BMW makes great automobiles—and some very strange marketing decisions. Consider the 1 Series. The company announced a couple of years ago that there would be no M1 nameplate, because that moniker was taken by a car no longer produced.
So they built something they fumblingly called the 1 Series M—terrific car, priced to beat the competition ($47,010 to start), though production of 2,700 cars ended in December 2011. Reviews were outstanding.
The 1M (as some have called it, and so should have the factory) “really was an M3—light with a unique looking bodykit and the bi-turbo N54 powerplant.” And it performed as well as the M3 at the Nürburgring (see video here).
It’s a three-door hatch, truly ugly in my view, and has the same engine performance as the 135is (320 hp, 317 lb-ft of torque). A five-door sedan may be coming; no prices yet. The only reason to want this pseudo-M car is that it’s a hatch, but you can’t get it here.
And so America gets the 135is, which is a bit different in terms of equipment and choices. You can buy it as a coupe ($44,145) or convertible ($48,845). Standard is a 6-speed manual; optional is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Or you can buy the basic 135i coupe for $39,300; it has 20 hp and 17 lb-ft less zap than the 135is. Car and Driver concludes that what BMW has done is to make the 135is “more like a 135i with existing off-the-shelf upgrades.” It sure sounds that way. Yet, compared to the M135i, the 135is, even with its parts-bin approach and expensive as it is, would appear to be the better deal.
The basic problem for buyers is that BMW is really muddying the waters of its M concept, taking a very good thing and milking it for its rebadging possibilities. Once again, too many models, too many choices, too many markets.
It appears that there won’t be any more true 1M cars, at least in the U.S., for a while. Is that a wise decision on BMW’s part?