Back to the Future for BMW

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Since the launch of the new 7-Series in 2002, BMW’s design aesthetic has prompted considerable controversy. In an effort to “punctuate the equilibrium” and move BMW’s design launguage forward dramatically, design chief Chris Bangle has taken a lot of heat from the BMW faithful as well as the automotive press and pundits.

The 2007 3 coupe is lithesome, fluid, and graceful yet slightly menacing. It’s the best looking car BMW has made in quite a while.

For me, the “flame surfacing” has always been a bit overcooked. The swoops and cuts were individually interesting but together were jarring. Ironically, the 7 which started it all has aged quite well, aided by a terrific stance and large wheels balanced against and well executed roofline. But the last iterations of 3, 5, Z4 were all collections of details, each of which held interest, but which became a cacophony because every one was shouting for attention. There wasn’t enough harmony and the cars lacked cohesiveness.

As each model range enters its midlife refresh we are starting to see refinements. The most dramatic so far is the 2007 3-series coupe, and boy what a looker it is. Gone are the fussy rear lights, overworked front headlight lenses and the self-conscious side sculpting. Instead we have a strikingly simple shape that has a strong wedge with the roof, waistline and crease down at the bottom of the body all heading parallel diagonally upward to the tail. The sides are dramatically cleaner than the earlier iteration which suffered from too many lines and creases. Overall the stance is terrific, with a very short front overhang and a roofline that sits nicely between the wheels. The rear overhang is a little long, however.

The headlight lenses have a simple but distinctive shape, and while the transition from the front fenders into the hood is perhaps a bit fussy, a la 6-Series, it works better here than on its larger sibling. (2007 3 coupe photo on right, sedan on left.)

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The tail-lights are relieved from being the crowded trapezoids on the 4-door sedan. The shape is reminiscent of Audi’s new tail-light look, but works a lot better than the other 3’s. (Coupe on right)

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Overall the 2007 3 coupe is lithesome, fluid, and graceful yet slightly menacing, and the best looking car BMW has made in quite a while.