"The future of BMW ... Hope not."
I flippantly said those words on video regarding the BMW i3 Concept car at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show. I simply could not fathom that BMW would produce such an oddball electric transport pod.
And then it did. And it was brilliant. And I was wrong.
I admit this as a sort of preamble to what I will now say: How in the world is the BMW i Vision Dynamics Concept a BMW?
I mean that entirely in design terms, for if the i3 is any indication, its underpinnings could easily amount to something more compelling than what's in the current snoozer 5 Series. Just look at the i Vision. Where is the BMW DNA? What about that design in any way connects it to a century's worth of heritage?
At least the i3 had separate kidney grilles of an appropriate size. The iVision "grille" has connected kidneys, which therefore makes them not kidneys, amounting to a shape that could just as easily be an interpretation of Kia's tiger nose grille as it is anything related to the Bavarian Motor Works.
How about at the side? Nope, just a generic 1990s soap bar profile without even an attempt made at a Hofmeister kink, which hasn't exactly been strictly adhered to over the years. Sure, there's the brand's new hockey-stick side element (yay?), and that grille shape does carry over a bit to the window profile, though again, Kia.
Finally, the rear could be anything. Remove the badge on it and you have (insert brand here)'s new electric concept sedan. BMW, Peugeot, Great Wall, doesn't matter. Remove the badge from a 3 Series and you still know exactly who makes it.
Perhaps it's just the fact that the design department has seen a revolving door of leaders in recent years. However, it's almost as if BMW designers don't actually want to design BMWs. It's not just the i Vision Dynamic Concept. Look at the much-maligned recent X7 iPerformance, which had a giant beaver teeth grille (not entirely unlike the i Vision's) attached to something that could just as easily be a Subaru Ascent. At least it had Hofmeister kinks. As for the rest of the lineup, each successive model seems to look flabbier and more bulbous than the last, some would even argue mirroring the dynamics of the cars themselves. There's a tidiness and elegance to the brand's design that has been lost.
Now, this isn't to say that every BMW should still look like an E39 5 Series. Actually, I personally think that, but realistically, I must acknowledge that evolution is necessary. The wackadoo E39 replacement, the E60, served to prevent the brand from falling into a perpetual conservatism that would likely and ultimately cause the fashion-conscious buying public to lose interest. Just look at Audi today, where A4 begat identical-looking A4.
A shock to the system can be a good thing, and although I will forever argue that the E60 was too shocking, it did so far more memorably and with greater ties to BMW DNA than the anonymous i Vision Dynamics does.
Of course, as with the i3, maybe I'll eat my words about the i Vision, or i5 as it could easily be called. Maybe it'll be great. Then again, unless you live in California, chances are you've never actually seen someone driving an i3. It hasn't exactly been flying out of dealerships, and it seems doubtful that the new i3s will change that. Hmm, maybe I wasn't so wrong after all.
"The future of BMW ... Hope not."