I had the opportunity to drive a BMW 335i coupe and 135i in a three-day span (with a Mitsubishi Lancer in between, to cleanse the palette). It's a tough decision between them, but for me at least, the 135i is smart choice. True, the smaller car's weight and performance advantage is negligible (about 200 pounds and 0.2 seconds, respectively, according to BMW), but so too is the difference in practicality -- the two-door 3-series offers only 0.4 inches more legroom in front and 1.4 inches in back. The deciding factor is their footprint. The trimmed wheelbase makes the 1-series just a bit livelier, and a bit more intimate, though the 335i's longer wheelbase might be a bit better balanced. Of course, the $6000 in savings hardly hurts either.
I still wish the 135i were smaller, lighter, and a little sharper, particularly on turn in. It also seems set up to understeer more than one would expect of a small, rear-wheel-drive BMW. But the usable size and comfortable ride are what make it a very serviceable daily driver, and it sure is fast.
- David Zenlea, Assistant Editor