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Saturday Afternoon Bimmerfest

July 23, 2011 by Matt

2012 BMW 128i Coupe

My 7-year-old son Luke and I visited the “BMW store” today to stroll the lot and check out the recent 1-series coupe facelift, pictured above.

It really is a very mild refresh for the coupe, in contrast to the Euro-only redesign of the 1-series hatchback. The headlights have gained subtle “eyebrows,” the taillights have acquired horizontal bands a la E60 refresh, and the body lowers (side skirts and front and rear valences) have been reprofiled. I don’t believe they actually changed any of the sheet metal. The 135i receives the single turbo, 300 hp N55, while the 128i soldiers on with the naturally-aspirated 230 hp N52, same as before.

I was very pleased by the way it looked. The new front valence of the 128i adds distinctiveness and character to what was previously a by-the-numbers goatee. The eyebrows give the eyes a more athletic squint, and the taillights’ striations relieve some of their chunkiness.

If you haven’t already guessed, the 128i 6-speed, as stripped-down as I could option it with the exception of performance bits like 17″ wheels and a limited-slip diff, would be my 1-series flavor of choice. Indeed, if I had to buy a new BMW, it would be the one I’d opt for, being the lightest, most straightforward and “unencumbered” car they currently produce. Why not the more powerful 135i? Well, for starters, call me a purist, but I’m still having difficulty warming to the idea of a turbocharged BMW, as good as the N54 and N55 were and are. The predictability of a naturally-aspirated torque curve is hard to simulate. The biggest reason, though, is the weight difference—the 135i weighs close to 170 lbs more than the 128i, not an insubstantial figure for a small car, especially considering the 128i already weighs more than a car of its size should, at 3208 lbs.

I picked up a glossy brochure on my way out. I told my wife that it was difficult to resist the impulsive mental contortions I embark upon in order to justify the purchase, but there is absolutely no responsible way to reconcile even a used 128i into our family plan at the moment. Maybe I’ll snag one in 5-10 years, if I can bring myself to drive what still basically amounts to a computer on four wheels, with increasingly little for us shadetree mechanics to do in the way of repairs, one of the great joys/frustrations of owning a car. We’ll see.

Filed under: BMW, News


  1. John D says:

    I really like this car. The 135i is one of the few cars that I would actually entertain the notion of buying new (had I the resources). Either that or the ‘M’ version. I hear what you’re saying about the weight penalty, but it’s a price I would be glad to pay in order to feel the immediate thrust of the much lauded N54 engine. I loathe a heavy car…but I’ll take the extra ~100hp/~135tq, which should pretty well motivate a car with an extra 170lbs with ease. Especially with the immediate torque these twin-turbocharged engines produce. Somehow I don’t think the lack of a naturally aspirated torque curve would be the first thing to come to mind when I put my foot down on one of these beauties.

    I do appreciate your quest for automotive purity. But I think there are times when I’d be willing to compromise a bit on the means in light of the ends. ;)

    • Matt says:

      Totally understood. I’ll allow that part of my preference for the 128 over the 135 might be motivated by the fact that it’d be harder for me to afford the 135, so I’m trying to justify the 128 to myself (not that I could really afford either car). That said, there’s no doubt the N54/5 pulls the extra 170 lbs of the 135 like a freight train. I just wouldn’t want to feel it in the corners, you know? Similarly, there’s a reason a lot of autox guys go for E30 318s instead of 325s, in spite of the latter’s bigger engine…

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