Like the 3-series, the 135i convertible's handling is sublime; the car eats up curves and begs for more. The steering - without the curse of the 3-series' optional active steering - is pure and true. It was a pleasure threading the 135i along narrow winding parkways that can be a white-knuckle affair in other cars. And its nimble size was a source of pleasure as well. But the larger, eighteen-inch wheels mean that bumps are sometimes fairly pronounced.
The insulated fabric roof does a fairly good job of keeping out road noise, but of course not as good as the 3-series' metal hardtop. The metal roof also holds the advantage in outward visibility with the top up, thanks to its thin C-pillars. But the fabric top provides fewer body cutlines and a more traditional convertible appearance; ours was the optional "moonlight black" soft top, which has silver threads woven into the black fabric, a subtle but cool effect for a relatively inexpensive $100. Just like its bigger brother, the 1-series convertible has pop-up rollover bars that emerge from behind the rear seat headrests if a rollover appears imminent. Another convertible-specific item is specially treated leather (standard in the 135i) that doesn't get as hot when exposed to the sun, to keep from searing your backside when you first sit down.
Overall, we very much enjoyed our time in the 135i convertible. A close examination of the similarities between the 1-series and the 3-series helps explain why the two are so close in price, but we never fully accepted the notion that this was a nearly $49,000 car. Of course, a 335i similarly equipped would likely have cost $10,000 more, which wouldn't have been any easier to swallow. If you think of the 1-series as a bargain BMW, you're likely to be disappointed - there are no bargain BMWs. Expensive as it is, the 135i convertible is substantially less costly than the 3-series equivalent, only slightly more cramped, but every bit as fun to drive, if not more so. It's an excellent BMW, but a dubious bargain.
2008 BMW 135i Convertible
Base Price: $39,875
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve I-6
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
L x W x H: 172.2 x 68.8 x 55.6 in
Legroom F/R: 41.2/31.3 in
Headroom F/R: 38.6/37.0 in
Cargo capacity: 8.0 cu ft
Curb weight: 3671 lbs
EPA Rating (city/highway): 17/26 mpg