I don’t get to drive my 135i particularly often. This was never intentional, and is instead the result of life and its many practical compromises. For most of my driving career, I’ve been a single-car guy. I alluded to this in my previous column, and how it caused me great frustration when the end result was attempting to find something with all-around practicality and a sporty flair that seemed to give life some purpose.
All of that pressure seemed to alleviate after college, when a short time after graduation I seized the opportunity to purchase what Satch refers to as a driving appliance: the type of car that you grab the keys to, throw yourself in, and off you go. Mine happens to be a Honda Civic.
The Civic allowed me to give my Techno Violet Metallic-on-Mulberry E36 M3 a break, which was something I relished after accumulating a hard 20,000 miles in just over a year. However, a matter of months later, a rather ideal-looking six-speed 135i popped up for sale, which necessitated liquidation of the sorted and refreshed but aging M3.
At this point it should be obvious that I tend to go through cars, as they say.
Then came the DCT 135i, which replaced the six-speed. Remember now, these are all second cars, only driven when conditions and moods are just right. You probably won’t be surprised to know that only a matter of weeks after the manual 135i was sold, I bought a running project E30. The 325e now occupies its rightful share of the conserved amount of time I have each week and month; it also happens to occupy what becomes a tandem parking space. It sits directly in front of my 135i, separated by a garage door and a healthy amount of space.
So for those keeping track, that’s a total of three cars, one of which isn’t getting driven very often.
On a recent Sunday, I took the Dinan-tuned, Michelin-shod 135i out for an extended drive. I’ll concede that I left later than I should have, but I knew where to go to find clear curves to power through at WOT—or at least I thought I did. Sadly, even after resorting to what would effectively be Plan E or F of where to put my car through its paces, I was disappointed to find myself repeatedly stuck behind someone with a different agenda.
The frustration level only seemed to increase, and eventually I had to give up, refuel, and head home. I hadn’t driven the car in nearly three weeks except for pulling it out of the garage for a wash, and the only opportunity I would have to go wring it out for at least another week was dashed.
But it was always like this. Even when I was daily-driving and commuting in my M3, 330i, or S4 to the tune of over 20,000 miles a year, I consistently found myself frustrated that I couldn’t even maintain freeway speed during my off-rush-hour trip to work.
With the lack of driving, sunken costs, expenses, and frustration with other drivers who seem to increasingly pull out in front of me without looking, I began to question my ownership of such a potent BMW that can rarely be let off its leash. This would have shocked a younger version of myself, but nearly every decision in life is influenced by economics, and cars are often one of the first things to go.
So why do we bother? Why do we bother with the oil-filter-housing gaskets, the cooling systems, the insurance payments, the high-dollar tires, and everything in between? I can tell you: In my 135i, it’s mashing the gas pedal beyond the detent point and feeling the DCT shift from seventh to third, instantly queuing up the three-liter N55 turbo six to full tilt. The wide rear Michelins do their best to hang on for dear life, and in a flash I’m flying at felony speeds. Other times I’ll be tearing down into my favorite perfectly cambered turn, and I’ll hear the M Sport exhaust emit what sounds like a two-by-four being snapped behind me post downshift. I love it.
The tired E30 has its thrills as well. Satch has summed them up quite eloquently before as the feeling subsequent to that flawlessly executed downshift before a hair-raising turn—the kind of gear change that leaves the engine perfectly on-cam when it comes time to pour on the thrust. The entire process, experience, and feeling are why we do it.
I may not be able to experience it every time I’d like, or even nearly as often as I’d prefer, but at least I’m lucky enough to experience it at all. Sometimes the aforementioned seventh-to-third shift has to happen simultaneous to blowing the doors off a left-lane Prius, and other times the gap never opens wide enough. I suppose that in the end, the rarity of perfect timing just makes it all that much better.—Alex Tock