I'm a big fan of this 128i, more so than our long-term 135i. I know the 135i has the explosive power everyone craves these days, but the substantial cost of that engine makes the 135i a little less attractive to me. This 128i is more than quick enough for my needs and it drives more smoothly because it doesn't have the huge hit of torque just off idle. The point is you don't need to get the 135i to have fun behind the wheel. A 128i just might be my favorite Bavarian car for right now.
Everything else feels very similar to our long-term 135i, although I'm thrilled this car doesn't have the tacky fake aluminum trim. I just don't find the aluminum-look plastic to look or feel as classy as the rest of the 1-series interior.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
I never thought I'd say it, but I like the slower, softer car better. I must be getting old.
I've spent a fair bit of time in our Four Seasons 135i over the past few months and have only two small quibbles: the suspension is too harsh, and the price is too high. The 128i solves both problems and makes the driving experience that much more rewarding since you have to work its 230-hp, normally aspirated 3.0-liter.
It's not exactly the driving-a-slow-car-fast technique that's needed in something truly underpowered, but it's more involving than the mash-the-gas style of driving that the 300-hp 135i invites. You actually have to shift the six-speed to hunt for power.
And then there's the ride. All 135s have sport suspension tuning and come standard with a staggered eighteen-inch wheel-and-tire combo (which looks great, by the way). The 128's suspension is softer and its wheels are seventeens all around. The extra sidewall helps absorb some of the road imperfections that Michigan is known for, and even without the word sport officially describing the suspension, the car still handles like the little roller skate that it is.
This is a classic case of less is more; it's just too bad less doesn't mean less weight for the porky 1-series. For my money, the 128i is all the car I'd need for a daily driver. That said, I'd be happy with either One.
David Gluckman, Web Producer
As both Gluckman and Floraday stated, the 128i is the 1 (series) to get. Scanning the two window stickers, a base 128i saves you over $6000 compared to a base 135i. Sure, you give up standard features like xenon headlights, aero kit, 18-inch wheels, and big brakes but you still get a very quick and rewarding car to drive. Plus, the EPA mileage estimates are 18/28 mpg for the 128i compared to 17/25 mpg for the 135i.
I also agree that the 128i is better to drive. It still is upset a bit too much by choppy Michigan roads but it feels far more suited for real-world conditions than does the 135i. It rides better and shrugs off camber and road surface changes.
Don't get me wrong, I love the speed of the 135i but it is hard to beat the pure, smooth power of the normally aspirated BMW inline six. Just make sure you pass on the optional $500 wood interior trim, it looks out of place in a 1-series.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor