a remarkably no-fuss manner that's very like a V12.

Almost like a supercharged Jaguar V8, the 2009 BMW 750i's twin-turbo V8 whisks you up on a quiet wave of thrust best described as civilized hooliganism. There's no chest-thumping roar, no wild exhaust histrionics, no hint of the turbos spinning away under the sculpted hood. Instead, the 750i quietly pins you into its double-articulated seatback on its way to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds (or 4.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip). That's about a second quicker than the S550 and old 750i, and just as quick as the S63 AMG that costs $37,000 more. Oh, and this engine also orchestrates a spectacular burnout.

Should you unfortunately have to stop, the new 7 Series comes to a halt from 60 mph in 112 feet with no drama, no fade and a consistent pedal every time.

More Choices Than Cheesecake Factory
How that effortless wave of thrust is called upon depends on the Driving Dynamics Control, the most elaborate, driver-adjustable tool for chassis setup that you've ever seen. Throttle sensitivity, transmission shift characteristics, steering effort, suspension damping and stability control are adjustable via settings for Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. Adjustment of throttle action makes the biggest difference in the way the car behaves; the adjustment of suspension makes the smallest difference, as it's always supple.

DDC sounds complicated, but it allows the 2009 BMW 750i to better appeal to a greater number of drivers. In fact, you can break down Sport mode into chassis-only (steering and suspension) or drivetrain-only (throttle and six-speed automatic transmission), although we wished each DDC aspect could be individually selectable for an even more personalized driving cocktail. That's just nitpicking, though, as is the fact that the car defaults back to Normal or Comfort at startup in order to promote fuel-efficiency.

While only enthusiasts usually opt for a Sport package on a BMW, the example we found on our 750i test car is a must for anyone. Its rear-wheel steering (Integral Active Steering) allows this long luxury sedan to whip itself around hairpins or U-turn into tighter parking spaces better than much smaller cars. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn opposite the fronts for improved maneuverability, while they turn in the same direction at highway speeds for better stability. All the rage among Japanese GT cars of the early 1990s, four-wheel steering might finally be ready for prime time.

At the track, the 2009 BMW 750i and its engineering bag of tricks managed to snake through the slalom at a truly remarkable 66 mph — 3 mph faster than the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. It circled the skid pad at 0.84g, displaying impressive balance and communication. Quite simply, a car this big should not be cornering like this. While the 7 Series has always felt at speed as if it had shrunk to a smaller, more agile size around you, this fifth-generation car with the Sport package feels like it was thrown into a hot dryer. The big car's steering isn't as tactile as that of a 5 Series, but as a sport limo, it's hard to fault its effort or feel in Sport mode. Comfort is a different matter, though, as it delivers too much play on-center.

Stop the Presses. We Like iDrive
For the past decade, the word "iDrive" has been greeted with the same sort of response usually reserved for "Detroit vacation." No more.

While the original knob-and-screen interface was indeed revolutionary for its solution to an overload of dash buttons, it was terribly flawed. The latest edition borrows innovations since introduced by competitors and also builds upon the iDrive fixes BMW has added over the years. Buttons have been installed around the controller for quicker access to frequently used functions, and we found them to be more intuitive to use than Audi's similar MMI layout. The iDrive screen itself is more attractively integrated into the dash and features more logically arranged menus. Graphics are also nicer, especially the navigation system map, which now features a bird's-eye topographical perspective.

One of iDrive's biggest problems was that too many functions were put under its fussy jurisdiction. Now liberated are eight preset buttons on the center stack, separate climate controls (now with a BMW-first dual-zone sync function) and a toggle button on the steering wheel for selecting radio stations.

A Metaphorical Statesman Fit for Literal Statesman
The rest of the big BMW's cabin is an exquisite blend of highest-quality luxury materials and eye-catching design. A leatherlike material covers the dash and door tops, with stitching that adds a handmade touch. The glossy wood trim is classy and gracefully wraps itself around the cabin.

The standard "Comfort" seats are just as advertised, with heating, cooling and an almost absurd range of adjustability that includes side bolsters and lumbar support. Whether slicing through a canyon road or escaping to Vegas for the weekend, the driver seat will cosset its occupant's butt like few others. In fact, it comes with a butt massage feature that alternates pressure between each cheek. (We're all for an intimacy between car and driver, but this is probably going a tad too far.)

A $90,000 Bargain
Most of us who drove the 2009 BMW 750i came away thinking we'd driven an even more expensive car. Upon hearing our tester rang in at "only" $89,870, the 7 Series started to seem like a bargain given its eye-popping performance, car-shrinking handling and a cabin that beautifully blends technology and luxury. It rates with the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG at a price tag less than a Mercedes S550.

While the last 7 Series certainly impressed, its visually challenging styling and exasperating interior functionality made it difficult to desire. The all-new 750i, on the other hand, is well on its way to making a place for itself among our favorite cars. What was once a ragged revolutionary is now an honored statesman.


Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

Blu-ray DVDs. Plasma flat-screen displays. Michael Jackson's face.

Like most of the world, we at Inside Line feel that technology, in and of itself, is neither good nor evil. Instead, we must look to the application of said technology to discern where it lands on the benevolence-malevolence spectrum. The technological pedigree of BMW's 2006 M6 is as vast and impressive as any vehicle currently on the market. And after a thorough road test, we have a solid understanding of where the M6 offers cutting-edge driving dynamics — and where it feels like a rhinoplasty gone bad.

Revised from rubber to roof
Starting with its carbon-fiber roof and ending at the 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in sticky Continental Z-rated rubber, BMW's Motorsport Division has performed a top-to-bottom revamp of the 6 Series coupe in creating the M6. At just over 3,900 pounds, the M6 is not exactly a featherweight contender, but that carbon-fiber roof both enhances the coupe's appearance and lowers its center of gravity. Powered by a 500-horsepower V10 and hooked to a seven-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) transmission, this nearly 2 tons of Munich machinations can sprint to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and blast through the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds at 117.4 mph. Coincidentally, 12.8 was also the mpg we averaged during the course of the M6's road test.

