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      03-24-2014, 05:25 AM   #1
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Poor M135i review in EVO

Has anyone seen this article yet?
I was shocked to read the M135i review, they didnt rate it at all!

http://cdn.app.evo.co.uk/editions/uk...496a4/web.html

Ive driven the new Golf R, the GTI, and the Megane.
The Golf R is really impressive, but the others dont come close to the R or the M135i...

What are your thoughts?
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      03-24-2014, 06:49 AM   #2
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Reviewers have a bias and the wording they use to describe the M135i speaks volumes "Lumpen shape" for instance suggests it's on the back foot with them from the start. M135i had the best power to weight ratio of the bunch but this is EVO so it's probably too civilised in thier eyes.

Reviews + dose of salt + test drive to form own opinion = more balanced appreciation.
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      03-24-2014, 08:32 PM   #3
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Horses of courses?

Evo had the M135i as a finalist in last year's ECOTY. It was preferred by the whole team against the A45AMG a couple of issues ago, Henry Catchpole ran one for 6 months and loved its all-round ability and it was even given a gong as the RWD standard in their AWD car article last month.

They've said all along that it's steering lacks a bit of feel, it's softly sprung and a little ragged near the limit as a result and that an LSD is an improvement that should be considered. These things are true.

In this article they've taken these hatches to Snowdonia - the roads are extremely narrow, very demanding and I would think still pretty slippery at the moment. On roads such as these, at the pace they may be travelling, I can quite see that an RS265 would be the weapon of choice. Presumably the VII Golf R is pretty good too. A very powerful, slightly softer RWD car would be tricky in that environment. And swapping between cars and driving hard is always going to weigh in favour of a harder, more communicative set-up.

That said, some of the prose is at odds with their previously glowing praise - saying it is so bad that it suggests BMW have not built a RWD car before was a bit much IMHO.
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      03-24-2014, 09:31 PM   #4
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Have driven or owned many of the cars being discussed: I had a 2009 Golf Gti, sold it for a 2010 Boxtster S, then a 2011 Megane RS Trophy, which I've just sold for an M135i AT that I took delivery of a few days ago (in the course of this I also test drove the Golf R twice). On a different forum there is a thread comparing the Megane RS 265 Trophy to the M135i, so as an owner of both, I just added the reply below to their thread, which I thought might be of some interest here as well.

In short, I don't agree with the Evo's impression of the M135, nor do most other reporters who have driven it (a few really nice ones by Chris Harris, Henry Catchpole and others). Anyhow, here are my own first impressions:

I only picked up the M135i 2 days ago so what I am writing here are just some initial impressions of how it stacks up against my outgoing Megane 265 RS Trophy. The impressions are based only on 40KM of driving of regular streets 2 days ago and 80km of mostly highway driving on the way to the airport yesterday. I plan a longer, more hard-core drive on some very challenging mountain roads that I often race the Megane on upon my return next week, but here are some initial impressions to get started:

Suspension:

I am starting here because I think this is the one category that looks like a clear a victory for the Megane. Although I got the M135i with the electronically adaptive sports suspension, which on my initial impressions would rate as far better than the electronic sports suspension on my 2010 Gti but not as sharp as on my 2010 Boxster S with PASM, at least so far, I find the bimmer far softer and more luxury-oriented than is my preference while I would have to rate the Megane RS Trophy's suspension as close to sublime! Yes, the Megane Trophy setup makes for quite a stiff ride, but it is never jarring, giving you incredible amounts of feedback on whats on the road below you, seeming to rise to each and every challenge you throw at it, getting better the more unpredictable and difficult the terrain is. The way it works together with the mechanical diff (also missing from the BMW) is close to magical - this suspension helps even amateurs like me look and feel like pros, hugging to turns and undulations in the road as if the tires had glue on them! That said, I like my suspension setups harder than most people and the initial impression I have of the M135i as being a bit on the soft side is similar to my impression of most BMWs including my old E36 M3 and E46 Alina B3S. Also, my impression of the M135i is not based on going all out on some challenging twisties but more on how it behaves on the street and thus may change after I get her up in the mountains next week. Right now though, I feel like the addition of an anti-roll stabilizer kit might help bring it closer to my expectations - I added one to my 1999 E36 M3 and I was very impressed by the difference it made...

Round one to the Megane...

Engine Note:

This is a tough call as each engine sounds fantastic yet in a very different way. Almost all of the cars I have owned so far have been chosen in part because I have been impressed with the sound of the engine. I heard that before Ferrari even starts building a new model, the whole team is in a sound room listening and critiquing the engine note, only building the car around it once they are completely satisfied the engine sounds right. Not sure if the story is true but I want to believe it is because to me the engine is the heart and soul of the car (the day Alfa decided to start stuffing GM engines under Alfa Romeos hoods was the day I left the fold - my 147GTA being the last great Alfa-engine produced in house...).

