During the launch of the new 3 Series at the BMW Welt in Munich we had a few minutes with BMW ‘s Chief Designer, Adrian van Hooydonk. During our discussions he was very candid and expressed his feelings on the new car and where it fits in the lineup. He also touched on how the exterior design was influenced by regulations.

As BMW ‘s chief of design he signed off on the final version of the car but it is the board that must give the final approval. This all new car is viewed internally and by much of the media as an evolutionary change when compared to the exiting E90 platform.

Adrian happily explained the basic idea of the BMW sedan models and how they are all members of the BMW family and are easily recognizable as such. The 3,5, and 7 all feature BMW ‘s traditional twin kidney grills, the Hoffmeister kink and the creases on the hood that flow off of the Roundel. Each model uses these elements as individuals but all are “unmistakeable as BMW “.

Beginning with the 7, the kidney ‘s are the highest and largest as are the lines on the hood.The Hoffmeister kink features an “echo ” stamped in the sheet metal as a characteristic that is solely used on the 7. The 7 is BMW ‘s largest offering and the proportions are such.

The 5 Series continues using typical BMW elements but introduces a more low slung “wedge ” appearance, to promote increased sportiness. The kidneys become wider and the creases on the hood are more exaggerated. The kink remains traditional. The 5 is the middle of the road sedan in BMW ‘s lineup and is the most mainstream design wise.

With the new 3er the goal was to create tension, and motion while standing still. The wedge shape was taken even further than the 5 series, the kidney grills were made wider with the hood creases playing less of a prominent role. The front fascia adds new elements- the headlights are squinted to emulate an athlete readying for competition, not to look angry but more focussed. The front kidney grill is more dominant, being three dimensional and more exposed- building on BMW ‘s original distinguisher and emphasizing the history of the brand. The three series looks fresh, these elements have not been used on a modern BMW and also show it as youthful and more daring.

Rules and regulations around the world greatly influenced the design, crash worthiness, pedestrian safety and increased visibility all impact final design. For the new 3er much of the front was designed in a way to make the drag as low as possible (cod .26) while being tops in safety. The side mirrors now prominently display a thin LED side marker, the placement of this light element was due to regulations but the designers used LEDs and a specific location on the mirror to create an illusion of the mirror being smaller than it really is. It works as we have yet to hear any “Dumbo ” ear comments about these mirrors.

The US being a specific market will see some slight exterior changes. First, there will be no line badges on the front fender- it will not say “Sport ” or whatever line, it will just be blank. As most BMW fans in the US know, the regulations require a specific amount of orange reflector on the front corners and this has up until recently yielded yellow parts in the lights. When the chief designer says that putting yellow in the lights ruins the modern appearance and makes them look bad you know he means business and that the marker, like the latest cars, will be placed vertical on the front bumper just in front of the wheel well.

In person the car looks much more athletic, it looks sensational and will sell boatloads. We ‘ll have more on the interior soon.