Owner drive: 2013 BMW M135i in Qatar

Owner drive: 2013 BMW M135i in Qatar

2012 BMW M135i in Qatar
The awkwardly-styled BMW 1-Series has always been an acquired taste ever since it launched in 2004. But I’ve always been a fan of the top-spec 1-Series which have combined arguably BMW’s best inline-6 engines with an entertaining chassis and probably most closely evoke the spirit of past BMWs than most of the other current models. Having owned (and loved) a 2007 130i M Sport back in London, as soon as I saw the M135i I knew I had to have it as it promised to be even better than the old car.

The spec I went for in the end was a 5-door “Estoril blue” example with red leather, adaptive suspension, xenon turning auto headlights, Harman Kardon stereo, cruise control, smart keyless entry and start, parking sensors and an 8-speed automatic gearbox, all optional on this car. The price for all this Bavarian magnificence? A “mere” QAR 210,000. Gulp! On the plus side, this does include a 5 year warranty and service pack.

2012 BMW M135i in Qatar 4

Lets get the looks out of the way – I think that with the M Sport kit, the 1-Series looks quite handsome with the long hood and I will argue to the death with anyone who disagrees!

The interior is a nice place to spend time in, snug but in a good way, like you’re strapping the car on as opposed to just sitting in it. Rear space is okay for 2 adults but 3 is a bit tight. Two car seats can fit easily. Boot space with the seats up is just fine but can be increased substantially by dropping the rear seats which makes the car extremely practical.

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I quite like the iDrive system. It’s pretty simple to navigate and one of the biggest surprises has been how well the voice activation system works for controlling the whole system.

There are some signs of cost cutting, which are a little hard to take on a car which costs this much. Things like the fact that the vanity mirrors aren’t lit or the shiny plastic on the centre console around the gear stick. However, I am being a bit picky here in the name of completeness — the truth is most of these problems simply aren’t noticed once you start that engine.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to write about the M135i’s powertrain and performance without gushing like some sort of adolescent love struck teenager. The basic ingredients are BMW’s 320 hp “TwinPower” turbocharged 3.0 straight-6 engine mated to an 8-speed auto, sending power to the rear wheels. Official acceleration figures from 0-100 kph put it at less than 5 seconds. The engine is simply phenomenal — throttle response is crisp and the torque curve feels completely flat all the way from idle until the red line. The noise it makes is classic BMW straight six — a bassy rumble until about 3500 rpm and then from there until the redline a tingling howl all backed up with some crackling and popping from the exhaust on the overrun. The gearbox is the perfect companion to that wonderful engine. The only negative point against the powertrain is that I wish the exhaust sound were louder — that’s it.

The ZF has all the bases covered as it always seems to be in the right gear, and in normal driving it’s buttery smooth yet when pushing on or changing gears manually, the shift speeds are incredibly fast, possibly faster than the DSG gearbox on my 2010 VW Scirocco.

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Courtesy of the adaptive dampers, ride and handling are very good. The ride in “Comfort” is practically plush, while in “Sport” everything firms up nicely. Steering is very accurate, although steering feel isn’t great. Yet the chassis communicates its balance to you very well. Grip from the OEM PIlot Super Sport tyres is tremendous. Turn-in is sharp with just a little understeer which can quickly be converted into oversteer by using the throttle. By default, the stability control intervenes quickly if it detects any oversteer, but there is a “track mode” available by selecting Sport+ which relaxes the stability control and allows a little slide before it intervenes. This mode works very well as it really allows you to explore the car’s limits (and just a little bit beyond) before it intervenes to tidy things up.

As far as I’m concerned the only weakness the car has in this area is the fact that rear end feels a little “soft” to me which can make it feel slightly ragged when cornering on a bumpy road. This happens in both Comfort and Sport modes so it’s unlikely the spring/damper settings are to blame but rather the bushes or suspension bump stops. However, once you’re familiar with the car, you quickly adjust and get used to this behaviour so it’s never a major problem.

Final verdict? It’s simple. Small Car + Big Engine = Massive Fun. That’s really all there is to it — all the minor flaws pale next to this simple equation. Every journey in this car puts a smile on my face and I can’t ask for more than that.

Photos by Omar Mohatarem.

What do you think?



  1. @ Omar, I understand your feelings exactly. Enjoy and have lots of fun.

    BTW, can you explain what the service package covers there.

  2. They sell it here in UAE for 270k AED
    Pretty much expensive for a car in this segment
    I drove it and I do prefer the Golf R

  3. You need to look at the car’s price in US to know the reason behind cost cutting. These cars do not cost as much in US as they cost in Middle East specially Qatar which is the most expensive in this region.

    I paid around 50% of the price more in Qatar compared to the pricing in US for my X5M. Do I regret the purchase? Hell no..I love it! But whenever I see the US pricing I feel I would have added small cash and have gotten another brand new M3 for the price I paid for my X5M alone!

  4. Great article Omar! Liked the part about argue to the death about the looks. It is one of those love-hate designs I suppose.

  5. @Sunil – The service package is very comprehensive, Only tyres, glass and batteries aren’t included (and I’m not 100% sure on batteries – they might be included)

    @Speed – I think that 270K AED price must be for a fully loaded one. I’ve seen models similarly specced to mine for 215-225K in Abu Dhabi

    Thanks for all the great comments guys! Hopefully more details to come in future articles.

  6. I think cars in this segment should cost between 120k – 180k max. Thats why Golf GTI and R are so much more desirable. Great car nonetheless.

  7. It’s there with 220 in the approved used section done 3000-5000 KM
    The battery is included in the warranty for 5 yrs
    They changed my 3ers battery after 2.5 yr for free

  8. does the owner of this car realise that for 280k u get a basic MASERATI GHIBLI? I mean for just 15k more?
    Unbelievable, just unfukkingbelievable.

  9. Well i guess the bavarian can command this price tag. The fact is that its the only hot hatch which is RWD in the world. So technically there is no competition.

  10. I did just visit Al Fardan for this car, and to inquire about the M235i as well, and was given a quote of about QR 240k. Any chance you could hook me up with the contact at Al Fardan Motors for a similarly spec’d M135i? Thanks!

    • The M235i is a completely different car. Either way, Omar custom-specced his M135i which is why it was cheaper.

      In Dubai, if you custom-spec a base model and are willing to wait for shipment, it can be as low as 170k. But of course the dealer will attempt to shove the high-spec AED 250k model that’s in stock at you first.

    • Shiva, talk to Ola at Al-Fardan. She works on the Mini side of showroom but is far more knowledgable and personable then any of the BMW salesman

  11. @Mash i did n ot know anything about custom-speccing a car! can i do this in Saudi aswell?

    • You can do it for most European luxury brands. it’s not promoted because it takes months to ship in, and most buyers don’t like to wait.

    • Just like how they bought it out in luxury fashion brands…..now you can have your car ‘bespoke’ to exactly every little tiny detail

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