Anyhow, I have always been a huge fan of the sound and performance of the BMW straight 6, and though this M135i is our 7th BMW it is the first one in 6 or 7 years (I really felt BMWs were getting progressively softer and heavier so I started trying out other cars for awhile), so it was a pleasant and very happy return to the fold when I test drove the M135i and heard the howl of the straight 6 turbo under power (its a bit too quiet for my tastes when driving it slowly (or even "normally") but makes very nice sounds once you get it above 4500-5000rpms. The 7000 rpm rev limit is soft and even though peak torque on this beauty of an engine is very low, about 1500 rpm, I find myself pushing it up to 7200-7300 rpm for hard acceleration, holding the gears purposely just to hear this beautiful noise.

I added the M-Performance exhaust the day after I took delivery and don't yet notice a big difference inside the cabin, though there is already clearly a different, "drier" and deeper sports sound on the outside. Will report more on this after the muffler has been properly broken in. Like many of you I was disappointed to hear that 10% of the sound is synthesised (as hard as I try I can't catch any engine noise coming from the speakers) but I find it less disappointing that a lowly 1-series in the new "M-Performance" category between M-Sport and full-on M-car does this than hearing that the M5 and upcoming M3s and M4s are depending on the stereo system for what sounds like far more than 10% of their engine note. The M135 note is well-done and appropriately sporty if a little too quiet for my tatstes.

Though I acknowledge Chris Harris and other journalists opinion that the M135i's straight 6 may sound a bit more exotic and upscale than the AMG A45 or Megane RS Trophy's 4 cylinder engines, I have always been a big fan of Rally cars, running two early (and very wild Imprezza Sti's) partially because I loved the distinct burble of the pre-manifold change flat 4s. And here, I have to say that the Megane's engine note (though enhanced with an aftermarket system by K-Tech) was really wonderful for me. It had an angry snarl with lost of great cracks and pops on overrun, most especially after you push the sports mode button which releases the extra 15hp, but never too loud at idle or when driving slow. The engine note was always present, and like every other detail of the Megane, made you feel that you were in a minimalist pure sports car rather than anything that was trying to provide luxury. To me the sound was like a wild beast, just barely tamed, one that was waiting, urging you to floor it so it could fly, and that if and when you DID floor it the engine delivered on its promise, sounding angrier, louder and faster, the more you push it.

Both engine notes are great but for now I have to tip Round 2 to the Megane...

Engine Response:

The Megane Trophy's engine response is fast and responsive (and sounds that way) so you never feel like you are lacking in power or speed. Unlike my old Imprezzas, there is no discernible turbo lag and the car sounds and FEELS so quick that it is a pure joy to drive at almost any speed. This is an important point in Tokyo where there are very few places that you feel safe enough to really rev out the engine. The sports cars I have loved the most are not the fastest ones I own but the ones that FELT the fastest at street legal speeds. In isolation the Megane's engine seems like more power than you would ever need and its 3 year standing world record at Nürburgring for fastest FF a testament to how well sorted the engine and suspension are, but as good as it is, the BMW is in another league entirely!

This is probably the thing that surprised and impressed me the most about the M135i, its urgent, almost inhumanly fast acceleration in every gear. Flooring it in 2nd 3rd or 4th feels almost like Star Trek, like your ship has entered warp speed, defying the laws of physics about how fast you should be able to go. The only 2 cars that every made me feel like this was a 2010 GTR I test drove and my friend's Ferrari F40. With peak torque coming on at something like 1500rpm this car has more instantly available power than you could possibly ever need on the street. It is so fast out of turns (or pretty much any time you punch the happy pedal) that it actually makes the amazing Megane Trophy feel SLOW!

Round 3 is a blowout victory for the BMW - the engine is close to heroic in its responses, perhaps the best I've ever driven from Bavaria save the glorious V10 in the old M5s...

