Design for the 3-Series has evolved steadily, albeit gradually, as you look at its profile and up-close design details over time. And while it's already been two years since the current F30 versions of the 3-Series sedan replaced the former E90 sedans, 2014 marks a turning point for the 3-Series for two reasons: the breakaway of Coupe and Convertibles into the new 4-Series designation, and the introduction of an all-new 3-Series Gran Turismo hatchback.
In the current 3-Series sedans, the roofline looks longer, lower, and a little swoopier without looking impractical. The look is definitely more dynamic than that of its predecessor, with a rising beltline that cuts through the sheetmetal alongside the doors and helps visually lower the hoodline. Relatively level doors, lower doorlines, and a little more window space altogether help push the 'weight' of the car visually downward (and arguably make it look a bit wider). Compared to the high-beltline sport-sedan designs of the past decade, it's a refreshing direction.
Up close, the 3-Series wears the current BMW-family front end better than of the other current sedans in the lineup; headlights curve around the corners of the wide kidney grille, also contributing to the wider and more aggressive appearance. In back the 3-Series sedan is traditional and conservative, but very handsome.
Two other body styles round out the current 2014 3-Series lineup. The BMW 328i Sports Wagon offers a traditional wagon variant, looking essentially the same as the sedan from the front doors ahead, but in back extending the roofline and tapering the sides only slightly, to maximize cargo convenience and versatility.
Also new this year is the 3-Series Gran Turismo, a five-door hatchback that's nearly eight inches longer, as well as about four inches longer in wheelbase and about three inches taller--amounting to a shape that has completely different sheetmetal, but one that stands as recognizably part of the 3-Series lineup. Frameless windows, a large hatchback, and a rear spoiler, along with the coupe-like profile, altogether push this model in a new direction that appears as one third fastback, one third wagon, and one third crossover.
There's really nothing retro or nostalgic about the current 3-Series models, and we appreciate that; the horizontally oriented instrument panel helps maximize space, and overall the interior layout provides a coherence missing from the last-generation 3-Series. A slim, tablet-like optional widescreen display on the dash stands alone but fits right in, while understated but high-tech-looking appliqués on the face of the dashboard, done in brushed aluminum or wood, make your statement of luxury, whatever that might be.
The 3-Series sedans are being offered in three different trim lines—Luxury, Modern, and Sport—and each of them cover the details with different materials and finishes. For instance, Sport cars have blacked-out detailing and red accents; Luxury-line cars come with chromed grille slats and more chrome on the outside, and glossy wood trim on the inside; Modern-line cars include satin-aluminum for the grille and brightwork, with dark oyster or black leather inside, combined with pearl trim and wood inlays.
Taking a look back at the interior of the 3-Series Coupe and Convertible models, we can't help but think that the newer Sedans are a little busy in some of their interior variations, and all of their clever cut lines and transitioning surfaces.