High-performance engine, high-maintenance tranny
As with the high-grade plastic roof, the M6's 5.0-liter aluminum V10 engine could serve as the centerpiece in a Wired magazine article on the future of automotive technology. Designed as a high-revving homage to BMW's own F1 engine design, its maximum horsepower is achieved at an ear-pleasing 7,750 rpm (redline occurs at 8,250 rpm). Another common characteristic associated with high-rpm engine designs (à la Honda's S2000) is a maximum torque figure that is markedly lower than the maximum horsepower figure. With 383 pound-feet available at 6,100 rpm, this V10 doesn't pull like the one found in the Dodge Viper. However, advanced features like Double VANOS variable valve technology, a 12:1 compression ratio and 10 individual throttle bodies (one for each cylinder) give the V10 an addictive combination of smooth and flexible power delivery — despite its high-revving nature.

Complementing the V10's broad power band is the same seven-speed SMG transmission found in BMW's M5 sedan. But where the V10 is an unmitigated success in using modern technology to enhance the driving experience, SMG is…well, mitigated. It's another bit of F1 technology passed down from BMW's race team, and it offers the usual promise of rapid-fire, rev-matched downshifts, crisp upshifts and even a computer-modulated "Launch Control" mode that can maximize throttle and clutch activity for near flawless acceleration runs. All of these features occur with the SMG in "Sequential" (or fully manual) mode, and it's under these circumstances that cutting-edge technology is the driver's friend.

But the SMG also holds out the promise of "Automated" shifting, meaning fully automatic gear swaps with no driver interaction required. Technically the promise is fulfilled, as selecting "D" does free the driver from using either the steering wheel paddles or the shifter to initiate gearchanges. Yet the reality is closer to Michael Jackson's nose — it works, but nobody likes it. Beyond the obligatory head toss that all of these systems cause (Audi's DSG being the sole exception), we were often disappointed by the SMG's indecisive nature when rolling into the throttle at low to medium speeds.

In one specific case we were trying to turn across oncoming traffic. When our opening came, we stomped on the throttle only to have several panic-stricken moments of nothingness occur before SMG finally picked a gear and sent power to the rear wheels. One might question the use of "Automated" mode when trying to cross a busy street, but if the automatic mode can't be depended upon in heavy traffic, what's the point? Several additional functions, like "Start-Off Assist" to keep the car from rolling back on inclines and "Overspeed protection" to prohibit gear choices that would damage the engine, are welcome features. But most editors would have gladly traded them all for an old-fashioned clutch pedal. Thankfully, BMW will offer a traditional manual transmission on both the M5 and the M6 by fall of '06.

A car that begs to have its buttons pushed
After several SMG misfires the crotchety old man in us was almost ready to trade in the M6's keys for a Matlock season-three DVD boxed set. But then we started playing with the MDrive system. This is a menu within the iDrive system that allows the driver to pick from the three engine power settings, 11 SMG tranny settings, three suspension settings and three dynamic stability control settings. Because not every setting is available with every other setting, the total number of driving mode combinations comes out to 279. The MDrive menu can also be used to configure the M head-up display, creating a virtual tachometer and gear indicator at the base of the windshield. If it all sounds like too much to keep track of, just remember that, once you configure the "M" button on the steering wheel, you can put the M6 into your preferred driving mode by simply hitting said button.

The default power setting for the engine is "P400" and, as you might guess, it supplies 400 peak horsepower. You can also pick "P500" by pressing a center console button to access all 500 hp the V10 is capable of producing. However, if you want maximum horsepower and maximum throttle response, then you want "P500 Sport" — a setting you can only access using the MDrive menu and the M button on the steering wheel.

As for the suspension and stability control settings, these are also adjustable via buttons on the center console. We were particularly impressed by the M6's Electronic Damping Control because, unlike so many "adjustable suspension" vehicles we've driven, the M6's ride and handling characteristics really do change at the push of a button. The "Comfort" setting is indeed comfortable for everyday driving without feeling overly flaccid, and the "Normal" setting is well suited to attacking canyon roads or cloverleaf entrance ramps. We tried the "Sport" setting and felt it was generally too stiff for public road use. In this mode, midcorner bumps would actually upset the car's balance, and we found ourselves switching back to "Normal" mode on all but the smoothest pavement. But for track purposes — or instrumented testing on our slalom course — "Sport" proved ideal, and allowed the 3,900-pound M6 to slither through the cones at 67.1 mph.

Braking maneuvers are similarly well managed by ventilated and cross-drilled rotors, sized 14.7 inches in front and 14.6 inches in back. Yet more high-tech features come in the form of "Brake Standby," a system that senses rapid throttle lift and immediately snugs the brake pads up against the rotors in anticipation of emergency braking. A similar function, dubbed "Brake Drying," brings the pads in contact with the rotors on a periodic basis whenever the windshield wipers' rain sensor is activated. This keeps the pads dry and ensures maximum braking, even during inclement weather. If all that is too much to take in, just remember that our 60-0 brake testing showed no sign of fade after five panic stops, and it had the M6 halting in a confident 111 feet.

Luxury remains a primary ingredient
Beyond its undeniable performance capabilities, BMW imbues the M6 with a palatial cabin featuring a multitude of luxury items. Our test car was outfitted with the optional "Full Leather" package that lays down supple Merino leather on everything that isn't already wood or metal. The 10-way, power-adjustable seats remain comfortable after several hours and hundreds of miles behind the wheel and the high-quality switchgear lives up to the six-figure price of entry. The technology theme continues inside with standard DVD navigation, voice command, a 13-speaker Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system and a built-in Bluetooth cell phone interface.

It's certainly true that, from an advanced circuitry standpoint, the M6 is on the bleeding edge.

