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SUVs offer freedom of choice: BMW

Luk of the draw: BMW designer Calvin Luk enjoyed a visit home to Australia to try his latest creation in its natural environment.

BMW X1 designer says off-road potential is a luxury feature like any other

22 Oct 2015

THE Australian-born designer of BMW's all-new X1 small SUV says a vehicle's off-road potential is just as important as any other luxury feature, even if the customer rarely exploits it.

While many Australian motorists enjoy the idea of an off-road adventure, a large proportion of SUVs and crossovers never make it away from the blacktop, but BMW's X1 designer Calvin Luk says that is okay.

Speaking to GoAuto at the Australian launch of the all-new X1 this week, Mr Luk likened owning an all-terrain vehicle to owning a high-performance car, and said having the option to push a vehicle to its limit was almost as important as its ability.

“Say you buy an M6 or M3 or something,” he said. “I'm not sure that everybody takes it to the track every day, but you could. It's the same here. You might not go off-roading all the time but you could.

“You have that sense of choice and I think that is premium because you have that feeling when you are driving – even if it's on a regular street or through nice winding roads – you know in your head that you can go anywhere.

“When I put myself into the shoes of the customers, I think it's the sense of freedom and the sense of choice that you have. That's a very luxurious feeling.”

Mr Luk explained that the styling of an SUV was critical in creating the sense of freedom for customers, and his design borrowed some of the “boldness” in the designs of its larger siblings.

“It's compact but it’s got a really big, larger-than-life character. I wanted to create the same expression that the X5 and X6 might have – that power – but in a compact vehicle.”

While some SUVs and crossovers employ a tougher and functional styling approach, Mr Luk said he believes the sporty design angle sits better with BMW customers, and is the future direction for BMW's SUVs.

“I think sports styling is more appealing,” he said. “Not everyone is going into hardcore off-road Parkour, so the sports element makes more sense and it's easier for people to get into.

“I certainly relate to it more, but I still have that freedom of choice.”

Mr Luk said that his inspiration is derived less from direct visual or artistic influence and more from emotional experiences like many other designers.

“I'm not so literal with my inspiration because the context is different,” he said. “The car is going for going from A to B but it's also an emotional expression of the consumer inside. It's like an avatar for the family inside.

“I'm always trying to get emotional inspiration. What are you meant to feel when driving this car.”

For Mr Luk, both playing and listening to music is a richer source of inspiration and the F48 X1 has a little Arkansas rock band woven into its aesthetics.

“In this case I was listening to Evanescence and this music I found very fitting during the sketch phase – extremely bold with a certain epicness but also had subtlety too.”

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