The BMW 7 Series steals the limelight with an exterior of undiluted elegance and an interior focused squarely on one aim: the wellbeing of its passengers.
The automatically opening and closing kidney grille and the two Air Breathers (chrome-framed apertures rearwards of the front wheels) lend the BMW 7 Series a sense of sporting elegance, but they also fulfil a functional role. Here is a case of visible aerodynamics, developed under the BMW Efficient Dynamics banner, finding direct expression in the car’s design.
Adrian Van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW Group design, explains the contemporary take on luxury automotive design:
Mr Van Hooydonk, designing a car is always a bit like going on a journey. Which places inspired you in the design of the new BMW 7 Series?
To start with, we got all our global studios in Munich, Shanghai and Los Angeles involved. We also sent our designers to places we considered important sources of inspiration for the BMW 7 Series – such as Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Seattle. Our aim was to develop an even better understanding of what constitutes modern luxury. One conclusion was that ideas of luxury around the world are increasingly converging. But there are still differences in how much of this luxury and which of its elements our customers in various locations around the globe want to display. We’ve risen to the challenge of these diverse requirements, as a result of which the new BMW 7 Series can be specified with a host of equipment variants and personalisation options. Some customers place more importance on elegance, others on sportiness, depending on taste and cultural background. That’s why we wanted our designers to experience and understand these differences and to view the car in context.
What do you understand by modern luxury?
For BMW, modern luxury is rooted in the most advanced technologies and particularly close attention to detail. We believe the customers we are appealing to with the new 7 Series have an affinity with high-tech products. We’ve also widened our gaze beyond the motoring world and drawn inspiration from top-quality hotels, lounges, bars and exclusive boutiques that stand out with their exceptional levels of service. Traditional craftsmanship also played a significant role. Our uppermost aim was to do an even better job than ever of meeting, and indeed exceeding, our customers’ expectations.
The BMW 7 Series has attained iconic status over the course of its almost four decades in production. How have you reinterpreted the key attributes of a BMW 7 Series for this latest generation of the car?
We were determined to make driving the 7 Series an even more extraordinary experience. BMW is renowned for delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure – that is, the dynamic excellence of its cars. Far from neglecting this aspect, we’ve added to it by also focusing our attention on the ambience and comfort levels in the rear of the car in particular. Behind the front passenger seat is the Executive Lounge, which is tailored to the passenger in every way and enables an even more comfortable on-board experience.
How should owners of the new BMW 7 Series feel when they are sitting in the car?
We hope our customers will enjoy every second. They are hardworking and have achieved a great deal in their lives. We want to make their car a place where they can relax. The most important thing for us was that customers should feel comfortable – and be able to tailor the ambience in the car to their needs. For example, they can create a peaceful environment or a cocoon of concentration by using various types of mood lighting, depending on how they feel.
So the BMW 7 Series turns into a kind of private oasis?
Yes, that’s a good image. The world around us is very fast-paced. The car provides an opportunity for us to rest and recharge our batteries. We designed the new BMW 7 Series with this thought constantly in mind. Wellbeing was a particularly strong key word for us, as can be seen in the lighting design, for example. We’ve done a lot of development work here, with features such as the Sky Lounge – the illuminated Panorama glass roof.
Driving or being driven, luxurious elegance and a sporting edge with the BMW M Sport package – the new BMW 7 Series certainly has broad appeal. It can’t have been easy, though, to combine these diverse characteristics within the same car.
I think the engineers and the design team have pulled off this balancing act extremely well. All BMW cars are extensively tested on racetracks, so driving the new 7 Series will be a dynamic experience, typical of BMW. Taking a broader view, I’m convinced that this 7 Series generation is the most luxurious, most comfortable and – all round – the best car we have ever built in this class. What were the greatest challenges for you and your team in the design process for the new 7 Series? With every new car you have to set yourself the aim of creating a design that will be seen as new and fresh, but which will retain its impact over time. When you first set eyes on the new BMW 7 Series, it strikes you as an imposing car that exudes presence and elegance. But it also cuts a sportier figure than previous generations. And when you take your seat inside the 7 Series, you’ll notice that we’ve spent more time than ever focusing on the design of details. We believe it’s important to give customers as much scope for choice as possible. The more they decide themselves, the more personal their relationship with the car.
Which details are you particularly proud of?
I love it when design and function merge into one – with developments such as “visual aerodynamics”. A prime example here is the air intakes in the kidney grille of the new BMW 7 Series, which only open when required. When closed they reduce drag, and that means better aerodynamics and lower fuel consumption. We’ve been talking about Efficient Dynamics for a long time now at BMW, and we were looking to express this aspect of the new 7 Series in its design. That’s why I’m a particular fan of the Air Breather – a chrome-framed aperture positioned rearwards of the front wheel. This element, like the radiator grille, is not merely decorative but performs a function. There are also highlights in the interior. Between the two rear seats is a removable Touch Command tablet, which can be used to control functions of the car or change the lighting mood. We’ve really pushed the boat out to make the ambience inside the car special. That’s something else I’m proud of.
When you look into the eyes of the BMW 7 Series, how has this model range developed?
Each new generation of the 7 Series has added new aspects to the car. At BMW we’ve learnt to constantly fine-tune the dynamics, but we’ve also made immense progress in terms of luxury. In this 7 Series generation, these two facets blend together better than ever before, giving the car a wholly distinctive character. It is no longer just a large BMW, but in our eyes represents the essence of what is possible when it comes to modern luxury on four wheels.