The newest BMW 3-Series will be making its way to dealerships soon. Let’s just say that when BMW sent me the press release and photos a while back, I was ecstatic about the specifications, but upset over what the coupe and convertible actually look like.
It took years for the BMW 3-Series to grow on me. In the 1980s the 325 (on the original so-called E30 platform) was an overly-expensive boxy thing that simply had no appeal to most people. In the mid 1990s, though, the E36-platform 3-Series became a serious force. It offered great handling, fantastic ride, good quality, nice ergonomics, and most importantly, it was sexy as a red formal silk dress on Sporty Spice. I even rode shotgun to my wedding in a silver E36 328 coupe, the experience proving smooth enough for me to perfectly complete the knot in my black bow tie in the visor mirror. My friend drove down from Seattle in this very same car to visit last week. He has plenty of money to replace the old car, but can’t justify it. It still looks beautiful and is a hoot to pilot.
Somewhere along the way as the 3-Series continued becoming a better all-around sports-luxury vehicle, it also started losing its styling mojo. Some people blame Chris Bangle, but more likely it is the result of the corporate handcuffing about which most Chief Stylists and their department managers complain.
The new 3-Series is a small evolutionary step from the modern E90-platform 335i convertible I convinced my father to buy a couple years back. (No regrets on any of our parts, either.) Excuse me, though, if I do say that the changes to new 3 destoys what appeal was left. Now the cars look fat and boring. Whereas the E36 was chiseled and athletic, the 2011 3 seems to complete the move to a pudgy, out-of-shape look that started with subtle changes during the 1999-2005 E46 platform. It has no character at all — like a fuzzy shadow.
Don’t get me wrong — the specifications of the car indicate that it is as capable as Magic Johnson playing in an over-50 league at the local YMCA. But with the extra weight and additional electronic gizmos diluting that legendary “feel of the road”, the 2011 3 is on first impression the larger, indistinct version of its former self.