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BMW M135i xDrive | PH Fleet

So the cult classic baby BMW has changed quite drastically - is it any better to live with?

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Those with long memories may remember when this car's predecessor enjoyed a spell on the PH Fleet. Following rave reviews during 2012, it was with quite some anticipation that an M135i was going to be 'ours', at least for a few months, in the summer of 2013. That was genuine anticipation, too, because the M135i had really come from nowhere - there hadn't ever been any kind of 1 Series M car hatchback - and seemingly it offered an unbeatable combination of talents: £30k for a 320hp, straight-six, rear-drive hatch, manual if you want it, BMW feel of premium throughout. Lovely.

That old 35i is one I remember well, as it joined the ranks not long before I did, and as such I spent a fair amount of time in it. As a callow and impressionable 22-year-old, it felt spaceship fast, smelt like an expensive sofa and had a spookily good automatic gearbox. We compared it to near enough everything back then, from hot hatch to 911, because its unique specification in the hot hatch world offered up all sorts of possibilities.

That uniqueness made it immensely popular amongst fans, but the M135i wasn't perfect by any means. It often had a muscle car feel to it, the engine proving too much for the 1 Series chassis it was mated with. Likeable, memorable, and fast, certainly, though flawed as well.

And now there's a new one - you might have heard. This M135i is also going to be a PH long-termer during the summer months, for longer than in 2013 but probably not with as many comparison tests as before. Because, well, where the old car was an outlier in the pack thanks to its mechanical configuration, this 135i seems to have copied the class homework so closely it's a surprise the VW badges weren't traced as well: transverse four-cylinder engine, on-demand four-wheel drive, automatic gearbox, circa 300hp.

Whether it's a match for those rivals is something we'll aim to establish during the six-month tenure of YG69 HVS; already it's been interesting to note how the car's been received elsewhere. Because while more practical, spacious and efficient than before, the star quality bursting from the F20 predecessor - chiefly that engine - has been deemed somewhat lacking in this F40. Not surprising, really, given the straight-six's absence. The personality void was observed on these pages recently with the ostensibly identical M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, too.

That said, 'personality', 'character, 'charm' or whatever you want to call it becomes significantly less important when faced with the travails of everyday driving, and that's exactly what HVS will tackle. When we're allowed to drive again. At present it's covered six miles with us, bringing the grand total up to 3,066, and I've learnt a few things: this new interior really is a delight, having a sunroof is a welcome option, the (non-leather) seats are really nice and WLTP has killed throttle response. Now it's parked outside my house until further notice, hence using BMW pictures of the car to illustrate this report.

Much better, then, to discuss spec and plans for the car. We provisionally have it until September, in which time we'd like to compare it with the immediate rivals and the old car, of course, as well as investigate any aftermarket tuning that's already happening. It seems like the ideal car for a road trip, too; assuming travel will be permitted again sooner rather than later, I'd love to revisit the North Coast 500 and BMW World in Munich. Let's see.

As for the car we actually have, HVS is a Melbourne Red M135i. From a list price of £36,430, this car has been treated to nearly £7,000 of options, making for a total on-the-road figure of £43,190. No doubt some will baulk, because this is PistonHeads and don't you remember when an M3 cost that much - but it's important to remember that's not how cars are really bought nowadays. The second result on a Google search of 'M135i xDrive finance' brings up a deal with a £5,500 (!) dealer contribution, £399 customer deposit, £399 a month and 8,000 miles a year at 3.9 % interest over 48 months. Yes, it's not the same, but does make £40k look a little different.

Anyway, those options. Melbourne Red looks great, actually - we'll deal with the styling another time - and well worth the £560 given the other colours available. The bulk of the additional premium - £3k of it - comes from Comfort Pack 2 and Technology Pack 1. The former brings electric front seats, a heated steering wheel, powered boot lid and comfort access; the latter adds a head-up display (which BMW typically does very well), adaptive LED headlights, a parking assistant and wireless charging. The rest of the money is accounted for by the sunroof at £1,000, the £500 adaptive dampers, another £1000 on the Driving Assistant (one to investigate, because I don't know what that is), sun protection glass (£300), front lumbar support (£150), a Harmon Kardon stereo upgrade (£750) and, finally, a through-loading system costing £150. Otherwise known as split-folding rear seats - nice to see the old habits die hard at BMW.

So, yeah, that's the background, the car and the spec; all that's left now is to actually drive the BMW somewhere, though goodness knows when that might be. Any questions, ideas or opinions are welcome!

2019 BMW M135i xDrive
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: March 2020
Mileage: 3,066 (delivered on 3,060)
List price new: £36,430 (price as standard; price as tested £43,190 comprised of Melbourne Red paint for £560, Comfort Pack 2 (steering wheel heating, Powered bootlid operation, Comfort Access, Electric front seats and driver memory) for £1,500, Technology Pack 1 (BMW Icon Adaptive LED Headlights, High-beam Assistant, Parking Assistant, Head-up display, Enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, Wi-Fi hotspot preparation) for £1,500, Adaptive suspension for £500, Panoramic glass sunroof for £1,000, Sun protection glass for £300, Through-loading system for £150, Lumbar support, driver and front passenger for £150, Driving Assistant for £1,000, Harmon/Kardon loudspeaker system for £750).
Last month at a glance: Hello M135i, welcome to.. quarantine

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