Transmission:

Though I love the short shift and very accurate 6 speed transmission in the Megane, a combination of long commutes in bumper to bumper Tokyo traffic along with a move to a new house last Dec (which forces me to park my car directly in front of my wife's, who can't drive a manual), made me decide to start searching for a car paddle shifters that could also be driven as an automatic by my wife. in the past I have absolutely hated automatic transmissions (selling my E46 Alpina B3S in less than a year because of the horrible torque converter lag in the gear change response), favoring dual-clutch boxes like in my Gti and Boxster and single-clutch units like in my glorious Alfa 147 GTA. But after reading several reviews heaping praise on the M135i, 8 speed AT with many, including Chris Harris placing above the dual-clutch unit in the AMG A45, I thought I would give it another try. Here I have to say that once again, I was not just surprised by how good the M135i was, but absolutely floored! This AT is so fast going up or going down that I think it is actually BETTER than the PDK unit in my Boxtser S. I think part of the reason is that there are 8 gears, which means that if you shift manually with the paddles, you are always very involved with what the car is doing (some may say that is a bad thing, that it forces you to be too busy, but I find that it makes me THINK in the same way that driving a manual does, which is a very good thing). Though I love manuals, I think this is one of the best paddle shift transmissions this side of $100,000. Absolutely wonderful!

For my needs Round 4 goes to BMW. This AT is clearly one of the best on the market...

Interior:

Though I truly love and am a big fan of the minimalist Megane RS Trophy interior with fantastic Recaros, great (black and white) sports instrumentation, and excellent steering wheel, and though the M135i is also very much in the same hot hatch category as the Megane, the BMW's interior looks and feels like a car in a price category twice as high. From the huge, front and center color navigation and data screen to the quality of the plastics, fabrics and instrumentation you feel like you are in car where they spared no expense and yet retained the focus on sports. Though I have the basic non-leather seats in the bimmer I find the bolstering perfect, perhaps even better than the great Recaros in the Megane, and appreciate its much lower seating position and no-cost electric adjustments. The Megane is great too, as if the only extras included were ones that would enhance the driving experience, but the BMW is definitely in another category all-together.

BMW is the clear victor in Round 5 as well.

Though both cars are fantastic in their own ways, my first impressions give the M135i three out of five rounds - more later after I get her up into the mountains of Hakone next week...

Last edited by MeganeTrophyGuy; 03-24-2014 at 10:59 PM..
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      03-24-2014, 11:10 PM   #5
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I had an RS250 Trophy before I got the M135i and have to agree with the above! RS eats the BMW in handling department!
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      03-25-2014, 03:17 AM   #6
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Compared to an 'M'

Compare an M135i to an M car on Welsh B roads and handling is where the big differences show up.

Add damp to Welsh B roads with highly variable grip and traction and I can well imagine FWD and AWD being superior by quite a margin.

I think this test highlights the Achilles heel of the M135i.....winding, bumpy roads with low or variable grip surfaces.
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      03-25-2014, 03:34 AM   #7
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I disagree. Winding, bumpy roads with variable grip is where the F20 shines. Compared to earlier BMWs, the F20 M-Sport suspension is rather soft. This enables it to flex over bumps without redistributing the load much or lifting wheels off the ground. It stays planted, and in balance. You can go hard on the brakes in the middle of corners without upsetting the car, and the steering is quick. The electronic fake differential (when driving DSC Off) kicks in when you power out of tight corners, helping you to keep the line tight with no understeer.

The M135 will be traction limited in slippery conditions due to excessive power, and lose out to AWD cars in such conditions. This is however not much of an issue with our 116i M-Sport! :-)
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      03-25-2014, 10:54 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveC View Post
Compare an M135i to an M car on Welsh B roads and handling is where the big differences show up.

Add damp to Welsh B roads with highly variable grip and traction and I can well imagine FWD and AWD being superior by quite a margin.

I think this test highlights the Achilles heel of the M135i.....winding, bumpy roads with low or variable grip surfaces.
Though I agree that adding a proper mechanical diff would improve the M135's behaviour in all-out driving where you are purposely trying to break traction to induce tail slides, I don't agree that full-M Cars handle any better in the wet. Of all my many sports cars over the years it was my E36 M3 and E46 Alpina that were scariest in the wet, not because they were bad cars in any way, but because (like the M135i) they were 300+hp cars in a RWD format.

Next week I will be doing a long test of my M135i up in the mountains of Hakone Japan, some of the most challenging, cliff hugging, windy bumpy roads I know of and will be able to give more concrete feedback about how the M135 stacks up against my old M3 and recently sold Megane RS Trophy, but right now at least, my impression is that the M135's suspension set up is very well judged, if a little bit softer than my normal taste, and will most likely perform very well. More on this next week...
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      03-26-2014, 02:54 AM   #9
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What I said

You guys aren't reading my texts

What I said was.....

an M135i isn't an M car when it comes to handling.

An M135i may shine vs. other RWD BMWs, but it doesn't shine when pitted against SOTA FWD or AWD on slippery Welsh B roads, where the Beemer will have both traction and grip issues

The M135i is a great car, but in certain conditions its 320bhp can become a handful
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      03-26-2014, 03:12 AM   #10
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My point is that the car handles well, but I agree that it has too much power for its one wheel drive layout. I don't think it has grip issues, but agree about traction issues. BMW makes an AWD version of the car. Strange that they don't offer it with right hand drive.
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      03-26-2014, 04:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnydad View Post
Horses of courses?


