On the subject of the E46 (1999-2005) BMW 3-series vs. the E90 (2006-present) BMW 3-series…good things about the older version:
- matte-finished plastic surfaces, always soft to the touch, and few if any visible creases
- coated buttons and switches, with smooth, well-damped movement
- digital readout fonts on radio and gauge cluster thin and clear…very precise
- gauge cluster small and carefully-detailed…almost jewel-like
Good things about the current version:
- interior surfaces are more architectural and contemporary
- outside design is very sleek, attractive…especially the coupe
Things I don’t understand on newer version:
- standard (sedan) steering wheel is bulbous and ugly…only the sport steering wheel is ergonomic and attractive
- most interior surfaces are shinier and have a grainier texture
- standard leatherette upholstery is very rubbery…not even close to leather-like
- wood trim looks less convincing
General trends in premium automobiles that I don’t understand:
- blank buttons: Typically they denote a lack of ‘options,’ but they’re an eyesore and are simply a cost-saving corner-cutting characteristic of base-model cars that didn’t used to be the standard practice. Mercedes used to cut holes for buttons in the dashboard wood trim of their cars only when thay button-option was specified. Classy is what it was…
- rattles: When you purchase a $70k car, you expect there to be few or no rattles to hear. Unacceptable.
- non-use of LED lights: how come Cadillac has been using all-LED rear tail and brake lamp clusters for years now, but Mercedes still puts standard bulbs in many of its cars’ rear clusters. No excuse. BMW even had all-LED rear clusters for the E46 3-series coupe (post-facelift), yet the E90 coupe lacks them.
- LED daytime-running-lights: for some reason, they just look cheap. I am not a fan of the newer Audis (A4, A5, Q5, Q7 to name a few) that have white LED DRLs. Sorry for lack of a better explanation, but I just don’t think they’re classy. *I do however think the LED-DRL interpretation on the most recent iteration of the Saab 9-3 (a single bar of light across the top of the headlamp cluster) is very sleek looking.
- Use of black plastic in place of color-coordinated plastic on interior panels: This is a direct dig at Mercedes, which uses more standard black plastic panels and trim in place of going the extra step of creating gray or beige pieces that would more generally match the color of the interior.
A thought: since the American market for luxury vehicles has expanded so greatly over the last 15 years, new vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, etc. are less geared towards Europe and the rest of the world and more towards the North American market. And by that I mean, fewer manual gearboxes available, fewer ‘teutonic’ quirks, more focus on volume and profit-margins rather than excellence, bigger engines and more horsepower, larger overall proportions (see new Audi A4), and less emphasis on unique identity of each brand.
I’ve written about these things before, so I’m not going to elaborate.