The Secret E30 Design Cue Hidden in BMW's Vision Neue Klasse Concept

Kai Langer, head of BMW i Design, explains how the E30-generation 3 Series informed BMW’s concept for an all-electric sport sedan.

BMW Neue Klasse E30 Design Cue BMW Neue Klasse E30 Design Cue

BMW just unveiled the Vision Neue Klasse X concept car, an all-electric "sports-activity vehicle" previewing the iX3 electric crossover that debuts next year. At the Vision Neue Klasse X debut, BMW also had the original Vision Neue Klasse on display—the four-door electric sports sedan from 2023.

The Vision Neue Klasse is low-slung and sporty, with classic sedan proportions. Kai Langer, head of design for BMW's all-electric i division, explained that this was no accident.

Langer once owned an E30-generation BMW 3 Series, a car he described as "really destroyed." So when he directed his team to begin design work on the Vision Neue Klasse, he wanted to evoke that same sporty feeling of his dearly departed E30.

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He did it subtly: The belt line of the Vision Neue Klasse concept car is at exactly the same height as the window sill on an E30, the second-generation 3 Series built from 1982 to 1994. "That's what I gave as the design brief," Langer told me at BMW's press event in Portugal. "I said, whatever we do with the car, the belt line needs to be the same as it was on the E30."

This, Langer said, gives the Vision Neue Klasse a heritage feel, without resorting to overt retro styling. "The bigger greenhouse, the almost-not-tinted glass, it brings in as much lightness to the car as we can," he told me.

The E30 is legendary among car enthusiasts as a vehicle that offers comfort, practicality, and performance in one package. It's the generation that launched the first M3, but even non-M E30s are renowned for being pure, communicative, and fun to drive. Much like the BMW 2002 of the 1960s, the E30 helped solidify BMW's image as a maker of brilliant sport sedans—something the company wants to rekindle as it pivots from internal combustion to all-electric vehicles.

"I said, whatever we do with the car, the belt line needs to be the same as it was on the E30."

Hence, the Vision Neue Klasse, which revives the "new class" name that BMW last used in the 1960s and pays subtle tribute to the E30 all at the same time. The result is a concept car that looks sporty without being overwrought—another similarity to the E30. "The E30 is a very dynamic car, without being aggressive," Langer told me. "The world is hard. Be dynamic, be sportive, whatever, but without being aggressive. That's what we really believe.”

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