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One Is Not
the Loneliest Number

One Is Not
the Loneliest Number


BMW returns to its 3-series roots with the light and affordable 1-series.

2008 BMW 128i convertible Retail price (msrp) $33,875 Standard engine 3.0-liter inline 6 Horsepower 230 @ 6,500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 200 @ 2,750 rpm Fuel economy, city (mpg) 18 Highway (mpg) 27-28

If you've spent any time in the gayborhood in the last 10 years, you know that the BMW 3-series is the unofficial gay car. Available as a coupe, sedan, convertible, or supercar, the cheapest BMW satisfied a myriad of tastes among the LGBT elite.

But just as the decade turned us from twinks to daddies, the 3-series has grown thicker around the middle and developed an expensive taste (the 2008 M3 costs around $60,000). So it seems high time for the venerable 3-series to pass the everyman's BMW moniker to the next generation. Enter the upstart 1-series, which shows up in six-cylinder 128i form or as a twin turbo-six 135i; both are available as a smart coupe or a sexed-up convertible. With the same engines as the 3-series but housed in lighter, nimbler bodies, the 1-series reminds us that driving a BMW in its purest sense should be fast, fun, and free.

After a day with both the coupe and the convertible in Monterey, Calif., the topless version won our hearts, minds, and pants. It just feels right from the driver's seat up. The 1-series is the natural bodybuilder. While not exactly pretty -- from the side it can look a little flat -- it's a little more light and direct in steering and handling than the muscled-up 3-series. And it's that agility that gives the 1-Series that essential BMW feel -- kind of the brand's Chanel No. 5, recaptured.

The standard 230-horsepower six-cylinder sounds mechanically ecstatic, and nothing beats top-down motoring in such a well-crafted vehicle. Opt for the 300-horse turbo six and you're almost overdoing it -- you can price a 135i convertible over a standard 335i.

One caveat: While both versions are billed as a four-seater, only the coupe may be able to handle the occasional adult in the rear. The convertible's tight quarters in the back limits comfortable entry for anyone of average size or larger; save the backseat for your overnight bags. And opt for the leather seats -- vinyl heats up too quickly.

BMW snuck the 1-series in under $40,000, even with the dollar rapidly approaching peso valuations. The 128i coupe starts at $29,375, while the convertible starts at $33,875. At those prices, nothing else comes close to taking the 3-series' crown.

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Joe LaMuraglia