2012 BMW 3 Series : Road Test
50 50 doesn't just represent the perfect weight distribution on the new BMW 3 Series, it also represents our preference for the 320d over the 328i and our divided opinion on whether we liked the old 3 better
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There are many paths to achieve nirvana. Ask a saint and they’ll guide you to a life of solitude, philosophy and better living. Ask a sinner and they’ll tread the path of destruction, violence and mutual harm. Ask a motorhead and you’ll be led to a world of luxury, horsepower and impeccable handling – a world in which there is perfect weight distribution, loads of torque, tumbling quarter mile times and rear-wheel drive. No wonder then that if there’s one car to feature on every enthusiast-worth-his-salt’s top ten list it would have to be the BMW 3 Series.
The only conflict that arises is when you ask them which generation of the revered 3 makes it to the top because you see, the original E21 3 Series that debuted in 1975 has had five descendants now and each has been better than the previous one, or has it? Personally, the E30 has been the one to rock my boat and while a majority agrees with that, there is still a small minority that prefers the fourth generation E46. Regardless, the 3 series has always been one of the best driver’s cars that you could buy off the shelf and the tradition continues to this day thanks to some very strictly adhered to values in Munich.
Sadly, Indian buyers never got to sample the E30, the E36 or even the E46 3 Series cars from BMW because what debuted here was the fifth generation E90 – a model that was the highly controversial poster boy for Chris Bangle’s flame surfacing design language. Yet, in all its glory, the E90 3 Series was quite the car – long hood, swept back cabin and short boot coupled with some superior firepower mated to the rear wheels. Not all was well with this generation though because while it offered some awesome pampering for the front passengers, it wasn’t as roomy for those sitting in the back.
So while those who would drive more than be driven chose to still go for the very involving BMW, the chauffeured ones chose to walk into the showrooms of other German manufacturers. By 2011, the E90 model saga had spanned over five years including a subtle face-lift in 2009 and it was time for the 3 series to go through another major revision. Marketing-speak from Bavaria calls it the ‘Ultimate 3’ while the engineers call it the F30 – harking back to the first generation 3 Series but gaining an alphabetic progression indicating a whole lot of revolution in the car, but is this really that much better than the previous generations? Is the new BMW 3 Series enough to usurp all its predecessors to make it the most loved 3 of all time?
WAIT A MINUTE, WAS THAT A 5 SERIES?
With BMW design chief Chris Bangle’s departure from the brand in 2009, most of his design philosophy has faded away from the propeller-logo brand as well. This gradually was made evident in the evolution of the 5 and 7 series and if someone missed the signs, the new 3 Series puts it right in your face. There’s a complete revision of the front end with love-it or loathe-it horizontal headlamps that actually pierce their way to the massive trademark kidney grille. Then there’s the omission of the big central air dam in favour of two larger ones pushed to the outer extremities of the front bumper that incorporate very suave fog lights flanking nice, flat splitters.
Look beyond all that angry squinting on the front end and there’s a very sculpted hood that drops violently into that cliff that makes up the headlamps. The bonnet itself transitions gradually into the windscreen to start off with the swept back glasshouse and then tapers into a short bootlid – nothing out of the ordinary there until you spot the strong character lines, one along the waist and the other more sporty one just above the door sills. And then when the new 3 series passes ahead, you get to spot the rear.
This is the exact moment that your brain will process what it sees and trick you into thinking this isn’t the 3, but quite deceivingly a 5 series instead thanks to those family tail lights, which ironically evolved from the face-lifted E90 3 Series when BMW designed the 5! So if we’d have to sum it up in a nutshell, the F30 3 Series is actually a love child having got the ‘do not mess with me’ aggressiveness of the Z4’s front end and the subtle details of the 5 series’ back side, but still carrying over from the gene pool of the E90 3 – well done, BMW.
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