Adapt, Improve, Enhance: Evolution In Cars

How do automakers improve on their best-selling products, year after year?

Change is as good as a holiday, they say, and nowhere is the attempt to keep up with technology and changing appetites more obvious than in the motoring sector. Automakers have one main job – to develop a product that constantly meets the needs and whims of the people buying from them. And when it comes to vehicles that cover more than one segment, that means a lot of tweaking and tuning. 

For German powerhouse BMW, the 3 Series has been one of its most beloved cars. Whether in standard iteration that ticks the boxes for cargo space, a back seat for the kids, and comfort inside the cabin or in performance-focused derivatives like the M3 and M3 CS, a lot has had to change over the years in order for the 3 Series to remain where it is – close to the top of the food chain for its respective segments. Let’s have a look at how BMW has kept its best-selling sedan relevant.

2006 – 2011: Fifth-Gen 3 Series

Going back around sixteen years to the launch of the E90 BMW 3 Series sees a sedan offered in various configurations with a range of engine options. This range was praised for being a fantastic sedan to drive with class-leading handling and a sporty feel. The cabin is noted for being upmarket and well constructed, but there wasn’t much in the way of modern safety features at the time.

In 2009, the automaker saw fit to give the 3 Series a facelift to align it with customer’s wishes, which pertained largely to how the car looked. Updates include a restyled front end, revised headlights, fresh taillights using LEDs, and a reshaped rear end. The update also included new wheel styles. Inside, the only changes included chrome accents on the dash-mounted cupholders and a new iDrive controller with preset shortcut keys for telephone, navigation, radio, and the CD Player.

At the same time as the facelift, a new 335d model was introduced with a diesel engine and an automatic transmission. It was known for great fuel economy, achieving 27 mpg combined. Diesel engines don’t fare well in the USA, however, and so it didn’t sell particularly well. In the final model year, 225i models were granted a new N55 single-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft.

Feature upgrades over the lifespan included traffic updates added to the navigation system and automatic high beams added to the optional extras list in 2010. 

2012 – 2019: Sixth-Gen 3 Series

In 2012, the sixth-gen 3 Series was introduced to the market with the F30 BMW cars and the F31 models that followed expounding on the improvements made in the previous generation. For the new cycle, BMW took great steps forward to try and meet the needs of the consumers, and some feel that the 3 Series lost a bit of its edge trying to please the masses. 

Still, the cars were lushly appointed higher up in the range with base models feeling a little sparse on standard features. Still, 340i models come with a power sunroof, LED lights, premium audio setup, and satellite radio as standard. The facelifted models also introduced Apple CarPlay.

While sixth-gen models already looked the part, the automaker didn’t rest on its laurels and in 2016 the 3 Series was given a substantial facelift with an entirely updated front fascia, wider kidney grills, and new headlights with full-LED clusters, and a V-theme in the bumper. Brand new colors were also added to the exterior paint selection, including Mediterranean Blue Metallic, Platinum Silver, and Jatoba Brown. 

Naturally, this generation received a higher specification in terms of safety kit, with automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and traction and stability control as standard. Available features included speed-limit information, active driving assistant, lane-departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, city-collision mitigation, active blind-spot detection, and side- and top-view cameras – a far departure from the previous generation cars that were still sans this advanced tech.

Keeping Up With The Clients

The advancements made from 2006 to 2019 over two generations of the BMW 3 Series’ life show that not only do automakers keep up with appearances in terms of styling and looks, but ensuring that on-board technology is updated as it becomes available. While engines changed and improved over time, so too did the safety specifications – in line with the change in NHTSA review processes. The later model BMWs are thus much more comprehensively equipped, while earlier models still provide a fun driving experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *