After having owned the 1991 MR2 turbo for about 13 years, it was finally time for a change. I had been on the look-out for something to replace the MR2 with for a long while, and nothing was really peaking my interest until BMW built the 135i and populated the engine bay with a twin turbo inline six engine - a personal favorite setup! It reminds me of the old Toyota Supra twin turbo from the early 1990's. The BMW uses two very small turbocharges that deliver peak torque at an amazingly low 1400RPM. I didn't want to get rid of the MR2, but I can only have one true car love at a time. The MR2 was, at this point, 18 years old, and although I had everything working great at the time I sold it, I suspected that it would only be a matter of time before something else failed. I enjoy wrenching, but I enjoy driving much more. In addition, I was afraid of track driving the MR2 - I was afraid of blowing head gaskets, overheating, and other failures that are annoying to fix again and again! Truth is, I could fix the MR2 many times over for the price of the BMW, but I can drive the BMW as hard as I want at the track and nothing brakes. That, combined with just how much fun I have in the 135i equals selling the MR2.
I test drove the 135i and immediately loved it. It handles great, is nimble like the MR2 and doesn't feel huge and heavy like so many other cars of today. I went to Carmax and test drove a 2006 Cayman S with 38k miles on it. It is a good looking car - better looking in person. It has a very 'me' appearance to it! :-) It sounds great while driving - driving position is excellent, heel toeing is easy - over all driving it is easy. I didn't get to test out the handling hardly at all, except for swerving while on a straight road, and I actually thought it looser than what I expected. That said, the one word that describes the Cayman is controlled. It always feels super controlled, and no doubt would be mega fast on a track. I floored it several times, and it pulls pretty good from down low, and then around 5500RPM you get another dash of power. It just sounds amazing. Shifting it at high revs makes cool noises. It pulls very linearly and power is really easy to control. Gas pedal is nicely weighted - brakes are perfect. The interior is nice and I love the front and rear trunk. Mid-engined layout is the way to go. It is certainly more sporty than the 1 series, and better looking, but the 135i is more fun. The steering wheel is really thin - needs to be thicker! Not sure if something was wrong with the one I drove, but shifting into second was kinda rough. No sunroof! When comparing engines - the BMW just wins by miles. When you floor the BMW something special happens - right now. The torque rush is just amazing on that engine, and you move out. Then on top of that you can do a reflash and get another 80HP and 100ft-lbs of torque! Incredible. The Cayman is more top end focused, which is what I'm used to.
There's little doubt the Cayman will be faster on a track, and will handle better than the 135, but I think the 135 will be a more fun car to own and drive on a regular basis. For me the 135 is just so nice mainly because of that twin turbo engine - I want to drive one again. In a way the Cayman is too controlled - the BMW feels more exciting.
I also looked into the Nissan 370z, but I just couldn't deny the awesomeness of the BMW N54 twin turbo engine. I love turbo engines, and this one is amazing - packed with technology like direct injection, and variable valve timing. The bottom line with the 135i is that it is just plain fun to drive!