It’s often the case that BMW’s biggest competition is itself from a few years ago. “I miss the old BMW,” the enthusiasts declare, always referring to the same car from two generations back while deriding the new one as fat and wallowing and not as sporty as it should be. Around here we call it Bavarian Brainfart Disorder, or BBD, and while it’s not always a fair assessment it does have some merits. But guess what: BMW is aware of this, and they’re sick of hearing about it.
As if to preempt critics who say the all-new 2019 BMW 3 Series won’t be as good as the old BMW, development chief Klaus Frohlich gave a surprisingly and unusually candid interview to Australia’s Motoring at the recent Paris Motor Show in which he said, emphasis mine:
“It has to beat everybody in the segment in driving dynamics because all the Australian, UK and American journalists say ‘ooh the E46 CSL was the last real 3 Series’,” Frohlich told motoring.com.au. “I do not want to hear that shit anymore.”
Seldom do you hear such a direct clapback at the journalists—and by extension, all the keyboard warriors out there—who swear up and down that whatever 3 Series was being made 15 or 20 years ago was the last “good” BMW. His honesty is refreshing here. (Also, keep in mind that these cars pretty much always get dinged for being bigger, more complex and more expensive than their predecessors.)
Anyway, Frohlich swears that we have nothing to worry about with this new G20 3 Series, which he says is still BMW’s most important car in terms of volume and setting the “character” for the rest of the lineup:
First thing and this is for me the most important thing; you can drive fast and completely relaxed. You don’t feel how fast you are. Second thing and this thing is a big achievement; this car is much more valuable, it has much better materials and it is solid like a rock.
From the comfort it is more like a 5 Series, because this cluster architecture is so, so stiff; for example 50 per cent stiffness increase between front axle and bulkhead, 30 per cent overall stiffness [increase].
You do not only feel it in driving, you feel it in ride comfort.
Declaring BMW to be not as good as it used to be is a fun sport, but I actually think the Bavarians have done a lot right lately. The latest 5 Series is one of the best sedans in the world, full stop. The new X5 scored high marks recently here too. The brand’s doing some interesting things with electrification. The last M3 I drove on a track was one of the most capable and competent cars I’ve experienced to date. The 2 Series remains the light and the truth, and we’re getting a new one soon too. The new Z4 and 8 Series are welcome additions to a landscape increasingly dominated by SUVs.
But despite Frohlich’s clear frustration at having to fight nostalgia with every new product, trepidation is warranted here—not only is this G20 the largest 3 ever, by far, it’s also the first one to deploy without a manual transmission in the U.S. market, something that still feels like a betrayal of the base.
Anyway, BMW would appreciate it if you (and journalists) would quit bringing up the damn E46, thanks very much.