Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice-president of BMW Group Design, is on the phone. He is excited. The new BMW “concept car” has been unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza in one of the world’s most elegant settings, Lake Como’s Grand Hotel Villa d’Este. Of all the events celebrating the mystique of classic cars, this is the most illustrious. Van Hooydonk and his team, they believe, have produced a new masterpiece – a BMW coupé that signals the return of its famed Series 8 cars
The setting was perfect. The Villa d’Este was designed in the mannerist style that took the beauty and harmony of the High Renaissance period into new realms of sophistication. Michelangelo himself had the quality of terribilità in his later work, inspiring awe, generating deep emotion. The new BMW design has elicited a similar reaction, and appropriately this car borrows from what came before
BMW’s driving pedigree is known to even casual users of the road. When van Hooydonk and his team were designing the new BMW Concept 8 Series coupé, he drew inspiration from his favourites in the long list of road icons that have come before. “There were three cars in BMW’s history that were very important to me,” he says. “The 503 is one, it’s a coupé and I love it because of its proportions, the long bonnet and sleek design.” The 503 and equally magnificent 507 were both designed by Count Albrecht von Goertz in the 1950s, and have become coveted over the years (Elvis Presley owned two!). Van Hooydonk also cites the BMW 3.0, from the 1970s, “very influential because of the precision in the design. In it was the DNA of BMW, even today: its sharp lines, a certain lightness and nimbleness, the elegant profile with the door handle incorporated into the body sideline.” If the 3.0 always looked poised for swift cornering through a twisting mountain pass, the later BMW 850 seemed ready for outer space. “It’s a car I vividly remember as a design student. Its exotic pop-up headlamps allowed the design team to make the nose extremely low, with the small kidney-shaped grille.”
These were machines where sport met luxury, designed always to suggest movement. The new BMW exactly embodies that concept. Sitting empty it does not seem parked, it looks like it is waiting for something thrilling to happen.
The new concept car is faster and sleeker than its ancestors, but still redolent of that proud past. It is wider, it crouches even closer to the road with a very low hoodline, and the double round headlamps are more chiselled. “We want people to see it as a beautiful object, and then think about what it will be like to drive it. A sports coupé is by definition an exciting car, you need to have that sort of feeling about it.” In 2017 this is just the concept car that will give the world that feeling.