If you looked at the BMW XM and 7 Series and wondered (worried?) that the redesigned 5 Series would be more of the same – big vertical grille, odd headlights, and just a bit too much of, well, everything – you’re not alone. Reality isn’t quite as bad as BMW’s critics might have feared, but it was almost so.
Speaking to Motor1.com at a media roundtable during the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este last weekend, Head of BMW Group Design Adrian Van Hooydonk discussed trying vertical kidney grilles on the 5 Series and how BMW landed on the more traditional look ahead of the debut of both the gas-powered car and the i5 EV.
Gallery: 2024 BMW i5 eDrive40
“We tried [a] vertical [grille] in the design phase, but even if you then do different headlamps, it begins to sneak up on the 7 Series very quickly,” Van Hooydonk said, and that’s a no-no in today’s BMW. “We did get feedback from certain markets, if [the 5 and 7 Series] were getting too close, then that was seen as not so good.”
That information seems to have been part of a broader rethink of BMW’s design, with Van Hooydonk explaining that the small/medium/large approach – a hallmark of the last several years for German brands – isn’t so good for sales.
“I would say we realized quite a while ago that if we wanted to grow further in terms of cars sold, then you need to give each and every vehicle a strong and distinct character of its own, so that people actually have a choice,” Van Hooydonk added. “If you make, let's say the same design [in] small, medium, large, there's not much choice there. I think, or we felt, that can only go so far. So we needed to break that up.”
That’s part of why we’re seeing different grille takes based on a vehicle’s positioning.
“I feel that when you do the grille a little bit more horizontal, it tends to look sportier,” Van Hooydonk explained. “And if you go more vertical, it adds presence or status. That was the reason why we felt that for the 5 Series it should be horizontal.”
In a separate roundtable, Head of BMW Brand Design Domagoj Dukec pushed back on the idea that his team toned down the 5 Series after the cold reception to the XM and 7 Series.
“It's not a reaction to people blaming us for [the designs of] XM or 7 Series,” Dukec said. “[XM and 7 Series] have expressive, status-oriented customers. Wait until you see a 3 Series, a 5 Series. [These are] cars where people are looking for other things, where they don't want to show off. They want a car which expresses their achievements, but in a different way. A car where neighbors are just saying, ‘oh yeah, nice.’”
Speaking specifically about the 5 Series and i5, Dukec had more to say, calling the design more Italian and praising the new car’s profile.
“The 5 Series was a big challenge, as the car will also be fully electric, which means that it’s actually 50 to 60 millimeters higher than a G30 [Editor’s note: the G60 is actually 1.4 inches/35.5 mm taller], which was a big challenge to make it and [make it] more elegant,” Dukec said. “We wanted to create the most elegant BMW.”