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 well-being of its passengers. Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design, explains how luxury takes on a contemporary automotive form in the new BMW 7 Series.

Simon Puschmann
Lead photo
Uwe Düttmann
Hendrik Lakeberg

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 of our global studios in Munich, Shanghai and Los Angeles. 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 was that ideas of luxury around the world are increasingly converging. But there are still differences in how much of this luxury, and which of its elements, our customers in various locations around the globe want to display. We’ve risen to the challenge of these diverse requirements, as a result of which the new BMW 7 Series can be configured with a host of equipment variants and personalization options. Some customers place more importance on elegance and others on sportiness, depending on taste and cultural background. That’s why we wanted our designers to experience and understand these differences and to view the vehicle in context.

How do you define "modern luxury"?

van Hooydonk: For BMW, modern luxury is rooted in the most advanced technologies and a particularly close attention to detail. We believe the customers we’re appealing to with the new 7 Series have an affinity for high-tech products. We’ve also widened our gaze beyond the motoring world to draw inspiration from top-quality hotels, lounges, bars and exclusive boutiques, as well as the top-quality services they provide. Traditional craftsmanship also plays a significant role. Our uppermost aim is to do an even better job 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 Active Kidney Grille opening and two Air Breathers (chrome-framed apertures at the rear of the front wheels) lend the BMW 7 Series a sense of sporty elegance, but they also fulfill 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 vehicles. Far from neglecting this aspect, we’ve added to it by 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 on-board experience.

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

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 vehicle a place where they can relax. The most important thing for us was that customers should feel comfortable – and be able to tailor the ambiance in the vehicle to their needs. For example, they can create a peaceful environment or a cocoon of concentration by using various mood-lighting modes, 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 vehicle provides an opportunity for us to rest and recharge our batteries. We designed the new BMW 7 Series with this thought constantly in mind. Well-being is a particularly strong keyword for us, as can be seen in the lighting design. We’ve done a lot of development work here, with features such as the Sky Lounge: the illuminated Panoramic glass roof.

Driving or being driven, luxurious elegance and a sporty edge with the BMW M Sport Package – the new BMW 7 Series certainly has broad appeal. It couldn’t have been easy, though, to combine these diverse characteristics in the same vehicle, right?

van Hooydonk: I think the engineers and the design team have pulled off this balancing act extremely well. All BMW vehicles are extensively tested on racetracks, 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 around – the best vehicle we have ever built in this class.

Sculptural lightness: the slender chrome stalks linking the all-new exterior mirrors to the vehicle lend 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 technology 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 technology 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 vehicle 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 vehicle 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 Active 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 BMW 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 at the rear of the front wheel. This element, like the radiator grille, is not merely decorative but 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 vehicle or change the lighting mood. We’ve really pushed the envelope to make the ambiance inside the vehicle special. That’s something else I’m proud of.

BMW Individual Composition Features allow customers to personalize 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 that 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 vehicle. 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 told us what they would like to see. The numerous equipment variants available for the vehicle have helped us respond to these requests – as has the BMW Individual Composition program for high-end requirements, of course. This enables owners to make their BMW 7 Series more luxurious, more elegant and more individualized.

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 fresh aspects to the vehicle. At BMW, we’ve learned to constantly fine-tune the dynamics, but we’ve also made immense progress in terms of luxury. In this 7 Series generation, these two facets blend together better than ever before, giving the vehicle a wholly distinctive character. It is no longer just a large BMW, but in our eyes represents the essence of what is possible in terms of modern luxury on four wheels.

How do you design modern luxury? To find answers to this question, Nader Faghihzadeh, Karim Habib, Adrian van Hooydonk and Robert Hlinovsky (from left) took a look around the world and 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.