Sep 3, 2009
As any automotive designer will tell you, drawing shutlines on a car is black art unto itself. Get them right and you can hinge an marketing campaign on them or, indeed, an entire iconic design, like the VW Golf and it’s C Pillar. Get them wrong and you’ll have pedants like me gibbering like a junky as we try to right the wrongs in our head (I almost had an accident the other day while pondering a VZ Holden Commodore’s rear door…).
Graphic composition of panel gaps aside, it’s been generally accepted that the tighter the gap, the higher quality the vehicle (thus Lexus’ famed Ball Bearing campaign) and the better the aerodynamic performance (Series 1 Range Rovers, which have gaps so voluminous as to be able to accommodate whole fingers, have always provided an amusing counterpoint to this fact…)
BMW’s new concept, the Vision Efficient Dynamics, therefore, has me in a bit of a quandary.
Using a development of the form language first seen on the epic M1 Homage concept, the designers have drawn a shape that is meant to represent the latest research in vehicle aerodynamics and according to Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s chief designer, the new layered surface language has allowed his team to design excellent aerodynamic performance into the surfaces themselves without the need to resort to additive elements. So far, so traditional design marketing speak and to look at the car, with it’s artfully integrated rear spoilers, venturis and intakes, so believable.
There’s only one problem: if fine shut lines be the spice of aerodynamic life, then why on earth does the hood appear to have the panel fit of the aforementioned Range Rovers?
A lot of it has to do with the outlining of the panel gap in blue, emphasising the line as it runs up the crown of the fender. It’s a treatment we’ve not seen before and I can understand and appreciate the intent to create a continuous graphic detail that runs front to rear, delineating the “inside” and “outside” of the layered surfaces. And it certainly works at the rear of the car, where the C-Pillar/fender interaction has been torn wide open and intersected with the wonderfully extravagant sweep of the tail lamp.
Yet from the front and front 3/4 views, there’s not been the same level of decisiveness in separating the hood and fender, leaving the observer unsure as to whether they’re witnessing a daring break with automotive tradition as BMW teases traditional surface intersections wide open, or a superficial graphic gimmick to add a bit of visual drama.
To my eyes, it makes an already feature packed front end appear overwrought and the elements strangely dissociated. Perhaps this is because one’s attention is drawn to the absence of form (the panel gap), rather than the form itself.
Of course, the proof will be in the seeing at Frankfurt where I suspect some crafty detail resolution of the panel edges will make the sense of it all. But until then, I’ll be gibbering quietly to myself in the corner.
Bonus video of Mr. AvH admiring his work below: