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Driven: BMW powers up 1 Series
Flourishing BMW 1 Series range targets more high-end sales with M140i flagship
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20 Oct 2016
BMW is planning to maintain its resurgent 1 Series growth with a range of updated four-cylinder petrol engines and a focus on high-end customers with the new potent M140i that replaces the previous M135i performance flagship from $64,900 before on-road costs.
Since a mid-life update in June last year, BMW’s little hatch has jumped a significant 20.2 per cent in the small passenger above $40,000 segment, with more customers shifting to the performance-focused 125i, and the German car-maker says it can maintain its popularity.
Speaking at the launch of the refreshed 1 Series range, BMW Group Australia head of product planning Shawn Ticehurst said an increased campaign to highlight the sportiness of the rear-drive hatch had been successful but the company would now turn its attention to the new range halo.
“The fact 125i is now the volume seller that’s a good sign,” he said. “It’s certainly attracting more of that performance buyer that we were probably missing out on in the past. A lot of it was really our own focus on those cars just getting a bit more focus internally and getting a bit more dealer focus.
“It’s up nearly 20 per cent since the LCI (life cycle impulse) so that was a really good boost to it. We want to get a bit more out of the top end so the M140i is where we see the growth potential.”
The propeller badge has moved 2048 examples of the 1 Series to the end of September this year, an increase of 19 per cent, but it still trails the segment-leading Audi A3 (4735) and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (3449).
With BMW’s proliferating front-wheel drive transmission touted to find its way under the 1 Series nose next, Mr Ticehurst said the company would be working hard to maintain the model’s sporty credentials if it does go FWD.
“It’s still a while away before we have the new 1 Series and it would be wrong to put all our eggs in one basket and say 1 Series is all about being rear-wheel drive, because Mini is about a lot more than that.
“So in the future we have to be sure that if we go to a front-wheel drive platform it still is the ultimate driving machine in its class.”
Mr Ticehurst said that the rear-wheel drive transmission of the 1 Series was a selling point for many customers but front-drive was under discussion.
“I think it helps and its certainly a point of difference for us at the moment.
Obviously we’ve got front-wheel drive cars as well and we will add more in the future, but driving enthusiasts appreciate the benefit of that rear-wheel drive.
“Nothing’s been confirmed yet but with things like X1 and Active Tourer out there as front-wheel-drive cars and doing well, there’s certainly talk of 1 Series going front-wheel drive”.
With the engine update, driven wheels specification and pricing for the range is unchanged, but petrol power and efficiency for the 120i and 125i has been given a boost.
Both variants are powered by a 2.0-litre TwinPower turbo, which in the case of the 120i has been treated to an extra 5kW and 20Nm taking the peak output to 135kW and 270Nm. The extra grunt has shaved a tenth of a second from the zero to 100km/h time for 7.1s but fuel consumption is unchanged at 5.8L/100km.
For the 125i power is up another 5kW to 165kW and despite no change to torque, the zero to 100km dash has also been reduced by 0.1 seconds to 6.1s. The volume seller of the range also gets the only change in specification with LED front foglights now standard.
At the top of the pack, a new M140i takes the place of the now discontinued M135i but maintains many of the outgoing variant’s features including the turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine, rear-wheel drive and a choice of either eight-speed automatic transmission or no-cost optional six-speed manual gearbox.
The big news with the M140i lies in its induction, which has switched from a front-mounted air-to-air intercooler to top-mounted air-to-liquid charge-cooler. The change has reduced induction tract length and boost efficiency losses for a increased output of 250kW and 500Nm – up 10kW/50Nm.
When fitted with the automatic, the new M140i will crack 100km/h from standstill in 4.6 seconds – a reduction of three tenths over the M135i, while top speed remains limited to the same 250km/h.
While many evolving engines opt for an electric cooling pump, including some BMW units, the new B58 engine has stuck with a mechanical pump combined with a new heat management module which consists of a pair of rotary valves to control coolant flow and direction.
The engine also introduces the latest iteration of the low-friction electric arc wire-sprayed cylinder liners, closed-deck crankcase and a new Irox big-end bearing coating for reduced friction with a corresponding increase in efficiency.
Powertains for the 118i three-cylinder turbo and 2.0-litre diesel 118d are unchanged along with pricing and specification.
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