BMW 1 Series Coupe-Convertible Review

Jul 9, 2008

We're on the Road in the 2008 BMW 1 Series

The GOOD: The stellar driving experience you've come to know and love behind the wheel of a BMW continues in this latest outing - an entry level sports coupe (or convertible) that starts under 30k! Yep, we said BMW and Less than $30,000 to get in to a new one that drives every bit like BMW, solid!

The BAD: You wouldn't expect legroom in the back for adults in this vehicle, and you won't find it. Forget about cargo space as well, but that's not what this vehicle is about. What it is about: style and performance, where you'll find it excelling!

Overall: If you're looking for a vehicle that excels in it's own identity, you'd be hard pressed to find one that's more adept at being itself than this new 'entry level' sports coupe (or convertible) from BMW.

We GO on the Road in the 2008 BMW 1 Series......

You got peanut butter in my chocolate, you got chocolate in my peanut butter - two great things, that go great together. The same is true of 'entry level' and 'BMW'. Who would have thought you'd ever see them together, but alas, the words fit solidly as does this stellar performing sports coupe (or convertible) from BMW engineers in Germany.

It's back to the future for the 1 Series, which is built on BMW's classic 2002 coupe. BMW's latest entry in the market attracts second glances, and some nods as drivers in other BMW's and other cars drive by and check out the new lines. A nice new pronounced shoulder line in the 1 series! The styling is unique whether you opt for the coupe or convertible, while still holding true (overall) to BMW's classic styling. The shoulder line runs parallel to the road from the hood to the trunk lid and it makes the car look like it could ride up onto a boat dock! Very nice lines!

Other highlights (some optional) include: stellar powertrain options, Boston Leather seating engineered to stay cooler, the adaptive tail lamps, the quick opening (and closing) convertible (at speeds of up to 25 mph); a connected driving experience you'd expect; and a deep growl from the powertrain (the devils bees) that are unleased at 1400 rpm all the way up, Driving excitement is very much a part of this new 1-Series from BMW. If you like the convertible, you'll probably like the cool moonlight black soft top, which is interwoven with shiny metallic fibers and gives off a shimmery silver light. For those more reserved, of course the top is also available in taupe or black.

Whether you opt for the coupe or convertible; you'll choose from two transmission and powertrain options. The 128i offers BMW's 3.0-liter, 230 horsepower inline six-cylinder engine with 200-lb feet of torque. The 128i features Valvetronic valvetrain management and aluminum / magnesium cylinder block construction-core elements of BMW's EfficientDynamics.

The 135i ups the anti with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six cylinder, that produces 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. According to BMW the 135i coupe jumps from 0 - 62mph in 5.3 seconds. Believe! Worth noting for the speed racers among you, top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph - good luck finding a safe strip of land to test that. We should provide a legal disclaimer here: We would not encourage anyone to drive at such a speed (if you're going to anyway, can we catch a ride?).

A six speed manual transmission comes standard, while the six-speed automatic with manual shift control is a worthy upgrade. Paddle shifting can be a nice change of pace on your next weekend retreat in the mountains.

It's difficult to find a vehicle to compare side by side with this rear-wheel drive coupe (or convertible). The 1 Series may have a limited audience waiting to take advantage of this entry level two door BMW, but those that accept the keys will enjoy stellar sharp handling, an agile responsive sports car that will have you once again - 1/w the road. It's easy to enjoy the driving experience behind the wheel of BMW's 1 series and though we searched for shortcomings, other than limited space (a hurdle when you're building a small car!), we found nothing that made this car less BMW. Though it's ture, you can buy a 1 series for less than 30k (to start), by the time you equip it, you easily find yourself in the mid to high 30s, a range that might have you looking to the 3 series, but keep your eye on the 1, it does not disappoint!


The 2008 BMW 1 Series comes with a full compliment of standard safety features, like: four standard airbags (multi-stage); antilock disc brakes (with brake drying and standby feature); seats that are 'crash optimized' with specially padded headrests and backrests; dynamic traction control and stability control (which can be disabled); the convertible features two pop up rollover bars (which deploy in a fraction of a second from behind the rear headrests); Additional rollover protection is offered by the stability of the A pillar and windshield frame.

Driving Impressions

We kept expecting to find something that made this 1 series, less of a BMW. Maybe handling, fit and finish, we looked and listened then looked again, for anything which makes this entry level BMW, less of a BMW than it's older siblings. Get in this 1 Series and you'll find it to be every inch BMW, from the razor sharp handling that puts you in touch with the road, to the fit and finish, this Series will no doubt carve out it's place in this new niche segment.

Standard equipment on the 128i includes: 17-inch alloys; automatic headlights; sunroof (coupe); rain-sensing wipers; a tilt-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and 10-speaker stereo with CD player and an aux audio input jack; cruise control; leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, and the 128i convertible adds the power-operated soft top (up or down in 22 seconds, totally automatic) and an upgraded climate control system.

Standard equipment on the 135i includes: a more powerful engine, a sport tuned suspension, xenon adaptive headlights; 18-inch wheels.

Options for the 1 Series convertible include the Moonlight Black soft top, which has shiny metallic fibers (looks metallic in the sun or moon light); optional leather upholstery features BMW's exclusive sun-reflective pigments which can lower the surface temperature by 20-degrees.

The Way You Feel inside

When you get into a BMW, you immediately notice the build quality. The rule: The vehicle is solid. The 1 series is no exception. Though the 1 Series is a four seater, the rear seats are not good for adults, except on the occasional short ride. That said, we wouldn't look to this vehicle for rear space. Eyes in the Front (cabin) where driver and passenger are greeted with heated seats, his and her climate control; a unique, large storage bag that extends into the passenger compartment (from the trunk) and can accommodate two snow boards or a golf bag without soiling the interior upholstery (pretty cool); front engine, rear wheel drive delivers stellar traction and great control, but of course limits seating. The iDrive system remains a challenge for most to learn and use. There's a great deal to enjoy inside this new 1 series BMW, Coupe or Convertible!

By The Numbers

2008 1 Series Coupe - 3.0-liter I6 Manual/Auto - RWD

128i $28,600

135i (turbo) $34,900

2008 1 Series Convertible - 3.0-liter I6 Manual/Auto - RWD

128i $33,100

135i (turbo) $39,100.

Photo Credit: 1

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Author: Brian LeBow, is the original author of this new car review. More information about LeBow Media, LLC is online at and our automotive review site is online at

BMW 1 Series Coupe-Convertible Review


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