Now call us when there's a third pedal in the driver footwell.


Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

Push the start button on the 2006 BMW M5 and there's a slight delay before the engine fires as if to hint at the complexity you're about to set in motion with your finger. And when all 10 cylinders burble to life they give new meaning to the words "performance sedan."

The engine, 5.0 liters of smooth-idling perfection, is capable of more than 8,000 rpm. It typifies the harmony at work in the M5: At idle its creamy smoothness belies its full capability. Like the rest of the car, it is what you want when you want it: relaxed and composed one minute, intense and aggressive the next. It is…balanced.

So throw out your preconceptions. Ignore logic. Forget what you think you know. Then engage the MDrive button and mash the throttle and the M5 will readjust your automotive sensibilities.

Drive it
MDrive, as BMW calls it, changes the M5's character however its driver chooses. It can, at the push of a button, transform the car instantly from a comfortable and quick luxury sedan to a brilliantly balanced, insanely fast road weapon. Technically, you could set everything to change very little, if at all, but when used properly, it increases the M's power output from 400 to 500 horsepower, swaps its throttle response, shift speed and suspension damping to more aggressive settings and disables stability control. Think of MDrive as the M5's Jekyll and Hyde button.

Bump the M button, nudge the paddle, breathe the throttle and we're under way. All at once this is a different sedan from the one we parked last night. Last night it was comfortable, not soft but comfortable, shifted slowly (too slowly), and made some pretty good yank when we stepped on it. It was a banker's car. Or a doctor's car. Dr. Jekyll, perhaps.

Now it's different. Now it's sharp-edged and angry. Delay and hesitation are gone. Every action is met with a deliberate reaction. Throttle jabs in the first two gears will send you to the chiropractor. Expansion joints become speed bumps. Full throttle upshifts — even in a straight line — require countersteer correction. It is immediate. It demands respect. It is Mr. Hyde after a swirly and sugar buzz.

This personality engages serious drivers in ways others in its class never could. This is a car that takes braking, turning, accelerating and hauling passengers seriously.

An engine for the history books
From outside the car, the 5.0-liter V10's sound at idle is tinny and not at all pleasant. The harshness is the reverberation of high-energy exhaust pulses inside the long, stainless-steel manifolds. It's an ugly, abrasive sound uncommon in the world of production engines, where exhaust energy is almost always muffled by cast iron. It's also the sound of BMW's undiluted focus on performance.

Rated at 500 hp at 7,750 rpm and 383 pound-feet of torque at 6,100 rpm, the aluminum engine has a unique power delivery and its combination of sound and thrust are entirely out of place in a sedan. There's no surge of torque when the throttles are opened like in any of the current sports car engines making similar power. Rather, there's a linear wave of thrust that crescendos with an intake shriek which sounds genuinely pissed at its 8,250-rpm redline.

Much of the sound comes from the 10 individual throttle bodies swallowing air through the large plastic intake plenums that cover both banks of cylinders. But the throttles are only the beginning of the technology at work here. There's also VANOS variable valve timing infinitely adjusting the opening and closing of the four lightweight valves at each cylinder.

Other exotica? How about the 12.0:1 compression ratio, hollow camshafts and those ugly-sounding 22-inch exhaust headers. This is an expensive engine. But it makes power and stirs the soul in direct proportion to its cost.

SMG: Round three
A new seven-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox is assigned the duty of transmitting the V10's power to the tarmac and BMW tells us a six-speed manual transmission will be available in the fall of this year. The new SMG, unlike it predecessors, is the first BMW gearbox designed exclusively to operate as such. Designing it from the ground up as an SMG made it stronger and quicker-shifting than previous versions.

Drivers select from two operating modes: sequential or automatic. In sequential mode, gears are selected manually using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles or the shift lever. There are six programs to modify shift speed and clutch engagement in sequential mode. During downshifts in this mode, revs are matched to the selected gear. Requests for a downshift which would overrev the engine are ignored.

Automatic mode, from a user standpoint, is very similar to an automatic transmission in which shifts are made for you. Five shift programs are available in automatic mode and they're all quite slow.

In action it's a blessing and a curse. On its most aggressive setting it lacks subtlety to the point of feeling abusive. Full-throttle upshifts begin with a microscopic pause followed by a violent thud as torque reloads the drivetrain. They're loud, ugly and fast as hell, so be sure you mean it if you're going to do it.

Downshifts, when they're executed as requested, are heavenly. Rev matching is as computer precise as expected. But more often than not when driving hard, they're ignored. Timing downshifts to the predicted rate of deceleration is still not a task suited for street-car technology. We often had to work the downshift paddle two or three times before we got the desired gear.

A chassis dressed to thrill
Visually the M5 stands out from other 5 Series models with double-spoke 19-inch wheels, quad exhaust tips, quarter-panel vents and several minor body changes including a small trunk lid spoiler. It's a subtle freshening that will only be noticed by those keen enough to know it's an M car.

Underneath the M5's skin is a capable all-aluminum suspension design that's up to the task of harnessing this kind of power and weight (4,012 pounds). Conventional MacPherson struts up front and single lower control arms with two upper lateral links at each side make up the rear suspension.

Damping is electronically adjustable in one of three modes: "Comfort," "Normal" or "Sport" via BMW's Electronic Damping Control, which continues to adjust damping to suit road conditions within each mode. The ride, even in Comfort mode, is exceptionally well controlled. The Normal setting provides an aggressive ride and Sport is stiff enough to only be useful on a glass-smooth racetrack.

The M5's steering ratio is variable and quickens as the wheel is turned off center. Steering assist is also variable between two levels which are linked to the car's electronic damping modes. In Comfort mode more steering assist is available than in Normal or Sport modes. Steering feel is typical BMW, with sharp off-center response and a just-right soft spot on center so as not to feel nervous when cruising. It's an appropriate balance for a car like this.

