My first real personal indulgence, one that said "I haven't arrived but I'm on my way up," was a pastel blue 1976 BMW 2002. The sport coupe spoke to a sense of 20-something arrival and BMW was already a staple on the L.A. scene. Parked on the strip near the Whiskey or at the Palomino, clubs that were poles apart musically, Bimmers effortlessly connected the distance between these venues.
The 2002 had an aura that set it apart from almost everything else its size and in its class. In this country, there simply was nothing else like it.
My seat time in the 135i conjured up those long ago recollections. This is both a good and a bad thing, but the 135i and 2002 have little in common beyond those three Bavarian letters. The 2002, much like other BMWs of that era, spent way too much time in the shop along with much of my non-disposable income. However, when my 2002 did run right, it made for a memorable drive.
The 135i's technical specifications say it all, and with this model the basis for a great drive simply comes down to a good stretch of road. An old-school manual six-speed transmission linked to a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six engine with direct fuel injection makes for great torque, more power, better fuel economy, and a worry free drive.
Drawing parallels between the past and the present requires a stretch with today's well thought out performance modifications, attributes we take for granted. The 135i has the performance, it has the brakes, it has the handling and most of all, balance. Gone are the worries of becoming stranded on the highway or fretting about the engine dying while sitting at a red light. Things I was all too familiar with in my 2002.
As impressive as the drive was, what the 135i lacks is the visual uniqueness that set its predecessor apart. The 2002 was a car that could not have been designed on a computer, proving that an occasional return to the methods of past design legends could point the way to a promising future. In today's world of CAD, would it be all that bad to have some occasional free thinking? -Lizett Bond
2010 BMW 135i
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged
Peak Power: 300 hp @ 5800 rpm
Peak Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1200 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.0 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph
Fuel Economy: 18 city/ 25 hwy
From the hip
Drivability, dash layout, interior finish, good value for the money
Visually, not as much character as my 2002
Price as tested: