BMW is known for updates its cars at the mid-point through their life cycles. This is known as an LCI, or Life Cycle Impulse, in BMW terms and it happens to every car about three years into its model year. Most recently, the F30 3 Series got its LCI treatment for the 2016 model year. These LCI updates don’t typically change much, it’s usually just headlights, taillights and maybe some interior bits, but it’s never revolutionary. It’s just meant to freshen up the design so it stays relevant as newer competitors come out.
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But BMW has had varied success with its LCI updates. With some cars, the LCI made the design far better while on others, many felt the design looked better before it. So let’s take a look at the five best LCI treatments BMW gave cars.
The E60 BMW 5 Series got mixed reviews when it first launched back in 2004. It was far bigger than the E39 it replaced, was packed with more technology and had far different proportions. The Bangle-designed 5 Series was never considered beautiful, even by its fans. But it was a good car underneath the technology and “flame surfacing” design. So in 2007, when it came time for its makeover, BMW tweaked the headlights, taillights and some interior bits.
The exterior looks got a bit tighter and cleaner looking, not dramatic but much improved. The interior, though, was a big upgrade. The iDrive system was updated, thankfully as the original was almost universally hated.
The interior door panels, handles, trim and window switches changed, as well as the gear lever, which became the sleek electronic one used today. All in all, the E60’s LCI treatment turned a strange looking car into something that was almost handsome.
Post-LCI E60 5 Series
Probably the most unloved BMW of all time is the E65 7 Series. The E65 is Chris Bangle’s most criticized work, as it’s constantly mocked for its Bangle Butt. While the E65 was never a pretty car by any means, the LCI treatment that came along in 2005 certainly helped improve things.
The LCI changed the entire front and rear ends, making them far more attractive than before. The headlights changed from a sort-of double bubble style to a much sleeker design. The grilles also grew a bit and became more curved than before. The bumper also changed a bit as well. At the rear, the 7 Series got a new bumper and far improved taillights. Gone was the center light bar than ran across the trunk lid and the taillights grew into the trunk.
The interior changed only minutely, as the materials got an upgrade, the steering wheel changed and the climate controls got a bit of a refresh. Overall, the E65 7 Series went from something almost ugly to a car that could actually be called attractive with its LCI.
Post LCI E65 7 Series – No more Bangle Butt
When the 6 Series debuted in 2011, it was absolutely gorgeous. It managed to be both seductive and aggressive, something automakers often struggle with. But the F12/F12 6er was an absolute stunner. Then, the F06 6 Series Gran Coupe debuted and peoples jaws were permanently dropped. But that didn’t stop BMW from updating it in 2015. Now, it didn’t need much updating, so BMW didn’t do much.
However, new full-LED headlights were added as well as a larger lower front air intake and a slightly redesigned Hofmeister Kink. The F06/F12/F12 6 Series is now one of the better looking gran tourers on the market.
The E90 BMW 3 Series is actually one of the more handsome 3ers ever made, post-LCI. Before the facelift, though, it wasn’t all that good looking. The original car had these odd silver mustaches above the kidney grilles and the taillights were small and oddly shaped. It just wasn’t a very beautiful car. In profile, from the side, it was great looking. But catch a glimpse at either the front or rear of the car and you’re in for a bit of a shock.
However, after BMW’s LCI treatment, the E90 became a very handsome car, indeed. The weird mustaches were gone and the taillights became bigger and much nicer looking. The headlights were also improved, as well as some of the interior bits. The mark of a good LCI is when it can transform a car people aren’t sure they like into something people love.
That’s what happened with the E90 BMW 3 Series.
E90 3 Series Pre-LCI – Notice the mustaches
The original F20/F21 BMW 1 Series hatchback was a bit dumpy looking. It was actually the worst looking modern BMWs. Neither the front or rear end seemed quite right. Much like the E90 3 Series, it looked good in profile and had good proportions, but had frumpy looking headlights and taillights as well as a dumpy looking grille. The original looked kind of sad.
But after the facelift LCI treatment, the 1 Series became a real looker. The headlights are now far better than before and much sleeker. The grilles are bigger and more pronounced and the lower front bumper is much improved. The previous iteration was known for being ugly but fun.
There’s no such compromise with the post-LCI, as it’s both fun and attractive. This could possibly be the biggest improvement from a BMW LCI to date.