Clean, classy, and elegant, yet sporty through and through: The 2015 BMW 3-Series isn't particularly daring to look at, but it's the classic sport-sedan design, done right.
Over several decades and many generations, BMW has evolved the 3-Series, from a simple, rather stark sport sedan into something more sophisticated and nuanced. And while the last generation of the 3-Series arguably got a little too complex, BMW has stepped back with the current F30 versions and embraced those classic proportions.
Versus 3-Series models of the recent past, the roofline of the current sedans looks longer, lower, and a little swoopier without looking impractical. It's surely 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.
Overall, the 3-Series bucks an ongoing (and somewhat tired) trend of making sport sedans more and more wedge-like in profile, and with relatively level doors, lower doorlines, and a little more window space, it's a refreshing departure here as the 'weight' of the car visually downward (adding perceived width).
Neat and nicely detailed is the best way to sum up the 3-Series' exterior up close. It 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.
Inside, 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. In keeping with the latest trend for dash design, the dash itself is quite low while a slim, tablet-like widescreen display on the dash stands alone but fits right in. Meanwhile, 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. Just try every color and trim combination before you buy, as some of them are pretty visually busy.
The 3-Series sedans can be equipped with many different trim lines and appearance packages, and they tend to make the most difference inside the cabin. 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; Additionally, for 2015, there's new Oyster Dakota leather and brushed aluminum trim, while dark burl walnut wood is now available with the Sport Line and Fineline Anthracite wood trim is offered in the M Sport. Through the BMW Individual line, you can get a number of other special trims, including a leather dash.
Last year marked the breakaway of Coupe and Convertibles into the new 4-Series designation, and the introduction of an all-new 3-Series Gran Turismo hatchback.
Two other body styles round out the current 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.
There's also the 2015 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.