At the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, BMW debuted the 4 Series Concept Coupe. To tell us more about the design of the new car and share some insights into the design process of the beautiful midsize coupe, BMWBLOG sat down with Karim Habib, BMW’s Head of Design.

BMWBLOG: Behind us we have the new concept BMW 4 Series Coupe. Can you tell us what sets this Coupe apart from its 3 Series brother and tell us about the overall design theme of the 4 Series Coupe?

Karim Habib: The 4 Series Concept Coupe that we’re showing is our next endeavor into the Coupe territory, in this market segment. The important things with respect to the 3 Series or to the 3 Series Coupe of today is that the actual car is lower, wider, longer, has wider tracks than the 3 Series Coupe today and the 3 Series F30 that’s on road today as well. So all in all I think the package gives you a sportier, more dynamic, more elegant and more luxurious car, and with more presence – therefore a much better package.


BMWBLOG: You talk about presence and when we see the car here alive, it does have a very dynamic presence that will be even more accentuated on the road, in its natural element. If we take a look at the car – I noticed some new design features for the first time for BMW, such as the closed kidney grille and some of the aerodynamic work with the mirrors and the side gills. Can you tell us more about these?

Karim Habib: Sure. You pointed exactly to some of the stuff that we want to show in a show car – that it has to do with Efficient Dynamics. You know that’s very important to us, obviously, and we as designers want to use that company philosophy as an opportunity, as a challenge to do stuff, whether it’s in details or in proportions, stuff that may be new solutions to designers.


And the kidneys are closed, but if you notice as well, we’ve played with the materials – you have a sort of a lighter aluminum material and a darker anthracite color and you also see the aluminum finish not only on the frontal surface, but also on the sides. Yes, it’s closed, but it also offers a little bit more surprises when you go around the car, so you can see the depth of it and the materials that change when you go around the car.

BMWBLOG: We know that not only the driving pleasure and Efficient Dynamics are important to BMW. Are there any highlights we see on this Concept 4 Series Coupe that will influence BMW design language in the future?

Karim Habib: Like we talked about the kidney – how we treat the detail quality and the kidneys are something you would see maybe in the future – not exactly in this form, but it is a way for us to show how we do see details at BMW. Regarding the mirrors – yes, it’s something we do for the show car – we try to illustrate detail work a bit more amplified, but we’ re also thinking of how to design a mirror that is as lean as possible. Also the aerodynamic features that the mirrors can bring – as the mirror can actually be challenging aerodynamic. And with the aero blade we tried to show that you can use a mirror not only design wise to make something special, but also in terms of acoustic and aerodynamic efficiency, it also brings art.


Another thing you see is in the front as well – you know the air curtains that we already have on the market – and we also have here an ‘air breather’, which is also used for the first time as well. In case of the air curtains, the air flows from the inside and goes out and then creates literally a curtain of air so that is minimizes turbulence. And the second thing that this thing does is that there’s sometimes a very high pressured air inside the wheel arch and it’s uncontrolled how it comes out and also creates turbulence. With the air breather, it actually comes out along the surface of the car, so it’s also much more controlled and has less turbulence.


BMWBLOG: Overall, we know BMW for making dynamic, sporty coupes. What is your particular favorite angle to view this car?

Karim Habib: To me it’s the proportions. The proportion is not only something we do as designers, but it’s something we do as engineers and designers. And this is what I actually find more rewarding in a way, because it’s working with the engineers to create something that’s quite unique. And the proportions of this car – as I’ve mentioned it’s lower, it’s wider, longer, – about 30 mm longer that the 3 Series Coupe today but 15 mm more wheelbase – so it also creates a better stance, the wheels are more at the corner, more space inside.


So my favorite thing about this car is that we managed to take the current car – the 3 Series Coupe – that is actually a really good looking car, and very successful car in the market – and I think we made it better. That’s not every day that you do that, and I think we managed to do that pretty well with this car.

BMWBLOG: Due to the fact that it is an entirely new series for BMW, could you just briefly give us some reasons for which somebody would buy this vehicle, and what is the overall message of the BMW 4 Series – in terms of design, performance, technology. What is the driver supposed to feel when he is in this car?

Karim Habib: The first thing – we talked about the proportions changing. That’s an important thing of why it is a 4 Series, because of its width, its presence. I think it communicates something different than the current car that we have today. And there’s another thing from a design point of view: if you look at the surfaces – the rear wheel arch is very muscular, has very generous surfaces. Also are there to illustrate that character that is the 4 Series, which means it’s got more presence, even more luxury, and more elegance through its stretched lines.


This is now a concept, but when the 4 series production will come out it will have a lot of things that you see here today, obviously, but it’s meant to create or to give to the customer a lot of what the customer knows today with the 3 Series – a lot of driving dynamics and very agile car, but even with a bit more elegance, more presence, more status.

BMWBLOG: Taking a step back and changing the subject: Karim, you have an important position within BMW, overseeing the design team for BMW vehicles. Do you have any personal hobbies or outside of work that you can tell us about? Or maybe inspirations that you look to?

Karim Habib: My job now is more to be a sort of a coach for the team. In a way, the inspiration comes sort of punctual – I see things, I read things, and then these things I’d like to communicate to the team: “Have you seen these? Or these building?”, or often I just read articles in magazines – things that have to do with design – I read a lot of design magazines or architecture magazines. So those are really the things that inspire me the most and I try to just understand the creative process that maybe an architect did and talk about that with the team and then have that – in some way or another – flow into the things that we do. So, to basically answer your question: as always, architecture to me is always very inspiring.

BMWBLOG: One final question. I’m curious personally – I drive a BMW and I have had it for several years – what BMW are you currently driving or maybe the favorite in these last few years since you are in this position?

Karim Habib: I will be one of the lucky first ones that get to drive this car from this summer on – I will get one of the pre-production prototypes, that I very much look forward to.

BMWBLOG: Karim, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today!