It’s difficult question to broach: how do you ask the designer of the BMW X1 Concept whether he knows what everyone else is thinking? “Adrian van Hooydonk, chief designer at BMW: do you realise that you’ve created another car apparently trapped underneath a fallen ugly tree?”
And to his credit, van Hooydonk swatted it with diplomatic ease. “Actually, I think we’ve created a pretty car,” he said. He then went on to point out that the X1 had to look like a contemporary BMW; it had to share the brand’s SUV design DNA; it had to be smaller than an X3 and yet muscular- and powerful-looking; and that beauty was in the eye of the beholder anyway, so he didn’t much care whether I thought it was a spudder really.
Correct answer, Adrian; top man.
You get the impression, when you look at BMW’s last decade or so of design heritage, that Munich values distinctiveness much more highly than conventional beauty anyway. With one exception (that of the conservative E90 3-series) I can’t remember the last time a new BMW was unveiled to reactions anything other than ‘eeew’ or ‘errugh’.
Pretty cars, it seems, age much more quickly than ‘challenging’ ones; they disappear much more readily into the darker margins of the automotive landscape.When you look at them three- or four-years into their lifecycle, even, often once we’ve acclimatised to their unconventional shapes, surfaces and proportions, most BMWs seem much more attractive. I’d say that, somehow, the E60 5-series has blossomed into one of the most eye-catching and handsome saloons on the market.
Give it three years and, who knows, maybe we’ll all be looking at the BMW X1 through more favourable eyes. One thing's for sure: as Ratan Tata must have been pleased to observe when I saw him taking an eyeful of the new BMW earlier, it's nowhere near as good-looking as the Land Rover LRX.