By: Kelly Pleskot - Motor Trend
BMW rarely makes big design changes to its vehicles all at once. Some may complain about that, but in a way it's a credit to the automaker. The design of the 3 Series, for instance, undergoes only gradual changes from generation to generation, and unlike other rivals, it hasn't needed to reinvent itself. Once again, the seventh-generation BMW 3 Series makes small changes to the existing look, though some of the updates are more significant than you might expect. Let's take a look at some of the styling updates.
Up front, BMW reinterprets the double kidney grilles. The two grilles are now connected, and they each have much thicker frames. The new headlights continue the bolder look. BMW reshaped these lights, making them connect more snugly to the grille similar to the 5 Series and 7 Series. Straying slightly from the lamps' traditional shape, BMW cut a notch into each of the units. The lower vent is larger and is flanked by new lighting cutouts.
Despite being BMW's entry-level sedan, the 3 Series grows once again for the new generation. It's 2.9 inches longer, 0.6 inch wider, and 0.5 inch taller than its predecessor, with a wheelbase that's 1.6 inches longer. Other than the slightly larger proportions, the 3 Series hasn't changed much from the side profile. You can still see it has a long hood and short overhangs. Character lines running across the doors have changed, but only in a subtle way. There is a newly designed Hofmeister kink incorporated into the C-pillar.
In the rear, BMW has streamlined the taillights. They're less chunky than before, and they feature a new L-shaped lighting signature. They spread out low and wide across the rear, which helps to give the 3 Series a more planted look. Some models have additional T-shaped lighting elements in the rear that complement those up front. BMW also changed up the rear bumper for the new model year.
An automaker's exterior design may endure for many years, but time can be less kind to vehicle interiors. Fortunately, BMW has made some big updates here, with a more condensed center stack. There are new touchscreens: a standard 8.8-inch unit or an optional 10.25-inch unit. There is also a new digital instrument cluster display that allows you to view an excerpt from the navigation map. BMW has redesigned the shifter and nearby buttons. The iDrive control knob is bigger, and it's now located just to the right of the shifter rather than behind it and to the right.