Saturday, July 12, 2008

3 Series Refresh

BMW has released official photos of the 3 Series refresh. For the most part this is the typical fascia change, headlamp eye lift, and taillamp correction that is to be expected at mid-production. This is usually accompanied by some minor engine updates and some new wheel designs. This time around another small change has been made, and to me it makes all the difference.

When the first of this latest generation 3er hit the shores it was a car I really had to try to like. At first the changes looked to be merely cosmetic, with the greenhouse between the previous generation E46 and the new E90 looking almost identical. I was lucky enough to see the outgoing sedan and the new kid on the block side by side. There was no looking back from that point. The E90 looked much more athletic than its predecessor. It has taken quite a while to get used to the new headlamp covers and I still haven't warmed to the pinched taillights.

With the refresh the headlamp covers have been refined, smoothing out the lines, and the taillights have been changed over to LEDs and have lost some of their angry eye persona. While the new taillight configuration has a smoother flow, it lacks the same resolution of lines as the angry eyes. Neither solution has the elegance of the L-shaped arrangement on the E-46 that was also a hallmark of that generation of BMWs.

The small change has to do with the rear track, it has been widened slightly. To me this makes all the difference in the world. For some reason the rear wheels of the original E90 always looked to recede too much into the wheel wells. You know how a spare tire donut just looks wrong in the wheel well? That something, and you're not sure what at first, just looks off? That's the way it looked like to me. While the tucked in wheels might have shaved 0.02 off the drag coefficient, the aesthetics made the rear axle look like it was broken. The E90 M3, with it's wider rear rubber, looked better in a boy racer kind of way. The new E90, however, with its slightly wider rear track looks just right.

It also looks like BMW has upped the ante on the interior, as well. It's about time, they've been getting pwned by Mercedes and Audi for far too long. Considering these marques are inferior to BMW this is inexcusable. Mixing woods, light and dark surfaces, and textures has really paid off on the new interiors. Hopefully these new themes will cross the pond and make it to our shores.

Overall I must say I'm quite pleased with the latest refresh. After owning several BMWs (328i, Z4, M5) and having long term use of others in the stable (X3, 740iL) I must say the may favorite was the 3er. It's the right size for city driving and comfortable enough on long drives. Its sporting nature is easy to tap into when you want it, and cradle you in the lap of luxury when the pace slows. While the 5er is great for touring, and the 7er is unbeatable for long hauls, the 3er is the model the really straddles the gap between pure sports car and grand touring sedan. It is the quintessential BMW. I'm glad they didn't screw it up.

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