Chris Bangle was the chief designer for BMW from 1992 all the way until he quit, not only BMW but the auto industry all together, in 2009. He is responsible for many great cars including the Z3, Z4 and the E63 6 Series. However, the car that most people will remember him by is the E65 7 Series.
The 7 Series was not met with kind words when it debuted in 2001. Many considered it to be, let’s be kind, ugly. The main criticism of the E65 was its trunk, nicknames “Bangle Butt”. The E65’s trunk had a very bulbous, bulging decklid that seemed to protrude too far up and out. It was just plain wrong in most people’s eyes.
The E65 7er is starting to gain quite a following, with people proclaiming Bangle to be a genius and visionary and that the E65 was simply too far ahead of its time. Regardless of its new cult status, though, Bangle never lived the Bangle Butt down. It didn’t help that the E60 5 Series and E63 6 Series had similar rear ends.
The design team did fix the ugly butt just a few years later in one of BMW’s other significant facelifts.
Unfortunately for Bangle, all of the criticism led to his eventual retirement. Yes, he supposedly quit on his own terms, but the millions of people calling for his job probably had a little bit to do with it. Many loyal BMW fans were outraged by his radical designs that seemed to stray so far from BMW’s DNA, so they wanted him out.
It’s rather sad actually, because Bangle was and is still an amazing and inspiration car designer – he just had some unfortunate few designs. Plus, the Bangle Butt 7 Series wasn’t the only BMW to be dismissed by the BMW faithful at its unveiling. The 5 Series GT comes to mind. The 5 GT is far uglier than anything Bangle designed. And though I’m a fan, the X1 isn’t a particularly good looking car either nor was it widely accepted as such.
BMW is on a bit of a roll in the design department. The 6 Series Gran Coupe is a Sienna Miller on four wheels, the 4 Series looks excellent as does the new 2 Series. So while BMW took a bit of a hit during the Bangle years, it seems to be back on track.
Bangle may have been misunderstood and his designs ahead of their time but that won’t bring his job back. He is a great designer in actually, but will always be plagued by the infamous Bangle Butt.