In 2003, one of our friends managed to land some free tickets for the launch of the brand new 2003 BMW 5 series (also known as the E60) which was held at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. It was the first (and last) ever car launch that I’ve been to. I must admit that the week leading up to the launch I was pretty excited. I hadn’t seen any images of the upcoming 5 series and I did have a small weakness for these Bavarian sourced motor vehicles. After some Hollywood like antics on stage, they finally revealed the car – I wasn’t totally enthralled by what I saw. The front looked nice, but the side and (especially) the rear looked very quirky and “skewed”. It reminded me of the then current 7 series (E65). Little did I know that the once appealing and sporty lines of the BMW brand had been “Bangled”.
Chris Bangle became chief of design at BMW in October 1992 and quit his job in February 2009. Over this period, his styling approach generated intense controversy among not only automotive designers but the general public.
Chris Bangle’s designs had been incorporated in the entire BMW model range. Although BMW’s have never really been known for their design flair and extroverted style, it was the last couple of iterations of the model range that polarised the motoring public. The specific models include the 1, 5, 6 and 7 series How could any designer, let alone a chief designer for one of the biggest European marques in the world, approve these designs?
BMW’s design language, with concave and convex surfaces as well as flowing transitions from the front and side to the rear, certainly endowed their cars of that era with an individual style. But to my eyes, these design elements do not appeal.
The real problem was that the more I saw of these cars on the road, the more my opinion (of their visual appeal) deteriorated. My thoughts were totally shared by the vast majority of motoring journalists as well, indicating that consumers will “either love it or hate it” and that “opinions were divided”. There were exceptions however – the BMW X5 and X6. I really like the look of these cars. For some reason, Bangle’s flame surface design really works for these cars.
Having said all that, the BMW 5 series was the best selling car in its segment for four years in a row (between 2005-2008). No doubt the class leading dynamics and multi-award winning engines of the 5 series were the major contributing factors to these sales figures (as opposed to their physical presence). What can also be said is that the brand new 3 series ( just released in Australia a couple of months ago) and the Z4 which will be arriving shortly, look the goods and clearly are cars that adopt none of Bangle’s unique but pulverising design approach.