In this article they've taken these hatches to Snowdonia - the roads are extremely narrow, very demanding and I would think still pretty slippery at the moment. On roads such as these, at the pace they may be travelling, I can quite see that an RS265 would be the weapon of choice. Presumably the VII Golf R is pretty good too. A very powerful, slightly softer RWD car would be tricky in that environment. And swapping between cars and driving hard is always going to weigh in favour of a harder, more communicative set-up.
LOL - Steve C I think you weren't reading my texts (sic)
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      03-26-2014, 04:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveC View Post
You guys aren't reading my texts

What I said was.....

an M135i isn't an M car when it comes to handling.

An M135i may shine vs. other RWD BMWs, but it doesn't shine when pitted against SOTA FWD or AWD on slippery Welsh B roads, where the Beemer will have both traction and grip issues

The M135i is a great car, but in certain conditions its 320bhp can become a handful
You were talking about the M3 handling better than the M135i on damp Welsh B roads and my point was simply that having owned both an M3 and an Alpina B3S, I have had scarier moments in the wet in those cars than in any of my other sports cars and expect the same to be true of the M135i (most of my other cars were either AWD (two consecutive late 90s Imprezza Stis) or FF (Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, Golf Gti, Megane Rs 265 Trophy), though the BMWs were also far scarier in the wet than my Boxster S as well...).

The point I was making is not that "Real-Ms" are bad cars but that as RWD cars with more than 320hp, both the M-Cars AND the M135i have the same tendency to lose grip more quickly and unpredictably in the wet than many other sports cars out there (though I don't have any interest in Mercedes, I would suspect the same is true of any of the AMG63 models). People who know M-Cars well buy them DESPITE this inherent shortcoming because there are so many other great things about the car that more than make up for it (in the same way that people buy 911s DESPITE the inherent disadvantages of putting the engine behind the rear wheels).

All it means is you need to drive high powered BMWs at slightly more sane speeds when the roads are filled with water (a lesson seemingly lost on Jeremy Clarkson when he spun out an M135i on drenched test track at 120mph....)
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      03-26-2014, 04:36 AM   #13
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I recommend watching this interesting Youtube clip, (with English subtitles) where Tim Schrick changes the setup on a Lotus Elise to make it easier to drive for a less professional driver:
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      03-28-2014, 03:00 AM   #14
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Grip vs. movement

Essentially what Tim Schrick is doing is removing grip from the car and adding compliance so it slides earlier and more gradually. This changes the on-limit performance by smoothing the onset of oversteer.

If you are the kind of driver that's perfectly comfortable with your car oversteering its fine. The original E30 M3 was absolutely wonderful in this regard, with brilliant transition into oversteer.....all it felt like was taking off some steering lock until you realized you were quite sideways. The following M3 sacrificed all that in the name of higher grip.

BTW, for the record I didn't say that an M3 handles better than an M135i on damp Welsh roads. I said that SOTA FWD and AWD can be expected to handle better.

Until recently I had a really nice Z4M that was a dream on dry winding tarmac, but needed great respect and caution on damp surfaces.
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      03-28-2014, 05:14 AM   #15
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I agree. The modern M-cars have a very sharp setup that can be too much for a normal driver to cope with on the limit (and it is easier to touch the limit in the wet). That is why some people actually drive faster with a more moderate setup.

And lots of car enthusiasts actually modify their cars to become even worse by adding stiff coilovers and racing tyres. It makes it even less likely that they will ever master their own car, so they can never experience the real performance it can provide.
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      03-28-2014, 06:44 AM   #16
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Toyota

Its exactly this concept that makes the Toyota GT86 such a fun car to drive.

Hard suspension and wide low profile tyres generates a lot of grip but also stores a lot of centrifugal force that can be really difficult to catch when overstepping the mark and it lets go all at once.
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      03-28-2014, 07:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveC View Post
Its exactly this concept that makes the Toyota GT86 such a fun car to drive.

Hard suspension and wide low profile tyres generates a lot of grip but also stores a lot of centrifugal force that can be really difficult to catch when overstepping the mark and it lets go all at once.
Actually am finding that in Sports mode the car handles very predictably and well when you check off the drivetrain box but leave the chassis box unchecked.

Though intuition might suggest that harder is better, initial impressions of my M135i are that the the softer setting makes the car feel more fluid through the turns. Will be doing a whole day of driving up in the mountains later in the week so more on this later...

Last edited by MeganeTrophyGuy; 03-28-2014 at 07:24 PM..
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