Love, second time around

The revised M135i, in five-door form, is tuned to be well-rounded and balanced in any situation.
The revised M135i, in five-door form, is tuned to be well-rounded and balanced in any situation.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

BMW's revised M135i still makes the enthusiast light-headed

Remember the first big crush you had? I bet if you had the chance to meet him or her today, you would, more often than not, be wondering why your heart ached back then.

Same thing with cars. A model that gave you palpitations years ago may not even raise your pulse today.

So, it is with more than a pleasant surprise that I find BMW's facelifted M135i to be as delectable as I remember its pre-facelift version to be three years ago.

Well, perhaps I should not be too surprised. After all, the car has remained practically unchanged, except for a 6bhp increase in peak output - an immaterial tweak when you have more than 300bhp on hand in the first place.

Other than the minute power increase, which is realisable only if you redline the car's creamy inline-six turbo - something that is not recommended if you want to keep your driving licence - the M135i is fundamentally the same car as the one introduced here in 2012.


  • Price: From $213,800 with COE

    Engine: 2,979cc 24-valve inline-6 turbocharged

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 326bhp at 5,800rpm

    Torque: 450Nm at 1,300-4,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 4.9 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh (electronically limited)

    Fuel consumption: 7.5 litres/100km

    Agent: Munich Automobiles

Well, except that the test car back then was a three-door. This time, the demonstrator is a five-door, which adds more practicality and subtracts nothing in terms of road dynamics.

The M135i has more agility, grip and sharpness than a barrel of monkeys wielding superglue and razors. In the real world, the theoretical loss of rigidity resulting from two additional apertures is just that - theoretical.

The Golf-size BMW will run circles around a GTI, outgun a Porsche Cayman and keep pace with quite a lot of performance cars on an unrestricted highway.

The best part is its overall driveability. Unlike a pure BMW M car, it is tuned to be well-rounded and balanced in any situation - not only when the roads are wide, long and empty.

In the city, the M135i is pure joy to helm. It has synaptic responsiveness, yet is not manic nor twitchy. It has the ability to merge, filter and overtake with no more effort than your diaphragm has in drawing air into your lungs.

And it sounds glorious doing so too. It has none of the melodramatic overtures sports cars are often associated with - no manufactured crackle and pop from the exhaust and no needlessly high revs.

Even in Sport Plus mode, the car is usable in the city. As before.

The other changes to the car are purely cosmetic. It sports BMW's new kidney grille, larger side air intakes in its lower apron, and slightly flatter headlights (full LED now).

At the back, its tail-lights (also LED) have been redesigned and display the "L" shape that is now the signature of BMW models.

The car wears 18-inch doublespoke M alloys shod with 225/40 tyres in front and 245/35 rubbers in the rear.

Inside, you will find BMW ConnectedDrive, a networked platform that gives you superfluous features such as BMW Online, BMW Apps and options such as emergency call, real-time traffic information and concierge services.

But when you have a car that is as entertaining and engaging as the M135i, who needs distractions - wired or wireless?

For me, the fact that the car is able to remain as alluring as it was three years ago (a lifetime in today's context), despite having no meaningful changes, speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, one of the other things that has not changed its stratospheric price.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Love, second time around'. Print Edition | Subscribe