BMW 6 Series -- 2004 First Drive: Ask BMW North America chief Tom Purves why BMW has encouraged the development of a risky design vocabulary that elicits love it or hate it response in the buying public, and he’ll reply, “No risk, no reward.” The way Purves and the man who penned the lines of the 2004 BMW 6-Series, Adrian von Hooydonk, see it, the well-heeled consumers likely to pay as much as $85,000 for the new 6-Series have probably taken risks of their own to achieve the level of financial success necessary to afford the latest in a storied line of BMW gran turismo coupes. They will understand the importance and rewards of risk.
Modern BMW Design Philosophies
Calling the 2004 BMW 6-Series “a car that you can drive fast and far,” von Hooydonk insists that modern luxury philosophies dictate conservative rather than flamboyant design, and yet automotive styling must generate excitement through expressive and emotional lines to attract and keep the interest of consumers who have increasingly short attention spans. Von Hooydonk’s theory goes that, given three-year development cycles and a minimum of seven years shelf life, designs must be cutting edge right out of the box. “You cannot be anonymous anymore,” he asserts, “even if your (anonymous) design is a good one.”
This latter statement, in BMW’s opinion, justifies its controversial design language of today and clearly articulates why the perfectly executed yet visually somnolent BMW designs of yesterday are history. Von Hooydonk says that BMW must chart its own course, a modern one, where no two of its products look alike. The 2004 BMW 6-Series is the latest of the German automaker’s automobiles to embody this philosophy in sheetmetal.
Truth be told, the hood is aluminum rather than metal, the front fenders are thermoplastic, and the bulging decklid covering a trunk large enough to hold two sets of golf clubs is sheet molded composite. Aiming to achieve a classic GT appearance, it was critical to get the long hood/short deck proportions of the new 6-Series just right. Also critical was the preservation of classic BMW design cues like the Hofmeister kink at the trailing edge of the rear side glass (named after a former head of BMW design), twin circular headlights, twin kidney grilles, distinct side character line and, on the company’s coupes and convertibles, the side marker light.