Naturally, BMW's most advanced braking system graces the M5. Behind the 19-inch wheels are huge 14.7-inch front and 14.6-inch rear two-piece rotors bringing the big sedan to a stop. Surprisingly, there are no four-piston calipers hiding in the front wheels. Instead, BMW chose a far less sexy dual-piston sliding-caliper design.

Power is sent to the Continental SportContact2 tires through BMW's M Variable Differential Lock limited-slip rear differential. Torque is distributed evenly between the rear wheels when viscous fluid in the clutch-type differential is sheared by a difference in wheel speed. In action, it's a quick-reacting, natural-feeling torque distribution that spreads rubber on pavement like butter on toast.

Control room
Overall, with its combination of leather, satin aluminum or wood trim and iDrive, the M5's interior is a distinctly Bavarian balance of form and function. Because iDrive controls navigation, climate, stereo and communication settings, the dashboard is relatively uncluttered. Switches on the center console control engine output, suspension modes and all 11 SMG calibrations.

The optional 18-way adjustable heated seats in our test car were equipped with active backrest bolsters which move inward to brace the driver or passenger against cornering loads. They are a gimmicky feature that can distract at critical moments. Luckily they can be switched off. We'd make due with the standard heated seats which are only 16-way adjustable.

The thick-rimmed leather steering wheel is stitched with red and blue and serves as the perfect frame for the easy-to-read 200-mph speedometer and 9,000-rpm tachometer. There's also a head-up display which projects engine speed and gear selection into the lower portion of the windshield, but we could never find it at a glance.

How's it stack up?
This is a very different car from the Cadillac STS-V or Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, its only obvious competitors. Both of those cars are powered by grunty, supercharged V8 engines that, when compared to the M5's high-revving V10, feel like they belong in a tractor. This unique power delivery endows the M5 with more edge and involves its driver more than a lower-revving engine.

The M5 is also faster than the Cadillac and on par with the E55 in virtually any contest of speed. Our test car plowed through the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds at 115 mph — a full half-second quicker than the comparably priced Cadillac. It hit 60 in 4.8 seconds, slightly slower than BMW's claimed time of 4.5 seconds. Our test surface isn't known for its grip, and without the aid of launch control, which isn't available on U.S.-spec M5s, launching the car is a trial-and-error procedure.

Perhaps most impressive was the M5's 69.2-mph slalom speed, which trumps the Cadillac by exactly 4 mph — no small margin in this test. Surprisingly, it generated only 0.86g around the skid pad, a number that doesn't reflect its capability.

Braking distance from 60 mph was outstanding at only 112 feet — 10 feet shorter than the Cadillac. Pedal feel was initially solid and confidence inspiring, but we did notice very slight fade after five back-to-back stops.

Is it for you?
Learning the M5's nuances, the ins and outs of its various systems and its ridiculous number of adjustments, is a serious task. And it comes with a serious price. Our test car totaled $89,090 with options and the mandatory gas-guzzler tax.

The M5 is one hell of an advanced car and it will challenge anyone who approaches driving like a conventional enthusiast. Most of the time it's brilliant and more than capable of meeting its driver's requests for power, grip or comfort. But get lazy — leave the tranny in 7th gear then mash the throttle for a quick pass on a back road — and the SMG's brilliance fades as fast as the oncoming headlights loom. No amount of technology will save you from idiocy in manual mode.

The 2006 BMW M5 isn't just a sedan. And it isn't just a performance car. It's a new breed of machine that defies definition. It's a 500-hp four-door that's equal parts passion, performance and highfalutin utility. Like we said…balanced.


Courtesy of
Edmunds Inside Line

Nearly perfect doesn't come around too often, but the 2008 BMW 535i turns practical science into a kind of art. Maybe we should hold some kind of celebration at the local museum of science and industry.

The practical science sounds easy. Ample room for four or five adults and luggage, enough power to regularly move the people with ease and occasional urgency, a ride that's confident, comfortable and quiet and, naturally, a sharp sense of style.

The thoroughly revised 2008 BMW 5 Series not only hits the target in all these categories, but also revitalizes the whole concept of a sport sedan. And that's the art part of the equation.

This Is a BMW, So Let's Start With Power
What does BMW's new twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 engine do for the 5 Series? This 2008 BMW 535i test car with an automatic transmission effectively equaled the acceleration of a 2006 BMW 550i equipped with a manual transmission. The 535i's 5.5-second acceleration to 60 mph proves a sedan doesn't need the 550i's V8 engine to be quick.

Each new application of BMW's wundermotor leaves us breathless. The ease with which it makes belly-flattening torque translates directly to an ability to deliver an effortless experience when it comes to merging on the highway or passing, not to mention undemanding cruising at super-legal speeds right up to 150 mph, where the electronic limiter calls a halt to the fun.

What's more, our test car recorded 22.5 mpg during our two-week drive. By the way, this is one of the first vehicles we've tested that reflects the new-for-2008 EPA average fuel economy ratings. Our real-world 22.5-mpg average (24.2 mpg best/20.0 mpg worst) over 1,600 miles does, indeed, reflect the 535i's official 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway fuel economy ratings for 2008. See this thorough explanation of the new method for more detail.

What's New?
This midsize BMW sedan has been around since 2004, so both its interior and exterior were due for a worthwhile freshening. A quick glance doesn't reveal the subtle changes, but you'll eventually detect the new front and rear fascia, and both the new headlights and taillights have integrated LED side markers.

Meanwhile, the interior casts aside the cold and faintly cheap industrial look for a new feel of luxury, thanks largely to the way the dash neatly sweeps into the door panels. There's more leather for much the same reason. In addition, the window switches have been moved to the armrests.

When it comes to hardware, the 2008 BMW 5 Series parallels the 3 Series rollout with two new inline-6 engines, including this 535i's overachieving 300-horsepower N54 twin-turbo, which replaces the former 255-hp six in the now-departed 530i. The new, normally aspirated 230-hp N52 engine in the 2008 528i replaces the 215-hp inline-6 in the 525i.

