BMW’s new design language – Interview with BMW designer Patric Meinzer.

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Interview with Patric Meinzer, BMW designer. 

Haven’t we all been wondering about the new direction the 3 Series is heading to and this of course results in questions in the design. Many of you have been debating about design features such as the T-shaped air intakes in the front and back, the L-shaped rear lights and more. Let me try to bring some answers.

During my time in Portimao, I had the chance to get hold of one of the designers responsible for the 3 Series design, Patric Meinzer. And of course I used this opportunity to ask him a little more about the details of the all new BMW 3 Series Design.

Patric, which are the most ambitious design elements?

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The new BMW 3 Series is one of our first cars to show our new BMW design language – „Precision and Poetry“. Fewer but precise lines and generously sculpted/poetic surfaces help to underline sportiness and presence. The level of precision we achieved is ambitious. Look for example at the sharp and crisp lines on the bonnet. And there are other striking design elements, for example the headlights with their technical innovations and their „cut-off interpretation“. The notched sculpture supports the headlight contour by visually separating the two tubes (recalling the E46) and emphasises the four-eyed appearance. 

Those features help to create the car’s own character and differentiates it clearly from 5 and 7 series. In the rear the aerodynamic trailing edge emerges from the rocker panel and runs all the way across the tailgate. This helps to improve aerodynamics and results in the best Cx in the history of the BMW 3 series. Finding the best combination of aerodynamics and design is always a challenge. In the interior the one-piece curved display is also very ambitious, being the first such display in a production car. The decorative accents are also noteworthy in their execution, incorporating contour lighting despite their ultra thin profile.

I love the new design of the front grill of all new BMW models, especially from a profile point of view. That’s when the small “shark nose” appears. Can you talk about the ambitions of the reimplementation of the “shark nose”?

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It’s true. The front grill -our double kidney-  has become much more three dimensional and at the same time has a slight shark nose feeling. The shark nose motive is very present in the long history of BMW cars and a very dynamic design element – our designers love to play with this element since it adds sportiness.

Tell me about the T-Shaped air intakes, a feature being found in the sports and luxury line, one being critically discussed by the 3 Series fan base.

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The T-shaped air intakes are basically NACA ducts, which are highly efficient in terms of aerodynamics. NACA ducts were initially used for jet engines, but were quickly adopted in car racing, as they bring air into a vehicle with minimal increase in drag. On our new BMW 3 series the NACA scoop incorporates the AirCurtain, ensuring an aerodynamically efficient airflow in the wheelhouse.

In addition they integrate the fog lights and also help to distinguish the sport line from the luxury line. Those elements help to strengthen the unique character of the car.

I assume the rear T-shaped elements mimic the front ones, more aesthetically than functional in terms of aerodynamics?

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In order to create a homogenous design we applied the same logic for the rear as we have in the front of the car. The rear elements are related to the front ducts and they do contain the rear reflectors and also help to differentiate the sport line from the luxury line.

In terms of rear end aerodynamics, the previously mentioned trailing edge is the most efficient feature.

Looking at the new M340i xDrive, what what the most challenging design aspect to integrate or target to realize?

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The M340i xDrive is a very powerful statement. The design underlines this. This starts already in the front: because of the high performance engine the car needs additional air intakes. Those massive outer air inlets extend dynamically towards the right and left, while the trapezoidal central air inlet seems to connect to the road. Same goes for the rear. Look at the elongated rectangular tail pipes.

The cerium accents an aesthetic statement to highlight the sportiness of those cars.…elements that clearly show: this is an M car. This car looks quick and is quick.

The front grill design is leaning on the concept and now series BMW Z4, are the DNA’s purposely being mixed from Roadster and Sedan?

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Our new Z4 is a pure sports car. The mesh grill with its nuggets is one of our sportiest expressions in BMW Design today. It’s an easily recognizable feature and an expression of performance.

Meshes are used in race cars and we transferred this sporty DNA to the most dynamic version of our BMW 3 Series core model. Thus you understand straight away that it’s an M 340i.

Now talking about the interieur, one detail immediately shines out: the huge, curved central display. Driving oriented cockpit taken to a whole new level. The first ever, one piece, curved glass panel in a car, correct? What was the thrive & idea behind it?

Combining the displays is a defining feature of the interior design. The center information display (CID) is now connected with the instrument cluster by one wide glass band. Both displays are positioned at eye level and close to each other. This helps to underline our driver orientation. The glass curves towards the instrument cluster and the driver’s focal point. On the left there is an additional  high-gloss black decor element that is also curved towards the display. This provides symmetry and supports the feeling of driver orientation.

During the presentation you talked about the “cone of vision” can you explain that again?

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Sure: what we call „cone of vison“ describes the perspective orientation towards the road. The above-mentioned elements (curved glass display and curved decor element) help to emphasize this driver orientation.

The optional head-up display -being in the driver focus- underlines this principle and boosts the driving experience.

A new word to my vocabulary was the word “Glühende Körper” earlier today, that was the word you used to describe the rear L-shaped lights. Is this a common description and when was it introduced?

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„Glühende Körper“ or “glowing bodies” stands for an especially homogenous 3D lighting design that was first introduced in the new Z4. You can see the beautiful and homogenous glow in the L-shaped taillights.

Another add-on are the noise reduction windscreen and optional windows. When was this idea launched and how hard was it to realize this feature?

It was our goal to optimize the noise reduction and this took a lot of time. You have to know that a lot of the noise is generated around the a-pillar. Working closely with our collegues from aerodynamics we achieved the optimum result. In addition we introduced noise reduction windscreen and side windows. The result is a considerably reduction of noise, which you surely experienced when driving the car.

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