BMW 7 Series special

Precision and poetry: the design of the new BMW 7 Series

The exterior is compelling with its undiluted elegance while the interior is focused squarely on one aim: the wellbeing of its passengers. Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design, explains in an interview how luxury takes on a contemporary automotive form in the new BMW 7 Series.

Simon Puschmann
Lead photo
Uwe Düttmann
Hendrik Lakeberg
Severin Renke
GASP – stage two by room11

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?

Adrian van Hooydonk: To start with we involved all our global studios in Munich, Shanghai and Los Angeles in the process. And 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 from these travels was that ideas of luxury around the world are increasingly converging. However, there are still differences in how much of this luxury and which of its elements our customers at various locations around the globe want to display. We’ve risen to the challenge of these varying requirements, as a result of which the new BMW 7 Series can be specified with a host of different equipment variants and personalisation options. Some customers place more importance on elegance, others on sportiness, all depending on taste and cultural background. We were therefore keen for our designers to experience and understand these differences and to view the car in its given context.

What do you understand by modern luxury?

van Hooydonk: For BMW, modern luxury is rooted in the most advanced technologies and particularly close attention to detail. We believe the customers we’re appealing to with the new 7 Series have an affinity with high-tech products. We’ve also widened our gaze beyond the car world and drawn inspiration from top-quality hotels, lounges, bars and exclusive boutiques which 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, or indeed exceeding, our customers’ expectations.

“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.”

Adrian van Hooydonk

Visual Aerodynamics: 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 EfficientDynamics banner.

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?

van Hooydonk: We were determined to make driving the 7 Series an even more extraordinary experience. BMW is renowned for delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure – i.e. for 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 sedan, 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 onboard experience.

How should the owner of a new BMW 7 Series feel when he or she is sitting in the car?

van Hooydonk: We hope our customers will enjoy every second. They are hard-working 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 mood lighting, depending on how they feel.

So the BMW 7 Series turns into a kind of private oasis?

van Hooydonk: 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 keyword 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 Panorama glass roof illuminated to resemble a night sky.

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.

van Hooydonk: I think the engineers and the design team have pulled off this balancing act extremely well. All BMW cars are extensively tested on race tracks, 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.

Sculptural lightness: the slender chrome stalks linking the all-new exterior mirrors to the car lend them a particularly light and intricate appearance. At the same time, their shape reduces air resistance and wind noise between the body and mirrors.

The best of both worlds: the BMW designers were inspired by cutting-edge tech and traditional craftsmanship. Their aim was to bring together precise detailing and state-of-the-art technologies. (Photo: Uwe Düttmann)

The best of both worlds: the BMW designers were inspired by cutting-edge tech and traditional craftsmanship. Their aim was to bring together precise detailing and state-of-the-art technologies. (Photo: Uwe Düttmann)

What were the greatest challenges for you and your team in the design process for the new 7 Series?

van Hooydonk: 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.

What details are you particularly proud of?

van Hooydonk: I love it when design and function merge into one – with developments such as “visual aerodynamics”. A prime example here are 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 EfficientDynamics 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, it 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.

The BMW Individual service allows customers to personalise their BMW just the way they like it. To what extent in the design process did you respond to customer requests that came up particularly frequently or struck a chord with you?

van Hooydonk: We believe it’s important to give customers as much scope for choice as possible. The more they can decide themselves, the more personal their relationship with the car. With this generation of the BMW 7 Series, that was part of our thinking from the outset. We didn’t want to tell customers what they should want; instead, they were telling us what they would like to see. The numerous equipment variants available for the car have helped us respond to these requests, as has the BMW Individual programme for high-end requirements, of course. This enables owners to make their BMW 7 Series more luxurious, more elegant and more individual.

When you look at the history of the BMW 7 Series, how has this model range developed?

van Hooydonk: 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 of our cars. But we’ve also made immense progress when it comes to luxury. In this 7 Series generation these two elements blend together better than ever before. This has given the new BMW 7 Series a wholly distinctive character. It is no longer just a large BMW, but in our eyes it represents the essence of what is possible when it comes to modern luxury on four wheels.

To find answers to this question, the BMW designers took a look around the world. Nader Faghihzadeh, Karim Habib, Adrian van Hooydonk and Robert Hlinovsky (from left) found inspiration in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Los Angeles and Shanghai. Their travels were distilled into the design of the new BMW 7 Series.