By the way, these engines all displace 3.0 liters, despite the nonsensical badge nomenclature. Both new engines can be mated with rear- or all-wheel drive and in sedan or wagon body styles. The 550i's 360-hp V8 is carried over, and can only be had in the rear-drive sedan.

BMW has also upgraded the transmission choices for the 5 Series to take advantage of the additional power. The quick-shifting Steptronic six-speed automatic transmission is a no-cost option, and it features a new-style shift lever on the central console that was first seen in the recently introduced second-generation X5. An even quicker-shifting version with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles costs an added $500. Meanwhile, the six-speed manual is standard equipment, and widespread dismay about the unfriendly personality of the SMG sequential manual transmission has led to its not-very-mysterious disappearance from the options list.

An optional lane-departure warning system jiggles the steering wheel when you drift out of line, and a new, optional active cruise control functions in true stop-and-go traffic. And slowly iDrive seems to be improving, as this new calibration incorporates six programmable favorites buttons that can be set to access things like destination addresses, phone numbers or radio station presets.

Practical Science Costs Money
The 2008 BMW 535i has a base price of $50,175. For that amount of money, you'd expect a pretty healthy helping of standard items, and you'd be correct. As we've already mentioned, the automatic transmission is a no-cost option, yet even the active bi-xenon headlamps, halogen foglights, rain-sensing wipers, auto dual-zone climate control, power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, moonroof, power seats, dark poplar wood trim and iDrive are all standard as well.

It's also worth mentioning that BMW Assist (utilizing a satellite phone to call for help in an emergency) is included for four years, as is free scheduled maintenance.

We were also treated to the exhaustive $2,100 Premium Package, somewhat useful $750 Cold Weather Package, highly convenient $1,000 Comfort Access Package, scuff-reducing $700 Park Distance sensors (front and rear), slightly obtuse $1,900 Navigation, highly recommended $500 HD radio and $1,200 Logic 7 audio upgrade. That lengthy list of options brought our 535i's as-tested price to $61,125. Woof, but considering the $59,275 base MSRP of a 550i, we can make an argument that there's real value here.

Artful Driving
As with every regular-issue BMW, the 535i deftly walks the tightrope of supple ride versus performance handling. Even while equipped with the reasonably priced Sport Package, our test car delivered a comfortable ride that never deteriorated, even over broken pavement. For $2,800, BMW includes 18-inch wheels shod with high-performance run-flat tires, and a retuned suspension including active antiroll bars. You also get 20-way-adjustable front seats to enhance your ability to command such a fine piece, while satin-chrome exterior trim makes you feel good about this car when you walk up to it in the parking lot.

The midsize 535i is not just an upgraded version of the trendy executive assistant's compact 335i. No, this is the executive express that the boss drives. Although its price is just out of reach for many, the executive can afford a 5 Series, and its price sets him apart as does its performance. This guy is smart enough to know that the 7 Series doesn't do well in a cost-benefit analysis, and he cares less about going fast than about rear-seat accommodations and luxury features. He could afford the $10,000 premium for the 360-hp V8-powered 550i, but it's no faster than the 535i, and yet thirstier. Yes, the 528i is $5,000 less expensive, but one freeway on-ramp shows its 230-hp engine is just adequate motivation.

Yes, the right BMW sedan to possess and enjoy surely is the 535i. Swift, comfortable and frugal, the 535i is the perfect balance between the performance we've come to expect from BMW and a new appreciation for practical science.

Think of the 2008 BMW 535i as a 550i with a big price discount, and take pleasure in one of the world's few nearly perfect sedans.

M3 Coupe

Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

We all knew that BMW would put a V8 into the 2008 BMW M3. The company admitted it some time ago, and why should it not?

Audi and Mercedes-Benz already have bent-8s burbling under the hoods of their M3 competitors, and BMW's new M-car needed at least that to maintain its sterling reputation. The M3, after all, is the car that started all this nonsense about the ultrahigh-performance compact car.

So imagine our surprise to learn that the 2008 BMW M3's chassis has even more speed built into it than the car's 414-horsepower, 4.0-liter V8.

Gen-4 Priorities
BMW has flung its considerable technological might at this fourth-generation M3 to make it stand out among its proliferating rivals. Technology aside, we think the M3 has something extra when compared to the alternatives.

For one thing, the 2008 BMW M3 comes as a coupe or a four-door, and a convertible version is soon to be introduced. Not so the Audi RS4 or Mercedes-Benz C63. But quite apart from this, the M3 has always epitomized BMW's famous chassis tuning expertise and organic control behavior.

These are worth something, as you soon discover when lapping California's famous Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, where BMW turned us loose in the M3 during part of our time with this car. Bernd Limmer, technical director of the M3 project and former chassis engineer for all M vehicles over the last 10 years, says the plan has always been to make the M3's chassis faster than its engine. We think that's a good idea. There's nothing scarier than a killer motor in a dodgy chassis.

And a killer motor it is. This new 4.0-liter V8 pours forth a wave of torque as it spins toward a frenzied power peak at 8,300 rpm, where 414 beer-drinking Bavarian Oberlander horses lay waste to tire rubber with gusto. As we have proven with our own testing, the M3 will lunge to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, and traverse 1,320 feet in 12.7 seconds at 112 mph, which easily makes this the quickest M3 ever. Performance from the V8 at its elevated operating speed is both muscular and exciting, so the overall flexibility of the engine comes as something of a surprise.

Equipped with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, the all-aluminum V8 seems to have ample muscle at low and midrange engine speeds, and the eight separate throttle bodies provide a response from the accelerator seldom seen in car engines. Blip the throttle during a double-clutched downshift and the engine spins up in a snap, uttering an angry bark as it does.

