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Different strokes

Preview: Z9 GT concept evolved into the 6 Series coupe.

Bangle was not afraid to abandon BMW’s ‘one car in different lengths’ approach

BMW logo16 Nov 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

CHRIS Bangle openly admits his "bookend" approach to designing BMW models aims to banish the one-car-in-different-lengths philosophy that existed previously, by maintaining the same basic vehicle proportions for all models but using different surfacing to both link and separate them within the BMW model family.

"Before I came to the company, one of your colleagues in the journalistic fields called us the one-sausage-in-different-lengths company and perhaps it wasn’t completely unfounded," he told GoAuto.

"But of course back then we only kind of did one sort of car – the sport limousine. The 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series were more or less based around a similar theme.

"Now as time goes on of course we’ve added many more cars and that requires a design language that is more flexible than just taking the same design concept and having it in different lengths.

"Then we came up with the idea – we’ll call them bookends. We’ll say everything about design fits in books on a bookshelf and we’ll move the bookends out so we can fit more books on the shelf and in fact that’s exactly what happened."Mr Bangle said the first bookend to appear was the Z9 GT concept, which appeared at the 1999 Frankfurt motor show. Along with previewing the new 6 Series coupe, it heralded the new design language for the current 7 Series sedan and BMW’s controversial iDrive control system.

 center imageLeft: X Coupe concept.

"(Z9 GT) of course was the basis for the vocabulary that we had in the 7 series – then it turned into the 6 Series. It was also the first time that we clearly demonstrated we wanted to illustrate context over dogma.

"Here, for the first time, Z9 GT showed the iDrive concept which was later used in 7 series, 6 series, 5 series. In fact, a variation of that has turned up in other cars from other companies as well.

"So Z9 was a really decisive moment when we put context before dogma not by putting curvature and buttons on it because that’s what we did before, but by going about the best way to do it."The US-born Mr Bangle said the other pivotal bookend was BMW’s X Coupe concept at the 2001 Detroit motor show, which "allowed Z4 to exist".

"Aesthetically, it was very emotional and expressive and for the first time the Z4 had a relationship to the rest of the cars. The Z3 was a nice car, but looked nothing like any of the rest of the cars – just an isolated incident.

"Here we had for the first time a car that was the anchor for the rest of the cars – from the 1 Series and working its way all the way up the range to 3 Series and 5 Series as well.

"Interestingly enough, many companies are now saying diesel is sporty, off-road is back, etcetera. That car was a diesel by the way. Many people probably don’t remember that."

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