BMW gets a lot of flak for its recent design language, and rightfully so. There have only been one or two non-controversial BMW designs in the past few years, as cars like the 4 Series, M3, M4, 7 Series, i7, X7, and XM dominate headlines with the comically oversized faces. However, BMW wasn’t always like this. Instead, BMW was always know for its understated, elegant, and sophisticated designs. But we’ve all heard of, and praised, the classics—BMW Z8, E38 7 Series, and E46 M3. So I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some of BMW’s most underrated designs.
Looking back through BMW’s catalog of cars and there were actually quite a few really good looking cars that flew under the radar. Many of which sold poorly or were forgotten entirely. But despite their lack of popularity, those designs deserve some love, so I thought we’d give it to them.
One of my favorite modern BMW designs, and one I think is criminally underrated, is the BMW Z4 Coupe. The first generation of Z4, designed by Anders Warming during the Bangle era, is one of BMW’s best looking coupes and still looks dynamite today. It’s perfectly size, its proportions are bang-on, and it has classic sports car looks (long hood, short rear deck, driver basically sitting on the rear axle). The roadster version is good looking too but the coupe is where it’s at. I also like that you don’t need to get the M version for it to look good. It’s good looking even in its base spec. The Z4 coupe still looks good today and, if you can find one, it’s well worth a look.
Another BMW design that I think is underrated is the E12-generation 5 Series. The first-gen 5er was nowhere near as popular as the 5 Series is today but it should have been. It’s such a handsome, sophisticated little sedan that looks like it’s fun to drive. No surprise, given it was designed by Paul Bracq, the man who penned the stunning BMW Turbo concept, which would later go on to inspire the BMW M1’s design, and several gorgeous Mercedes sedans. The E12 is one of my favorite 5 Series designs and if I could buy one right now, I would.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and also add the BMW i3 to the list. No, the i3 is not a traditionally good looking car. It might not actually be a good looking car at all. However, the i3 is one of the most daring, unique, and interesting designs BMW has ever made and it doesn’t get enough credit for that. When you look at the “daring” design choices BMW has taken over the last few years, the i3’s design seems truly daring but in a good way. It’s forward thinking, fascinating, and funky. With modern car design being so homogenized, a car like the BMW i3 cuts through the fog and gives us something interesting to look at, so it deserves to be commended, not ridiculed.