Now turn your hymnals, as the great man once said, to Number Four, and we’ll sing two choruses of Withering Contempt.
There’s a point in many human endeavors where the original point of said endeavor is completely lost to history and what remains is either deconstruction or parody.
Forty years ago, BMW decided to create a coherent model-naming system, no doubt because they were starting to bump into Mercedes-Benz in certain markets and Mercedes had consistent numbers on the back of their cars. (Yes, I know about the 300SEL 4.5, hush up.) Enter the “5 Series”, followed by a Six, a Three, and a Seven. The picture you see above is of a 3 Series.
Note how the 3 Series has two doors, not four. In fact, they all had two doors for quite some time. It wasn’t until the E30 successor that a four-door 3 Series even became available. Despite this, somehow an idea took root in the minds of (primarily American) Bimmer enthusiasts that “even numbers are coupes”. The arrival of the 850i confirmed this misguided notion.
Well, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. BMW’s efforts to fill every niche in the market from urban scooter to seven-seater minivan-on-stilts led to the (il)logical conclusion that a two-door 3 Series needed to be a 4 Series.
So. The original 3 Series body style is now a 4 Series. The 3 Series is now a four-door. However, there will be a four-door 3-Series that will be called the 4-Series Gran Coupe. Every niche will be filled, by force if necessary, and without regard for the company’s heritage. Those of us who snickered at the Chrysler Fifth Avenue that was really a Chrysler LeBaron that was really a Plymouth Volare from behind the ironclad Autobahn majesty of Dad’s 733i and it’s twin-kidney grille have a full Christmas dinner’s worth of crow to eat.
I suppose this means the M3 will be the M4. This makes sense because the M4 rifle is kind of an M16 for girls (cue e-mail from a 6’5″ Marine with 91 confirmed kills using one) and the M4 will probably be a tamer, more eco-conscious successor to the outbound V-8 M3. No word as to whether four-door M4s will be M3s or M4GCs.
At least it’s reasonably attractive, right? And it isn’t like it will have much genuine competition in the marketplace. Just be aware that this isn’t really the successor to the BMW 2002 lionized by Mr. David E. Davis, Jr. in his famous Car and Driver piece; it’s the successor to the lumbering, expensive Thunderbirds around which the original wonder-Bimmer drove circles.