I decided to write a post prompted by a co-workers comments on the new BMW 5-series design. This latest 5 is from what some might call the post-Bangle era (and many might celebrate that fact). Personally I was a big fan of the previous generation design- the E60 as it is codenamed. This was (according to Wikipedia) the best selling 5 series ever, despite the styling causing heated debates. The design of this car is credited to Davide Arcangeli, but it had something that was nicknamed the Bangle-butt- a shock design feature at first, but it has now become the de-facto rear design for nearly every large saloon car on sale. The “butt” name seems to have originated from the 7-series that was even more controversial, and had a very tall almost pill-box style of boot lid. The lid sat on top of the light clusters, rather than being smoothed away to invisibility. The 5-series simply had a much less severe version of the same theme, and was not as radical in hindsight. Bangle and his co-workers were pioneers of design, and have proved to be more successful than they could’ve imagined. So my post here is actually related to a comment on the newest F10 design, which went something like this: “I don’t like it because the front leans forward… it looks weird.” This got me thinking- as my own visual knowledge of 5 series designs seemed to remind me that ALL 5 series have forward angled grills, and perhaps the E60 was the only 5 series ever to break from this tradition? On checking up- I was right, and more interestingly the front aspect of the latest F10 design does not lean forward very much- if at all. What do we mean by this angle? Take a look at this side view comparison of the E28 version of the 5 series (very similar to the original 1972 E12, the first 5 series) and the latest F10 model. I’ve added highlights to the main feature lines and also to the front grill angles. The arrows show where the grill (kidney grill, in BMW design language) opening appears on the cars.
First thing to notice is that the front aspect of the F10 design, is almost vertical- rather than actually leaning forward much. The impression of forward stance is heightened however, by the entire cars wedge profile and ride angle- which is definitely higher at the rear. The front of the old E28 is very severely angled forward- with an almost evilly sharp leading edge. This design would never pass pedestrian impact legislation now in place, so the current F10 design is probably as far as the designers could go with the forward angle. Also note how high the centre point of the bonnet is- again a result of new pedestrian safety laws regarding the gap required between engine and bonnet (scarily, so you crush the bonnet as a crumple zone when the car hits you!). The middle car is of course the E60 design, and you can see that the grill is actually very steeply raked back, possibly for aero reasons, but more likely a first response to safety legislation. Essentially the fact that a friend thought this forward rake looked odd proves a couple of things: that people actually move forward faster than we think in aesthetic tastes, and that people quickly forget the past, so why is car design constantly referencing it?
BMW kindly created some awesome images showing the line-up of all 5 series models a few years ago, I include these as visual proof that all 5 series models have a forward angle to the front grill (or at least vertical), except for the E60!
Lastly- a gallery of some nice 5 series pics I found.
UPDATE: I have just recalled the common name given to this design feature- thanks to reading an interview with current BMW boss Adrian van Hooydonk- it’s called the Shark Nose! As he puts it “The sportier the BMW, the more shark we put in!”