If you are shopping for a new car, and want something fast, comfortable, well-equipped, handles well and is priced around $40,000, go test-drive a BMW 135i.
Starting at $36,000, the 135i comes with BMW's new and amazing 3.0 liter, twin-turbo inline 6 cylinder. It produces 300hp, and 300ft lbs of tq at an incredibly low 1,450 RPMS. That means the powerband is wide and smooth, making it feel like any powerful naturally aspirated engine, and thus very easy to drive. It has the same DNA as BMW's 3 series, which has been on the Car and Driver Top 10 list for 10 years straight. Better yet, you get that DNA is a package that's much lighter than a 3 series, 3250 lbs to be exact. All of this adds up to a small coupe that costs almost 10 grand less than a base 335i, is almost as fast a $60,000 M3, and has room for 4 inside. Not too shabby.
But what makes this car good, so good it landed at #3 on sub5zero's Top 10 Sports Cars of 2010 Under $50,000 is it's potential. In stock form it's a very fast car, keeping up with BMW's flag-ship sports car (the M3) is a very big deal. But that turboocharged engine comes from the factory with a very conservative tune. It doesn't take much to take this car from sports car to supercar. And that is not an exaggeration. For a few thousand dollars, with simple bolt-ons and engine mapping, 500hp is easily achieved. M3s are merely a warm-up to battling 997 Turbos and Ferrari F430s. And you can do it with a proper trunk and still have room to scare 3 of your friends. Not everyone is open to modifying their cars, but for those that are, the potential of a car has a big influence on what you buy. People are just starting to find out what this motor is capable of. And with a curb weight of only 3,250lbs, it holds just as much promise as a track car.
I'm honestly surprised this car rolled out of the factory as good as it did. I would have thought someone at BMW would have said, "Wait! Wait! Stop that car! We made it too good!" But they didn't. The 1 series is supposed to be an entry-level car, aimed at younger buyers who can't quite afford the 3 series, but want a BMW. Like a free cigarette, it's meant to get you hooked on BMW early. Well mission accomplished. The only problem is that if you buy a 135i, you might like it so much, you never see a reason to buy a more expensive BMW down the line. Fine with me, that's just more money for mods.