Torque Is Not That Cheap
The torque peak occurs just about halfway through the engine's operating range, with 295 pound-feet at 3,900 rpm, so every gear is a long and strong trip up the tachometer, attended by the intense snarl of a V8 spinning its forged crankshaft at seemingly indecent speeds. This extraordinary aural experience is a vivid accompaniment to the rush of speed and the willing way this new car goes about its business.

Speed is terribly easy to get hooked on, so it's lucky that the chassis is, as Herr Limmer claims, thoroughly sorted. BMW arranged some track time at Laguna Seca, which gave us the opportunity to disable the stability control system without a second thought, so we pressed the button on the center console. (The stability control defaults into engagement again once the ignition is switched off.) With this setup the M3 can be braked hard into turns without any sense of instability. In fact, the chassis is more prone to oversteer under power on the way out of turns, when a judicious dab of throttle will rotate the car to finish the corner. With a little technique, the M3's awesome 0.95g of grip on the skid pad can be translated into spectacular 75-mph speed through the slalom.

There's BMW's so-called variable M differential lock to help both rear wheels make the best use of available traction so none of the valuable torque goes up in smoke instead of propelling the car forward. Also assisting a driver in search of illicit thrills is a light-effort shift mechanism and a trio of pedals arrayed in a way that helps ensure their best use. Control weighting of all of these devices is firm and deliberate, and there's no slop or vagueness about them.

The Occasional Bounce
The M3's combination of a fairly hefty clutch action and taut drivetrain sometimes makes driving smoothly in traffic challenging. It's easy to initiate a jerky driveline shuffle if you're anything but ultra-smooth, and it sometimes snatches so badly you have to dip the clutch and start again. But we should also point out that BMW's engine management calibrations make it possible to walk the car up a driveway smoothly at 5 mph with the clutch fully engaged. So perhaps this occasional shuffle is a matter for the driver to resolve.

BMW has quite rightly chosen not to use super-expensive carbon-ceramic brakes on this car, opting instead for big cross-drilled steel rotors that prove strong and communicative in use. In our tests, the M3 stopped from 60 mph in 100 feet, which is the shortest stopping distance we've ever recorded. At the Laguna Seca track event, BMW's organizers decided to run laps from the pit lane to avoid any straightaway incidents, which meant no cool-down laps for any of the cars. Despite this hard use, we saw very little smoke from the brake pads, and the brake performance of all the cars we drove held up well.

Riding the Range
The M3's optional electronic damper control definitely broadens the car's range of activities by reserving the super-taut damper values for high-speed work. This function — as well as the Sport feature that quickens throttle opening and the variable-effort Servotronic steering assist — can be tailored individually via the beloved iDrive system to a particular driver's preference. This profile can then be engaged by an M button on the steering wheel. At the factory default settings, the car seemed as happy touring down soporific, four-lane California Highway 101 as it did during a full-on assault of the more stimulating California Highway 58.

But however adaptable the M3's chassis might now be, the tires still reveal the car's principal purpose. While the optional 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport radials prove grippy, dependable and readable in all circumstances, they are prone to generating noise. Different pavement textures induce everything from a happy hum on smooth pavement to a penetrating drone across rough surfaces. What did you expect? This is the M3, not a Buick. And trust us, after you've experienced the way this car changes direction at high speed, you'll forgive it a little tire roar.

Tough but Gentle
Besides, the M3 has some creature comforts, and it is anything but a relentlessly hard-edged sport sedan. The seats are supportive and the steering wheel is a thick, softly squeezable leather hoop with thumb pads and satellite stereo controls. There is all the high-end stereo performance and climate-controlled atmosphere anyone could want. When you first get in and take a seat, a telescoping wand delivers the seatbelt like a backseat butler. A navigation system is available, and — as we discovered in the southbound lane of the San Diego Freeway one afternoon — sophisticated enough to detour you around a traffic incident.

You could even argue that the M3 makes a brilliant everyday high-performance coupe (or sedan, if you choose that option). The seating position and all-around visibility are metro-friendly factors, and the very short front overhang makes it much less likely you'll experience noisy and expensive airdam touchdowns in the urban jungle despite the extensive aerodynamic optimization this car has been through. (Even the M3-exclusive exterior mirrors produce downforce, BMW says.)

Nevertheless, the dramatic appearance of the coupe with its carbon-fiber roof, bulging power-dome hood and gaping front-end air intakes sets it well apart from the rest of the 3 Series

One could argue that even the base price of $57,275 for a 2008 BMW M3 coupe is not horrendous considering the car's extraordinary specifications. (The sedan is $3,300 cheaper.) The only thing that might make more sense for a well-heeled enthusiast looking for a one-size-fits-all performance coupe would be an M1, based on the new 1 Series coupes. But they don't make that one yet. family. With 80 percent of the 3 Series components redesigned for this application, BMW claims only the windshield, doors and lights have been carried over. If the engine output of 414 hp seems comparatively tame in this era of proliferating 600-hp cars, the performance of this athletic 3,704-pound coupe is spectacular, and the EPA estimates a reasonable 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway consumption outcome. (We observed 16.2 mpg in our testing.)


Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

The 2007 BMW 3 Series is poised to redefine the sport sedan segment. Again.

This time the secret ingredient is horsepower. The new 335i sedan offers all the road-going poise and confident manner of the outgoing 330i, but adds a generous portion of turbocharged "How do you like me now?"

BMW's assertion of leadership comes at the right time. An ever-growing number of cars use the BMW 3 Series as a benchmark, and "sport sedan" is no longer the exclusive property of the Munich brand. So why try to describe your car's unique yet subtle synchronization of driving dynamics when it's simpler to tell people it's got serious muscle?

Hello, turbocharged engine.

Thoroughbreds, lots of them
To us, BMW-brand horses have always felt more plentiful than their numbers would suggest and the carriages they pull have been more nimble. With the 2006 325i, 215 horses felt like 250, while the 330i's 255 horsepower felt like 275. Part of the reason can be found in the smooth-running character of an inline-6 engine as well as the low-rpm torque it tends to provide.

