A way to see the beauty of the E60 design, is not to overly focus on the step-change departure from its predecessor (the E39) or its successor (the F10), but, to see what happens when the E60 is compared to the designs of its contemporaries – and where automotive design zeitgeist went.
This is what the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class design teams were designing, contemporaneously with Bangle and Arcangeli:
and, this is what their design aesthetics have now brought them to:
Do you see?
Structural car design and production is, necessarily, slower-moving than an art movement; which is why it is only now – a living generation later – that Bangle’s design meme has emerged in shape and form in the other automotive design houses. As such, this is arguably the definition of an art movement. Bangle might laugh, after all, he was only resolving a design question for BMW. However, his answer was an art expression. A motif, and an art expression that forcibly, created an automotive design movement.
We can assert a measure of validity to what Bangle did at BMW by referencing American automotive design of the 1950’s and 1960’s – where we can see the influence of the post-war optimism of a ‘space-age’ on automotive design. This design meme spread between automotive manufacturers competing for the same aspiring consumer market.
So what did Bangle do?
Bangle was no more ‘ahead of his time’ than Seurat. Art expression is simply just that, expression. An expression that thrives becomes an art movement. Bangle’s expression was important enough to alter peer automotive design.
What Bangle did was to lead a talented design team to make an evolutionary leap from the E39 to the E60 – but, only, by dint of using his personal automotive design penchant.
You can see Bangle’s design penchant; for accentuated angular forms that were – and this is very important – resonant in line, and not dissonant, in his Pininfarina design of the Coupé Fiat Type 175.
You will see from the lines of Arcangeli’s celebrated Pininfarina design of the Peugeot 406 Coupé, what he brought to the E60.
Look at the headlights that begin at a point, then flare upwards and outwards into the wing panel. A feature, astonishingly, accentuated on the e60.
Look at the flared skirting, how it bows at either end.
Look at the rear bumper, that gentle upwards curve into the rear lights.
Look at the rear lights, angling 45 degrees into the rear panel.
Most importantly, look at the resonant curves. It’s a masterpiece of styling.
You should be able to see that Davide Arcangeli’s E60 exterior design is different Joji Nagashima’s stablemate E90 exterior design. Archangeli penned resonant curves; his design signature. A flair for automotive design. Just look at the Peugeot 407 Coupe after Peugeot decided to bring it’s design in-house to Peugeot after Pininfarina. You can see the difference in Peugeot without Arcangeli’s eyes.
There are many aspects of the E60 design that are worth calling out – but, let’s limit ourselves to one. Look at the GPS sender and receiver unit on the roof. All E60’s carry this unit, even if the buyer did not order the GPS navigation optional extra. Why is this?
Importantly, Bangle’s automotive design prompt (uniquely interpreted, and beautifully expressed, by the automotive design talent that was Davide Arcangeli) is that form – in automotive art expression – doesn’t follow function.
 Boeriu, Horatiu (2011). ‘Photo Comparison: BMW E60 M5 Concept vs. F10 M5 Concept’. http://www.bmwblog.com