Vellum Venom: 2012 BMW 328i Sedan

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 2012 bmw 328i sedan

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.

Things are getting a little lumpy and bumpy when you get close. Could be worse, this could be the last-gen Camry.

Technology is great, except when it isn’t. The BMW shark fin is rather ludicrous. How I long for the days when antennas fit between the two panes of glass in a windshield!

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.

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2 of 49 comments
  • Robc123 Robc123 on Mar 30, 2012

    hideous. I see why the 3 is the new 5 and the 1 the new 3.

  • Yes_but_maybe Yes_but_maybe on Mar 30, 2012

    I've pointed out before that the front plate requirement would be a lot easier if the front plate were just a really high quality bumper sticker instead (and it can be more bumper sticker size, as opposed to license plate sized.)

  • Cprescott I remember when Fords were affordable.
  • Cprescott As a once very LOYAL FORD buyer, I had to replace my 22 year old Ford (bought new in 1997) once it finally started to have problems at 180k miles. I would have gladly purchased something like this from Ford but they abandoned me as a car buyer. Oddly, Hyundai still builds cars in a variety of flavors so I became a customer of theirs and am very happy. Likely will consider another once this one gets up in mileage.
  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.