Sports Car of the Year: M135i vs Boxster
Two cars divided opinion so much that they required one last test. Stand back, and release The Stig...
Posted: 11 Jan 2013
The little BMW is - frankly - a bit of a shock. It might look a bit dowdy, bespoke wheels and large blue brake calipers aside, but the effect of 320bhp in a car that weighs 1,500kg is punchy to say the least. It's eyebrow-raising fast. But that's not even the real story, because the way this car unravels itself up a road, with 332lb ft available from a remarkable 1,300rpm, means that it feels earthquake brawny - the torque making the biggest impression from the driver's seat. The car we have here is equipped with the optional £1,600 eight-speed automatic which drops the 0-62mph time to just 4.9 seconds. And it's brilliant, surfing the torque and flitting between ratios, but the overriding impression is that the BMW feels like a little muscle car: big engine, small car, enthusiastic cornering attitude. In these slightly damp conditions, it's ridiculously tail happy, although it hasn't got a traditional limited-slip diff. There's an Active Differential Brake (ABD) in Sport mode that restricts torque to the spinning inside wheel, and an electronic diff lock in DSC-off mode, but neither really gives the impression of aping a mechanical locker. Mind you, in the dry, it's less aggressive than a traditional locking diff - as found in a full-fat M car - and thus possibly less effective, but in the greasy damp, you can slide around all day and then fail to kill yourself even when the rain clears.