You want a challenge? Try sitting in a design studio when tasked with redesigning an automotive icon. I especially enjoyed these tasks, because you could to honor a brand and maybe even go retro on your vellum. If I was still in that game, I’d go heavy on the E36. That was my favorite of the 3-series, because it had a proper BMW look, without being tiny and cheap looking like the E30. And while this isn’t a retro 3-series by any stretch, the toning down of Chris Bangle’s flame surfacing continues. And that’s a good thing.
I love Texas, except for our need for a front license plate. And while the new 3 is far from the worst offender (the second-gen Chrysler Concorde takes that), this particular license plate is absolutely vulgar. Luckily, the rest of the package looks surprisingly aggressive, yet restrained. It looks like the Ultimate Driving Machine, and the headlight shot at the beginning really proves the point: note how the kidney grilles are pulled back like a dog beginning to growl at you! That is a nice touch, and the nose has a proper sports sedan flavor to it.
An important word to use when trying to sound smart about design: swage line. You see them starting from the hood bulge, fender tops and the middle/bottom of the fenders. The new 3 has a ton of them, and they do work here. Usually.
Swage lines are really, really good at hiding the visual bulk of today’s stupid-tall vehicles. Here are three of them in action. Note how the bottom one blends into the door handles at first, ending into a crease at the tail lights. It is a neat touch that even the last-gen Ford Focus (US-spec) used to keep from looking as hideous as the Chrysler Sebring. Not a big problem for Bavaria’s finest.
Yep, that’s the Hofmeister Kink in full effect…son! I always loved this element in BMWs, but the trimming on this C-pillar looks a little mundane in person. Maybe that’s because other wanna-be BMW sedans on the market have that kinky-ness, and the 3 series is bigger and visually heavier. My other gripe is the door cut line, the sharp-straightness isn’t nearly as elegant as the curves elsewhere. Bend that line around the wheel well, and make the rear door look more like the leg and hips of a lovely lady!
I like the use of negative area around the trunk and rear bumper, especially how the decklid almost looks like it has an integral spoiler. The rear door cut-line looks a bit more curvaceous from this angle, and another swage line from the C-pillar reaches out to the (lightly) Bangled butt. Notice the other line that blends the tall (lower) elements of the rear bumper with the round (upper) elements above the bumper. And more lines at the bottom of the bumper, near the exhaust.
If this car was a skirt-wearing woman walking in a summer breeze, she’d be wearing something made by an extremely hyper seamstress. Chill out already with the seams!
The busy-ness continues. The new 3 is quite tall, just like all modern sedans. Which bothers me, but the extra width (and elongated tail lights) keeps this whip from having a Buffalo Butt. Also note how these tires (225mm wide) look pretty skinny. Who here remembers when 225mm tires looked absolutely wicked-thick on cars from the 1980s? I’m looking at you, BMW 635i.
More lumps and bumps, to hide that CUV-look. Those swage lines do a fair job of hiding the new 3′s height, but this is getting silly! Even body builders don’t flex their pecs this much! My kingdom for shorter (height) sports sedans!
Can you imagine this car with less ripples? Perhaps one day the E36 design aesthetic will come back into vogue in BMW’s design studio, and maybe we’ll have platforms that sit low enough to take advantage of it.