Twattling About Precision

Earlier in the week we presented, with regret, the BMW Concept X7 iPerformance. Mark Tisshaw at Autocropley didn’t like it either. Many others didn’t like it either. Why?

2017 BMW Concept X7 iPerformance: source

Because it manifests a lack of form co-ordination. Let’s take a look at the car from a few angles, see what is there and ask why it can look so wrong.

As we know “The Concept X7 iPerformance introduces the BMW styling DNA to the luxury SUV segment. The design employs just a few precise lines and subtle surface work,” explained Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group boss. “It has a luxurious and sophisticated feel, thanks to its understated use of forms and precise detailing.” reports Autocar.

I presume AvH is joking and I am not joking about that. There are more lines on this car than on Samuel Beckett’s face. There is nothing understated and nothing subtle about it – AvH’s comments are pure satire. Of especial interest is the bits about “precise lines” and “precise detailing” which might be an EfL synonym for “sharp”. What could “imprecise” detailing look like? Made of candy-floss? Enough semantics: we can see BMW can’t talk design.

The Concept X7 borrows from the BMW Vision Future Luxury car of 2014. Those borrowings have ended up stretched and moulded to fit a car larger than the X5 and, I suppose, to be hurled like a huge slab of steel directly at the uppermost Land Rovers and Bentley Bentaygas.

Vision 2014 waku doki Luxury BMW Future: autotitre.com

The grille on the X7 certainly attracts attention though it is not really, in my view, the big sinner among the greater sinners elsewhere on the exterior.

 

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The real problem lies in the conflict between rounded forms (the wing, the roof) and angular graphics of the grille and brightwork. That grille is not more offensive than the monstrous maw of the Volvo S90:

Image: speedcarz

Well, it is a fair bit less attractive (isn’t it the Volvo that is the subtle one?) but that might be due to context and treatment. That massive double kidney grille looks as if it is affixed and not integrated, yes, but it is also clashing with the softness of the geometry around it. BMW have messed with their grile in a profound way too: it has chamfers and not rounded corners. That’s as big shift in a symbol so weighted with meaning. And at the cost of clashing forms. That’s actually really inept.

The slim lamps are lost – and note they are flush and really need some articulation.

2017 BMW Concept X7: autoblog.com

The side view (above) captures a) the missing volume in front mass and b) the ham-fisted brightwork fore and aft of the front wheel. That right-angled shape is stopping what little forward momentum the form might have had. The mark-up is mine (as in all the images), the image is from autoblog.com (thanks, guys).

In this photo stare at the way the bonnet flows down the front wing. That is not sharp. There is a fair amount of softly sculpted activity (too much) on the body side. The angular, pointy hockey-stick shape is wildly at odds with what is around it. I am sure the deletion of this alone would radically alter how the car is seen. On the 2014 Vision Luxury Future car the equivalent feature is angled and much shorter. Even increasing the radius would have helped a lot. But it’s resolutely pointy. Points attract attention as research shows.

The next thing for revision is that softly sculpted activity on the flank that I talked about. It has not worked on the 5 or the 7 and here again is making confusing highlights. The sharp crease in the door does’t gel with the pillowy, curvy flare of metal around the rear arch. Again we find disharmony.

And cheap to make too.

I see this car as failing in the details and proportions. I have not really dealt with the tail lamps: these are in the idiom of high-tech industrial design; the bright work below them shouts over the lamps finessed forms. If you look at the back of the car you would never expect to see what is there at the front.

There are too many ideas pasted over one car. The vast, clumsy grille and the hockey stick belong on some other kind of vehicle. The angular graphics are at odds with the smooth general form.

Is this a committee car, perhaps?

Without a doubt, this is BMW’s first worst design. Previous concept cars have been uninteresting or flawed or often good; this car is quite markedly a black swan for BMW and I’d suggest an urgent re-appraisal where four-fifths of the form on this car were deleted. The car is, at present, “wow” ugly which means that before you have thought about it, you are aware only of aesthetic distress. Disharmony, in short. The Volvo shows how to do large, wide, imposing and do it with style.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

11 thoughts on “Twattling About Precision”

  1. BMW had one of the strongest design identities in the automotive world and they are destroying it.

    This X7 is hideous but is not even the worst offender. The I Vision has an even worse pastiche of the double kidney grilles and has lost the Hofmeister kink altogether.

    Why, BMW, why? ‘Design DNA’ is all you guys talk about yet you seem not to understand or appreciate it.

    Awful.

    1. Richard, this is a very good analysis of the multiple failings of this design. As you say, the grille is perhaps not even the worst element, but seeing it again I feel the bile rising once more. You could probably write 10,000 words on the hideousness of this detail alone.

      Oh, and the lights! BMW had, somewhat unusually, managed to develop distinctive front and rear lamp forms, so that if you saw an old 5 series at night it was still recognisable as a BMW. Why on earth would they throw that away?

    2. The rear lamps are generic contemporary. The front lamps need to be bigger. What is BMW after here? Maybe this is a try-out for a designer and hasn’t succeeded. BMW has a very patchy record now on the design front. Is it hubris that makes them careless? Or maybe the target buyer loves this and not the sobriety favoured amongst the DTW set.

    3. I suspect BMW are taking a ‘the only worse thing than be being talked about is not being talked about’ tack with Concept X7 iPerformance. It’s a bit like the Bentley EXP9 concept from several years ago, which was roundly and universally pilloried following its initial showing, allegedly forcing Bentley to hurriedly restyle the car for production. (It really doesn’t seem so bad now). I suspect in fact that Bentayga ended up pretty much exactly as intended and that Bentley were quite happy with the controversy as it made the bitter pill go down a little easier.

      My suspicion is that BMW is after a similar reaction here. This I expect would have been one of the cars signed off under former BMW Design Director, Karim Habib prior to his departure towards Infiniti.

  2. I agree with Jacomo, this is an excellent review of this ‘design’; thank you for taking the time to analyse it. I must be learning, because I managed to associate my overall ‘urgh’ feeling into some of the more obvious fails that you highlight (that sharp bright-work down the flank vs. the more flowing forms that surround it (actually, they look like they are in the background; the rear overhang vs. the near non-existent one at the front). It’s a shocker, as is the i5 concept shown at Frankfurt, although this X7 does take the ‘Wagon Wheel’ of biscuits.

  3. It looks like a chinese company tries to build a BMW look-a-like SUV and failed miserably. It is a not elegant nor solid looking car.
    I do not like Chris Bangle´s VMW, but they were real beauties compared to this Quasimodo.

    1. That’s not a bad way of putting it, Markus. I wish I’d thought of it: it’s a caricature of a rip-off.
      And S.V pointed out something about background/foreground. The brightwork is pushing the ground it rests on into the distance. At the back there are four huge spars which look like they should be one object but are not. The eye wants to see unity which isn’t there. The background body becomes very secondary. It’s a Gestalt thing. Thanks for those comments and the others today and to Eoin for, er, drawing this fine car to our attention.

  4. I thought Bangle was bad in the 2000’s…. Van Hooydonk is ten times worse. Anyone who thought that design was good enough to sign off needs their sanity checked.

    1. Didn´t Bangle have a vision? His 7 series definitely clunked. The others, with the passage of time, turned out to be very strong designs that stayed fresh. These cars are mostly what I have decided to call the “vernacular” which is a bland mix of contemporary styles. Think of the Ford Cortina: that´s vernacular. A lot of cars do this and without a problem. I expect more of BMW.

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