BMW Didn't Want The New 3 Series To Look Like A Smaller 5 Series


The company learned its lesson in the last generation.

One of the biggest complaints with modern luxury sedan design is that a brand can end up having several models that all look similar, creating a Russian doll effect. Since automakers typically stick with a corporate front fascia, it can sometimes be difficult to make one sedan distinctive from the rest. Take the previous generation BMW F30 3 Series and F10 5 Series for example. Many people criticized the 3 Series for looking like a smaller 5 Series, which in turn looked like a smaller 7 Series. With the reveal of the all-new G20 3 Series, BMW designers wanted to make sure no one would mistake it for the larger 5 Series.

Speaking to Australian outlet, Motoring, 3 Series product manager Stephan Horn said “There was some criticism in the past generations, looking for example from the rear at the 3 Series and 5 Series. They looked quite similar so we said this car had to look completely different from every angle compared to the predecessor and the 5 Series. It has to be recognizable as a 3 Series Sports sedan.”

Horn explained that having the two cars look so similar in the previous generation was a mistake. “Sure, we do market research and some of the 3 Series buyers, they were flattered a little bit, because people were thinking they were driving the 5 Series. Some of the 5 Series drivers were not so flattered, but we just want to keep each model as independent as possible.”

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After seeing the new 3 Series in person, we agree that it looks a lot less like the current G30 5 Series. The 3 Series has distinctive design elements including a one-piece kidney grille, indents in the headlights, and sharp panel creases. In fact, we think the taillights look more like the Lexus IS than the 5 Series.

“I think in the last generation the criticism of 3 and 5 Series was right,” Horn added. “But we believe in this generation we won’t have this discussion. The whole design language is totally different to the 5 Series.”

We like the styling of the new 3 Series and we do agree that it doesn't just look like a smaller 5 Series. Let us know in the comments if you think BMW has done enough to differentiate the new 3 Series from the larger 5 Series.