Is this the end of the Bangle-Butt?
Since the re-launch of the flagship 7-Series sedan, a decade ago, BMW has adopted a very distinctive styling language perhaps best defined by the high rear deck critics quickly labeled the “Bangle-Butt,” a reference to the maker’s then-design chief Chris Bangle.
But is the Bavarian maker about to migrate to a distinctly different look? That’s the question it has provoked with the unveiling of the new Zagato Coupe, a 2-seat concept that made its debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
The annual event, staged along Italy’s exclusive Lake Como, is normally reserved for classic cars but BMW gets a little leeway as the events principal sponsor and used the opportunity to gauge reaction to what is clearly not just another German roadster. The concept was designed by what is now the only surviving independent coachbuilder it Italy, a firm more traditionally associated with the likes of Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo.
But perhaps, a few industry observers are suggesting, BMW needed to reach outside to help it envision such a dramatic shift in styling strategy.
While the dimensions are essentially those of the German marque’s current Z4, the look is decidedly different — beyond the classic double-kidney grille – with sweeping headlamps flowing into sculptured hood and front fenders. The roof features Zagato’s signature “double-bubble.”
Zagato chief designer Norihiko Harada didn’t go for a throwaway when working in the side vents that have become so much a standard element on sports cars these days. Recessed into the fenders, they taper off into the doors. Harada also lifted the shoulder line as it approached a reverse-angle back half-window then chopped the tail off in a way that would impress Dr. Wunibald Kamm, the German aero-master who gave his name to the wind-cheating Kamm back.
In a sense, now-retired BMW design boss Bangle might still see retribution in the look, which maintains the high deck lid that so effectively reduces aerodynamic drag. But the tail, like the rest of the Zagato Coupe’s sheet metal, features a supple yet sensual sculpting largely missing from BMW production designs of the last decade.
The Zagato Coupe is finished in a Rosso Vivace, or Wine Red, paint that reveals even the most subtle nuances. And to reinforce the fact that both the Italian design house and its Bavarian partner share aviation roots, the 19-inch alloy wheels features aircraft-like spokes.
Inside, the Zagato Coupe is largely a carryover Z4, with two-tone gray and red upholstery and a custom travel and hat bag.
As for what’s under the skin, the Zagato Coupe reportedly gets a boost to an even 400 horsepower from its twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six. In the current sDrive35is version of the Z4 roadster that powertrain makes a less aggressive 340 hp.
Considering the gentry on hand at the annual Concorso BMW clearly had to field requests to buy a copy of the concept coupe. But even though the maker issued a release proclaiming the Zagato Coupe “is registered for road use and meets all the legal requirements worldwide,” company officials later stressed they have no plans for production.
Perhaps not. But might they have plans to lift some of the details of the Zagato design for use in the next-generation Z4? Or perhaps even use the concept as an influence for the broader BMW line-up? As the cliché goes, stay tuned.
Tags: BMW concept, auto news, bmw news, bmw styling, bmw villa d'este, bmw z4, bmw zagato coupe concept, bmz design, car news, concorso d'eleganza ville d'este, luxury cars, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau, zagato