Be that as it may, the 3.5-liter V6 engines of both the 2007 Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS 350 now make at least 300 hp and each car boasts quicker acceleration times than the 3 Series.

What's more, the gap in handling-related performance between the BMW and its rivals has shrunken. The steering response, tire grip and overall chassis feedback of the 3 Series remains magical, yet our tests of both an IS 350 and a G35 Sport show that their respective chassis engineers have come very close to decoding the BMW algorithms that deliver a supple ride without compromising at-the-limit handling.

Still smooth
Enter the 2007 BMW 335i Sedan. Until we had driven the turbocharged 2007 335i Coupe, we were a little fearful that the turbocharged boost would adversely alter the inline-6's linear power delivery that we love so dearly. But we had nothing to fear.

BMW starts with two low-inertia turbochargers and then utilizes sophisticated direct fuel injection to maximize the benefits of turbocharging while minimizing the liabilities. So this turbocharged engine doesn't feel like a turbo at all. You might even guess that this 300-hp power plant could be a 4.0-liter inline-6 or even a small-displacement V8.

Power and torque are readily available from as low as 1,500 rpm. In fact, the peak torque (300 lb-ft) of the new BMW N54 engine comes on stream at 1,400 rpm and the power delivery feels like it. For in-depth insight, see the primer about BMW's current powertrain technology from Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh.

The important stuff is this: Compared to the previous normally aspirated inline-6, the new turbocharged version produces 45 more hp and 80 lb-ft more torque, and suffers only a 1-mpg loss in the EPA's city and highway estimates.

No more excuses
The results of this new approach speak for themselves. Our dash to 60 mph with our 335i sedan with its six-speed manual transmission eclipsed not only that of a comparably equipped 2006 330i by a full second, but also snubbed those pesky V6-powered competitors from Infiniti and Lexus.

With its ability to get to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat and streak through the quarter-mile in less than 14 seconds, the new 3 Series has the talk and the walk of a benchmark among sport sedans.

No more making excuses for a smooth but comparatively underpowered engine. No need to explain why the rest of the 3 Series sedan is so much better than the competition that sheer speed almost doesn't matter. That's all changed. The 335i is now a complete sport sedan package.

If you've been bemoaning the lack of a BMW M3 sedan in BMW's current model line (the last M3 sedan was available in the E36 generation from 1997-'98), this car is as close to one as you can get. In fact, this 335i sedan beat the last 333-hp 2005 M3 Competition Package we tested in every measurable way.

It danced away from the M-spec two-door in the run to 60 mph by a half-second, stopped from 60 mph 1 foot shorter, and raced through the slalom 2 mph quicker. Since we pronounced the $55,840 M3 "The Best M3 Ever Sold in America," what does this make the $44,270 335i?

Nice package
The base price of our 2007 335i is $39,995 (a $2,100 increase over a base 330i), including destination charge.

Part of this particular 335i's performance is due to the $1,600 Sport Package. What a deal. For this modest price, you get specific suspension tuning, distinctive 18-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance, run-flat Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats, and a 160-mph speedometer.

Our car also had the $2,450 Premium Package, the most important parts of which are leather upholstery and BMW Assist with Bluetooth capability. Of course, the car's list of standard features is so long that you might not need much in the way of options. For example, you already get xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, memory-function seats and outside mirrors, walnut-burl interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, power moonroof and BMW's excellent Logic 7 audio system. The stand-alone options on our test car include $475 metallic paint and $350 back-up sensors.

All told, the as-tested price is $44,270, but we'd be happy with a base car plus Sport Package for $41,595.

It goes to 11
While a 45-horsepower increase might not seem like much, the new engine invigorates the whole car in a way that's fabulous. We always knew BMW would get tired of backhanded compliments regarding the 3 Series and its harmonious dynamics. Now, with a competitive powertrain, the 335i can backhand its competition.

To quote Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel, "The numbers all go to 11. Look, right across the board, 11, 11, 11 and..." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Well done, BMW.


Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

"From here it looks like a pot-bellied pig," says Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton as he points to the nose and scooped-out door profile of the new 2008 BMW 135i Coupe.

"Check out the overhanging character line above the taillights," we prompt. "Is this the new BMW 1 Series or a Corvair?"

You'll have to forgive us. We're taking a break from flogging BMW's 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged wünder-coupe and, frankly, we're more than a bit giddy. Three hundred horsepower and a similar dose of torque will do that to you, especially when it's in a shrunken rear-wheel-drive coupe that weighs less than a BMW 335i that shares the same engine.

The peerless BMW 335i has earned endless praise from us for its solid construction, balanced handling and stonking twin-turbo engine. So far it's batting a thousand when it comes to victories in our comparison tests.

But in becoming more refined, the E92 (that's BMW techspeak for 2007 and later 3 Series coupes) has gained size and weight, so its communicative responses have been muted. Well, that's what BMW fanboys will say, anyway.

That's where the 2008 BMW 135i Coupe (a.k.a. E82) comes in. Sure, when the 1 Series comes in the guise of the 2008 BMW 128i, we'd call it an entry-level Bimmer. But the inclusion of "the Engine" (as we find ourselves saying) is proof positive that BMW knows what its core enthusiasts really want.

Anti Super-Size Me
How much smaller than a 2008 BMW 335i is the new 2008 BMW 135i Coupe? At 172.2 inches, the U.S.-spec 1 Series gives up 8.1 inches of length. It's even 3 inches shorter than the E30 3 Series of the 1980s and only 0.7 inch longer than the E21 3 Series of the 1970s.

The greenhouse of the 1 Series coupe is something of a bubble, resulting in a 55.4-inch height, ample headroom and general proportions that fall between the E30 and E36 coupes. Notable deviations from the vintage BMW formula for sport sedan proportions include a higher beltline and a wider stance.

