Matt Prior: BMW designers deserve a grilling

2019 BMW 7 Series and X7

BMW: faces only their designer could love?

A close encounter with the new X7 and 7 Series in the flesh prompts the question: how has this happened?

This week’s ‘what were they thinking?’ breaking news is brought to you – it feels not for the first time – by BMW

Yesterday I saw a new X7 photographed by a colleague, and later passed an actual, in-the-metal, new 7 Series on the road

That meant seeing them both far from the attentions of a professional photographer, someone who might try to capture them in the right settings, or at the right angle – from the back is the best, I find – to minimise the shock and awe of the new, oversized front grille some new BMWs seem to be sporting. 

I’ve been trying to think of the word that best describes the feeling you get on seeing it. I’m currently going with ‘horrific’, but it’s a developing theme. 

What I know is that both times I saw that nose, I winced like I was watching a replay of a grisly sporting injury. These are genuinely painful cars to look at. 

Why would you design a car to look like that, I wonder? Did it look amazing on paper, with something going distinctly awry during the production process? Or was it just a design office joke that got way, way out of hand because nobody once quietly put their hand up and said: “Er, boss, this car; very nice and all, but isn’t it a bit, y’know, absolutely minging?” The only thing I think it cannot be is because everybody looked at the finished thing and said: “Perfect, I think we really nailed it there.” 

It’s easy to be dismissive, I know. Especially with design, which is more subjective than pure engineering. As such, I’ve felt trepidatious meeting a designer after casually, perhaps cruelly, dismissing their otherwise quite attractive car as looking like it’s had a stroke (Land Rover Discovery rear) or like a stress-ball F-Pace (Jaguar E-Pace) because that was a bit mean. But here, where is the line on being too cruel, when they are, to my eyes, the worst-looking cars a mainstream manufacturer has launched for decades? 

I understand that, at times, BMWs of the early 2000s – the era of design director Chris Bangle – were controversial, sometimes challenging, to look at. But part of the idea was that, while some car shoppers would instinctively swipe left on seeing one, there were an equal or greater number intrigued by the taut surfacing, who’d think they absolutely must have one. 

And I’m just not sure that’s the case here, unless there is a subset of people who like to gaze upon their driveway in the morning and pull a face like they’re watching a really difficult surgical procedure. 

And so searching for reasons why, or how, BMW would end up here, I can only think of one possible answer. BMWs have had a bit of a reputation over the years. Sometimes the gits of this world have driven them. There was the old gag that indicators were optional, and that if somebody was ruthless, a tailgater, an outside-lane hogger, who’d never let you out at a junction and, conversely, you’d never let out either, it would be a BMW driver. 

It was the kind of person who, these days, has migrated to an Audi. So perhaps this new grille is just the final design touch intended to bring the curtain down once and for all on that era, and bring about a feeling you’ve never had for a BMW driver before: pity.

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Source: Autocar

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