BMW’s hot hatchback gets four-wheel-drive for added stability and security, without compromising the rear-drive version’s entertainment factor

Our Verdict

BMW M135i

Not quite a 1M, but more usable and outstanding value for money, undercutting the rival Mercedes-AMG A45 and delivering greater driving thrills

  • First Drive

    BMW M135i long-term review

    We have bought a used BMW M135i to see how far we can improve this rear-wheel-drive hot hatch
  • First Drive

    BMW M135i xDrive first drive review

    BMW’s hot hatchback gets four-wheel-drive for added stability and security, without compromising the rear-drive version’s entertainment factor
31 May 2013
BMW M135i xDrive

What is it?

The BMW M135i xDrive is a four-wheel-drive version of the popular high-performance hatchback. It has been designed to meet the requirements of mainland Europe markets, where predictable periods of heavy snowfall make four-wheel drive a necessity, rather than a nicety. 

Unfortunately, BMW has no immediate plans to offer the model here. As the manufacturer rightly observes, it would occupy an even smaller niche than the rear-drive M135i, meaning negligible sales.

With more four-wheel-drive models creeping into BMW’s range, however, and powerful AWD variants likely to appear eventually as a result, it’s worth taking a closer look at this car to find out whether the addition of xDrive compromises or complements BMW’s ethos.

What's it like?

Internally and externally, this looks like a standard M135i. Its single-turbo 3.0-litre straight six is the same, delivering 315bhp and 332lb ft through a rapid-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. For the purists, a six-speed manual is offered.

The key difference is the addition of the intelligent xDrive four-wheel drive system. It uses an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch to distribute power between the front and rear axles.


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In normal conditions, 60 per cent of the engine’s output is sent to the rear, helping to retain the typical rear-drive BMW feel. If the system detects oversteer or understeer, however, it quickly shuffles torque between the axles to stabilise the car. The additional traction also means the xDrive M135i is 0.2sec quicker from 0-62mph than its rear-drive equivalent. 

We found the M135i xDrive to be eminently capable on a snow-covered slalom, while stop-start manoeuvres on icy inclines were fuss-free and ice-covered corners could be dispatched in a surefooted fashion.

Even moderately deep snow was tackled with relative ease, as long as some momentum was maintained. Some of those capabilities were no doubt down to the test car’s winter tyres, but nevertheless, there’s no doubting that an xDrive-equipped BMW would prove both easier and more reassuring to drive in poor conditions.

More importantly, the addition of four-wheel drive doesn’t appear to have notably compromised the M135i. The steering remains precise and uncorrupted, while the xDrive means you can exploit the available power more controllably, which some might prefer. Multi-stage stability control also allows for a modicum of tail-out action, ticking the requisite box for many an enthusiast.

Should I buy one?

If you frequently travel to European ski resorts, and want a practical hatch with some punch, then this could be just the ticket. That's assuming, however, that you don't mind the fact it's left-hand drive.

Those who find the idea of an xDrive-equipped 1-series appealing can at least partially sate their appetite with the UK market 120d xDrive, which is available now for £26,190.

It may not have the M135i’s pace, but it’s still a thoroughly decent car to drive, albeit one that majors on practicality and efficiency.

Lewis Kingston

BMW 1 Series M135i xDrive 

Price £35,550 (est); 0-62mph 4.7sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 36.0mpg (combined); CO2 182g/km; Kerb weight 1595kg; Engine Straight six, 2979cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 315bhp at 5800rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 1250-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Join the debate


31 May 2013

If this was coming to the UK I think I would seriously consider it...

31 May 2013

Why does everyone assume 4x4s are bought merely to deal with bad weather? ... I drive a Suzuki 4x4 and delight in the added grip and handling I get, whatever the weather ... 

31 May 2013

Because in normal 4 * 4 is the additional fuel consumption and operating costs. Nowadays, everyone thinks their money. For the buyer must be a reason for priopreteniya 4 * 4. And the main reason - poor road conditions.

31 May 2013

I think there is a market for 4 wheel drive on BMWs in the UK. Probably more on the Petrol models which are less CO2 sensative as they dont appeal to the fleet user. This car sounds good. The 2 series with the same mechanical bits would also look OK (The 1 series badly needs a face lift).

31 May 2013

Pity, they seem to be selling all there other products, i was in a dealership last week , the sales guy said they were shifting 100 cars a week!,plus, i'd have thought that BMW having never offered 4WD in a saloon here,that BMW buyers would be queing up for one.

31 May 2013

Peter Cavellini wrote:

Pity, they seem to be selling all there other products, i was in a dealership last week , the sales guy said they were shifting 100 cars a week!,.

On a 8 hour day that's about 1 new BMW every 35 minutes 7 days a week! Which dealership was that? With their commission the salemen must be driving emmmmm BMW's

31 May 2013

How come Audi does such a great job with Quattro versions then - 5 million sold in 33 years, "available on all passenger cars with 43% take up"?  BMW must use different market research data to the rest of the world


31 May 2013

There are so many people who'd say they want 4wd versions of various models to be offered in the UK, but would those preachers actually buy them? In the 1990s, some manufacturers offered 4wd versions but sales were so poor, they were discontinued in the UK. Either people's attitudes have changed since then or the 3 years of freezing winters we've had has made 4wd a necessity for some (panic perhaps?)

But remember, 4wd won't give you a green card to drive anywhere, and in any conditons, as so many stupidly think is the case. The right tyres and driving ability are the critical elements, not the car or drivetrain.

31 May 2013

There are a few details missing from the article (unless I've missed them!)

Is the X Drive not offered on RHD because of an engineering compromise like the larger BMWs, ie the driveshaft runs through the footwell position making it prohibitively expensive to manufacture in RHD, or is it simply that BMW UK doesnt feel it will sell here?


Secondly was all the testing done drifting around on snow or was there a good proportion of tarmac use to tell just how different it feels from the RWD car, as I'd doubt a lot of differences could be ascertained purely on snow on winter tyres.

31 May 2013

If BMW admit there's little interest in the current M135i hence pointless introducing their 'XDrive' variant to the UK, wouldn't it be sensible dropping rear-wheel drive and market their product as 4x4 only in the UK?

Not that I've any interest in such a vehicle but I'd have expected the M135i xDrive to be more appealing. 


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