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First drive: Spirit of 2002 revived via BMW 1 Coupe

Number one: Latest two-door BMW aims at everything from STi to Cayman.

BMW returns to its compact two-door roots with the brilliant new 1 Series Coupe

18 Apr 2008

THE (relatively) affordable BMW coupe is back in the guise of the E82 1 Series Coupe. On sale from May 20, the two-door, four-seater, six-cylinder, rear-wheel drive coupe is a derivative of the E87 1 Series five-door hatchback that has been available here since October 2004.

Two coupe models will be released initially – the 125i from $54,400 and the 135i Sport from $71,400. The latter’s ‘Sport’ designation denotes the mandatory fitment of BMW’s M Sport Package.

The coupe's four-seater soft-top sibling – the E88 1 Series Convertible – will join the Coupe in dealerships at the same time. Both vehicles have been designed primarily for the US market, where BMW does not offer the hatch.

Four-cylinder petrol and diesel E82 Coupe variants are available abroad but are not yet pencilled in for Australia – even though the entry-level E88 120i Convertible will be imported here from the outset to give the high-flying Volkswagen Eos a clipping.

BMW says the E82 is a return to its affordable sports coupe heartland in the same way that the ‘02’ Series (1602/2002) models were from 1966 to 1975.

14 center imageThe Bavarian company points to design and packaging similarities to these and other past BMW coupes to prove this point. The E82’s three-box silhouette, long wheelbase, short overhangs, long bonnet, rear-wheel drive, fairly thin pillars with proportionally applied DLO (daylight opening) and frameless doors form a pastiche of previous efforts.

Dimensionally the 1 Series Coupe is close to the first (E21) and second (E30) generation 3 Series of the 1970s and '80s respectively – although these vehicles were more upright family sedans with five seats.

Nevertheless, and despite the compact dimensions and packaging limitations that rear-wheel drive asserts on interior space, this is not a cramped 2+2 coupe but a proper 175cm-plus adult-accommodating four-seater vehicle.

Additionally, the Coupe’s 370-litre boot betters the hatchback’s by 40 litres, and is bolstered by a 60/40-split folding backrest to bring on another 345 litres inside the cabin.

Both 1 Series body styles share the same 2660mm wheelbase, although the Coupe’s 4360mm length makes it the longer car by 121mm. Body weight creeps upwards by about 20kg over the hatch.

A near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution has been devised, despite the mass of the two distinctly different 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine choices for E82 buyers. Both powerplants are mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox with gearshift paddles either side of the steering wheel.

In the 125i, the engine is a derivative of the 2996cc Bi-VANOS and Valvetronic-equipped N52 aluminium and magnesium unit first seen in the BMW E90 330i in 2005. In this application, it produces 160kW of power at 6100rpm and 270Nm of torque between 2500 and 4250rpm.

BMW says the 125i sprints to 100km/h from standstill in 6.4 seconds (auto: 7.0) on the way to a 245km/h maximum velocity (auto: 243km/h), while the fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions tolls are 8.7L/100km and 207g/km with either transmission.

Note that these are not the same outputs as the E87 130i hatch’s 195kW/315Nm 2996cc unit.

The other 3.0-litre is the twin-turbocharged 2979cc N54 engine employing second-generation high-precision direct-injection and Bi-VANOS variable valve technology (but not Valvetronic – as the turbo application eliminates intake vacuum issues), as part of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics package.

Awarded the overall International Engine of the Year in 2007, the N54 is related to the older M54B30 engine family from 2000 featuring aluminium, magnesium and cast-iron construction, which is said to be more suitable for turbocharging applications.

Delivering 225kW at 5800rpm and 400Nm from 1300 to 5000rpm, the 135i Sport takes 5.3 seconds (auto: 5.4 seconds) to reach 100km/h, is electronically speed-limited to 250km/h, uses a combined 9.6L/100km of fuel and emits 229g/km of CO2 (auto: 230g/km).

BMW says the twin-turbo 3.0-litre delivers the performance of a V8 with the efficiency of a naturally aspirated six.

The 135i Sport Coupe also comes with an electronic differential lock that slows the spinning inside rear wheel in a fast corner for better traction and power transfer.

Disengagable DSC stability control and BMW’s switchable DTC Dynamic Traction Control allows keener drivers to vary the degree of wheelspin.

There is also a DSC+ device that incorporates a two-second hill-start holding feature a ‘soft stop’ modulated braking pressure for smoother stops, a brake-drying function that wipes the discs with the brake pads for greater braking performance a brake pre-tensioning system that partially activates the brakes if the driver’s foot comes off the accelerator in preparation for an emergency stop, to shorten distances and a brake-fade compensator that maintains full stopping performance by varying the degree of retardation according to the state of the pads and discs.

On the subject of braking, the 135i Sport Coupe includes a high-performance braking set-up with six-piston fixed callipers at the front and two-piston rear callipers, while the ventilated discs front and rear are 338mm x 26mm and 324mm x 24mm respectively. In contrast, the 125i has single-piston swing callipers and 300mm x 24mm (front) and 300mm x 20mm (rear) vented discs.

Runflats with air-pressure monitors are fitted all round, with the 125i wearing 7J x 205/50 R17 front and 7.5J x 17 225/45 R17 rear rubber, while the 135i Sport goes two better with 7.5J x 215/40 R18 front and 245/35 R18 rear tyres.

Like all 1 Series variants, the E82 Coupe boasts a double-joint spring/strut front axle suspension, a five-link trapezoidal rear set-up, as well as rack-and-pinion steering. Around 60 per cent of chassis components are shared with the current 3 Series range.

Standard features include the aforementioned electronic safety aids plus ABS anti-lock brakes, Dynamic Brake Control and Cornering Brake Control, six airbags, rear parking radar, leather upholstery, a multi-function sports steering wheel, alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, auto-on headlights, remote central locking, foglights, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, automatic climate-control air-conditioning, a trip computer, Bluetooth preparation, ‘sports’ seats and a front armrest.

There are also BMW’s new Performance Parts accessories on offer, featuring body and interior addenda these are aimed primarily at the younger end of the 25 to 45-year-old age group that BMW hopes to lure. Empty-nesters and old 2002 aficionados are also likely prey.

This car’s rivals are an eclectic mix, and include the Audi TT, Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX-8, Subaru Impreza STi, Mercedes-Benz CLK, SLK and upcoming CLC (ironically previously known as the Sport Coupe), Alfa Romeo Brera and Porsche Cayman.

BMW has been allocated 500 E82 coupes (and 800 E88 convertibles) for 2008, with the 135i Sport Coupe expected to marginally outsell the 125i Coupe.

M Division performance variants may include a Tii version, partly as a tribute to the 1970s 2002 Tii, and partly because the ‘M1’ moniker is reserved strictly for the mid-engined supercar BMW built from 1978 to 1981.

BMW 1 Series Coupe range pricing:
125i $54,400
125i (a) $57,200
135i Sport $71,400
135i Sport (a) $74,200

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