It is a once in every 7 year experience to see an all new 3 series in the sheet metal for the first time. The first few hours spent around the F30 at the Detroit Auto Show were a visual overload. The car has so many subtle design elements that you can come back to the design from each angle over and over again and each time take away something new.
Subtle style cues like the side skirt line bending in to match the front wheel arch line shows how much time was put into every inch of the F30 design. Because of the complexity of the design the car has a lot to tell you, and so it take a long time to take in the entire design story. It is easy to glance over the F30 and say, yes, it is a great looking car. But to really appreciate it, to really know the design it took lots of wandering around the car just taking it all in. In short the design is fanatic, you can quickly rest your eye on it, and be in love, and also come back and look on it time and time again and still be in love. This is a design that you can grow into, many many miles down the road.
Having spent the better part of a day simply admiring the all new 2012 BMW F30 3 series sedan I eventually was able to move past just staring at the design and soaked in some of the more daily details. Things you might pass over at an auto show but will appreciate, or despise on a daily basis. Here are some of the subtle F30 details that I think are worth mentioning -
Get Your Jam On
The center arm rest has an auxiliary input as well as a USB connector. No word yet how the USB connection will work with iPods and iPhones, it will be one of the first things we test with our project F30 328i.
All Screens Not Created Equal
There is a significant variation between the standard dash display and the navigation display. If you're not aware the base F30 has a screen, but if you get the navigation package it is upgraded. The screen is a fixture in the car and the base screen has a cheapness that does take away from the interior experience. With it's prominent location having the nicer navigation screen/screen bezel is probably worth it.
Base F30 3 series dash display screen -
Optional F30 3 series Navigation display screen -
The BMW 3 series is a premium car but still represents some degree of entry level in the BMW range with the 1er below it and the 5, 6, 7 being up range so I cannot say that a bit of cheaper plastics on the 3 series is a surprise. That being said the use of cheap plastic in a few locations was noted, most noticeably on the mirrors. The top part of the mirror containing the turn signal, which doesn't look bad in person, comes either in body color or high gloss black. The lower part on the three standard line, Modern, Luxury or Sport, is a noticeably cheap black plastic. Only with the M Sport Package to you get an a shadow trim matched mirror base and mirror bottom (pic of M sport mirror)
Cheap plastic mirror bases on F30 stand out like a sore thumb
Weights Savings Baked In
With ever increasing safety features, growing wheel base and passenger compartment space and standard feature lists a mile long the base weight of BMWs has been on the rise. With the F30 BMW started at the beginning with weight savings in mind. The entire front bumper and head lights hang way off the end of the chassis. This saves the weight of forming the main chassis all the way to the very end of the car and probably improves pedestrian safety as well. The neatest trick is the wheel wheels. They would normally be metal, with a plastic liner. BMW realized the plastic liner was all that was needed and removed the sheet metal part of the wheel liner for weight savings. This was especially interesting to the KIA execs that were checking out the F30.
If you option the car up with the Driver Assistance Package and the Parking Package there are cameras all over the car. A review camera to help backup is all but common at this point but the cameras under the mirrors and in the rear view mirror are interesting. I'm not crazy about how BMW has intentionally made the front facing rear view mirror camera so obvious. I would have liked the camera to be more discreet and they certainly didn't need to put the "ConnectedDrive" logo on there. I hope that is something that can be taken off, but I have a feeling it is under the glass.
ConnectedDrive rear view mirror with front facing camera
Top View camera on underside of side mirror
A few other interesting points about the F30
- There is no physical spot for the key. All F30s come with "Keyless Go", you never have to take the key out of your pocket to drive the car. Comfort access option adds the ability to unlock the door by simply touching the door handle, plus the hands free trunk opening.
- Driver Assistance Package (ZDA) that includes lane departure warning and Collision Warning system eliminates the cubie on the left side of the steering wheel. You can see the cubie here, and the Driver Assistance buttons here
After an entire day with several different F30 328s, 335s and the M sport 335 my final reaction is solid excitement. The look of the car is extremely fresh and aggressive, the powertrain options are excellent and the interior is well styled and appointed. The only thing left before I can completely sign off on the F30 is time behind the wheel. With our long term review 328i arriving in February (fingers crossed) it is just a matter of time before I have a few hundred miles of F30 driving to report on. Stay tuned for more F30 details from Bimmerfest.com!
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