BMW consciously separated the design of its new volume-seller from its big brother
BMW has highlighted many of the technical priorities for its new seventh-generation 3 Series, but now it has also admitted there was another important goal for the car.
The new BMW 3 Series had to look a lot less like a 5 Series than its predecessor.
The Russian-doll styling syndrome has been a long-standing criticism of German luxury sedan families, including the Audi A4, A6 and even A8, the Mercedes-Benz C- and E-Class, and the BMW 3 and 5 Series.
It was a problem for the previous-generation F30 3 Series and the current G30 5 Series and its F10 predecessor. We know that for certain because BMW now acknowledges it existed.
“There was some criticism in the past generations, looking for example from the rear at the 3 series and 5 series,” BMW’s 3 Series product manager Stephan Horn told Australian media at the Paris motor show this week.
“They looked quite similar so we said this car had to look completely different from every angle compared to the predecessor and the 5 Series.
“It has to be recognisable as a 3 Series sports sedan.”
Horn revealed the identity clash led to different reactions among 3 and 5 series drivers.
“Sure, we do market research and some of the 3 Series buyers, they were flattered a little bit, because people were thinking they were driving the 5 Series.
“Some of the 5 Series drivers were not so flattered…
“But we just want to keep each model as independent as possible.”
The G20 3 Series arrives with BMW eulogising its dynamics, future proof technology and design.
But the new BMW 3 Series also grows significantly in size to 4709mm overall length, putting it within 201mm of the 5 Series. Its wheelbase also grows 41mm compared to its predecessor, to 2851mm.
Yet the cabin space does not grow markedly, a sure sign that BMW was conscious of not impinging on the 5’s territory with too much sprawling room.
BMW lists off several reasons why the new 3 Series is bigger. First off, the new CLAR (Cluster) architecture, which also underpins the current 5 Series, has shrunk its wheelbase as much as it can.
The front-end of 3 Series has been extended to cope with the latest NCAP pedestrian impact regulations, while the rear has been extended to maintain styling balance.
But Horn revealed the 3 Series could have been even bigger.
“Our overall goal was to make the car as compact as possible,” said Horn. “We were really fighting about every millimetre in terms of extension.
“We are the ultimate sports sedan, we are not a small 5 Series,” he added. “And for having a sports sedan you don’t want to have big, long car whatsoever.”
BMW cites a bunch of styling differentiators that have been baked into the new 3 Series design, including the one-piece kidney grille, indents into the lower edge of the headlight lens, sharp panel creases and curved front and rear corners designed to make the car look as compact as possible.
“I think in the last generation the criticism of 3 and 5 Series was right,” added Horn. “But we believe in this generation we won’t have this discussion.
“The whole design language is totally different to the 5 Series,”