Interior space is suitably ample up front, but unless the front seat occupants are of below-average height, the rear seats are a kids-only proposition. This 6-foot-2 editor was able to travel with his 9-year-old daughter seated behind, but only just.

So the 1 Series coupe clearly doesn't share the "too big" problem of the 3 Series.

As compact as it is, the new 135i is no lightweight. It's still a full-featured premium piece, and it shows evidence of the mass that comes from 20 years of safety advances plus the "must-have" thinking about convenience features that shapes the thinking of product planners everywhere. Our test car tips the scales to the tune of 3,399 pounds, some 172 pounds less than a 335i, but still 200 or so pounds heavier than the similar-size E36 BMW M3 of the 1990s.

Cue the Bigger Hammer
But the 135i has a not-so-secret weapon that those lighter, earlier BMWs didn't have: a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected straight-6 engine that not only produces 300 hp but also packs a 300 pound-feet wallop of torque from 1,400 through 5,000 rpm.

On the road, the power delivery of the turbo six is so smooth and relentless that it makes the 1 Series fast — very fast — but never furious. This engine simply grunts it out and pulls hard from the bottom of the tach to its redline at 7,000 rpm. And the thrill quotient goes up because all this is happening in a car that's almost 200 pounds lighter than the engine's customary 3 Series package.

So the 1 Series coupe doesn't share the "too fat" problem of the 3 Series.

At the track, the twin-turbo big hammer drove our 135i down the quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds at 104 mph. The 2008 Subaru WRX STI with 5 more hp and 48 fewer pounds does the same time in the quarter-mile, but with a slower 102.4-mph trap speed.

While the STI edges the 135i's 5.0-second acceleration to 60 mph by a fraction thanks to the launch traction afforded by the Subie's all-wheel drive, the BMW ultimately has the legs at the top end and catches the STI at the finish line.

This performance does nothing to dispel our continuing suspicion that the 300-hp rating of the twin-turbo inline-6 is conservative at best.

Sometimes the Small Numbers Are Best
A shorter wheelbase gives the 1 Series a dimension of agility that the 3 Series lacks, and it measures 104.7 inches, some 4 inches less.

The suspension layout of the E82 is similar to that of the larger 3 Series. It still carries front struts with split lower arms and dual lower ball joints, while the rear retains the latest multilink layout. But both ends have been recalibrated for the 1 Series application.

Our 135i coupe came with standard 18-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE-050A run-flat summer tires: 215/40R18s up front and 245/35R18s in the back. We're still deeply skeptical about the performance of run-flats, even after the latest improvements. The mega-stiff sidewalls of the 050As disrupted an otherwise tame ride whenever we encountered abrupt, sharp-edged breaks in the pavement or even pronounced ripples.

We wish BMW would offer us the option of conventional tires or space for a spare. But since the battery resides in the trunk to help achieve a weight distribution of 52 percent front/48 percent rear, a spare has no place to live.

Ultimately, We Drive the Machine
Spirited back-road driving proves the 2008 BMW 135i Coupe can deliver the goods, as it dispatched corners with crisp turn-in, an eager willingness to change direction and impeccable grip, without sacrificing the road-worthy poise of the 335i that we love. On our test track, this translates to a blistering 72.4-mph run in the slalom, easily outpacing the last 335i we tested (69.5 mph) and edging the 2008 STI (72.0 mph). Skid pad figures are a wash, as both BMWs generate 0.89g and the STI makes 0.90g.

Understeer has been rumored to lurk within the 135i, but it didn't rear its head until we hit the road-racing track, where high-speed sweepers at the limit work the outside front Bridgestone mighty hard. Track-day junkies might want to make changes, but we think most everyone else will have no complaints.

Our 135i came with six-piston fixed-caliper brakes and 13.3-inch rotors. These calipers (something we'll see more of, our BMW sources tell us) seem like overkill when the heavier 335i and faster M3 do quite well with rather pedestrian single-piston sliding calipers. But the advantage might come in the form of consistently firm pedal feel over several days of determined street driving and extended track testing. This 1 Series comes to a stop from 60 mph in 109 feet.

It's Nice in Here
Inside the cabin, our 135i includes the Sport package, a $1,000 option consisting of an M-sport steering wheel and Shadowline trim, plus an elevated limiter for top speed. The package also includes terrific eight-way manually adjustable seats that adjust quickly, hold on tight in corners and look great. Why spend the money for optional power seats?

Handsome textured aluminum accents are applied with strategic restraint in the interior. BMW is one of a few carmakers that have figured out that accents that have the dull sheen of hand-worn metal look more upscale than any sort of chrome. And no sunlight gets reflected back into the eyes of the driver, either.

The Bottom Line
The base price for the 2008 BMW 135i is $35,675. After adding the options (including the $1,450 Boston leather upholstery) plus a $400 iPod and USB adapter and the $600 Cold Weather Package, our car's as-tested price is $39,125. And beware, because many high-cost options lurking on the options sheet can drive the price much, much higher.

It's hard to pin down the competition for the 2008 BMW 135i. On price and track performance, this test car matches up quite well with the 2008 Subaru WRX STI we tested, which costs $39,440. It matches up on performance, too. That's not bad company to be in, but at the end of the day, the Subie is no BMW.

Is the 2008 BMW 135i Coupe worth it? It depends. It's easy to go overboard with the options and jack up the price of the 135i so it no longer makes sense.

If you value a high level of steering and handling refinement and outright twin-turbo nirvana in a package that's small enough to toss around, and you can live with limited backseat space, the 2008 BMW 135i is like nothing else.

And it doesn't matter that the pot-bellied BMW 135i isn't the most beautiful car in the world. If you're doing it right, you'll be on the inside, working the steering, pedals and shifter with a huge grin on your face, happier than a pig in, well, you know.