E60 BMW 5 Series Design – Ahead of its time?

5-series | November 9th, 2014 by 17
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One of the most controversial BMW designs in the last twenty years, if not ever, was the E60 5 Series. Penned by Davide Arcangeli, under …

One of the most controversial BMW designs in the last twenty years, if not ever, was the E60 5 Series.

Penned by Davide Arcangeli, under the guidance of BMW former chief of design, Chris Bangle, the E60 5 Series introduced the “flame surfacing” design technique. Gone were the soft curves and angles of the E39 Series, replaced by sharp edges, angular lights and a muscular look.

The aesthetic imbalance replaced conservative design lines and rationality was replaced by wilful expressiveness. The biggest factor was its distinctiveness in the BMW family at the time, something that many customers are missing today.

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Bangle’s styling direction was bashed by a lot of people at first. A petition was floating on the internet demanding BMW to get rid of Bangle. As any company that stands behind its people and exceptional talent, BMW did nothing. In fact, Bangle also penned the “flame surfacing” Z4 and the resurrected 6 Series.

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At the time, Bangle said: “It is the most avant-garde car BMW has ever done. When that thing is in front of me, I just want to follow it.” And many have. The design has inspired other automakers as well, especially the ones in Asia.


Despite being launched in 2003, the E60 5er looks almost as fresh as one of the newest bimmers. In fact, some find it hard to believe that this is a 12 year old car. The E60 5 Series also inspired one of the best looking and sporty M5 models of all time, the E60 M5.

So we pose the question: was the E60 5 Series design ahead of its time? Was it misunderstood?


17 responses to “E60 BMW 5 Series Design – Ahead of its time?”

  1. Henry says:

    I must say that the E60’s design was remarkable. I really enjoy the distinctive look of it. The few features about the car that I really enjoy, even today is the orange eyebrow ending with orange LED side lights, the elegant side panels and the bonnet flare (which seems to be missing in the new BMWs with the weird lines and indentations). The facelifted version and the ones with aero package were really good looking in my view. One thing I did not like and I know caused quite a few customers to look elsewhere was the design of the interior. I think the interior design of the E60 was extremely poor. The dash was very old fashioned with many harsh black plastic panels, which was not acceptable for a vehicle in this class. It looked really outdated. The E90, which came out about two years after that had a much more pleasing and plush interior design than the more expensive 5 Series. The current 5 Series’ interior is perfect.

  2. Alex F says:

    Definitely, although I may be a bit biased as I even love the pre-LCI F07 design! The E60 LCI definitely cleaned the car up a lot but the original car was a great looker, and the M5 is just beastly. I still smile every time I see one

    • Andrewthecarguy says:

      I am with you on the 5 GT. I particularly like the pre-LCI M Sport.

      • Shawn Sepehry says:

        I love the LCI m sport as it looks refreshed with excellent detailing in the headlight and taillight design. What specifically about the pre-lci do you like?

        • Andrewthecarguy says:

          I like the seemingly more upright trunk area. The new tail lights make the tail a bit more bulbous and busy. I also do not like the added chrome pieces on the lower part of the front bumper.

  3. bimmerfan says:

    Best looking BMW 5 series…. will still look good in another 10 years….

  4. Andrewthecarguy says:

    I have observed this phenomenon with BMW past and present. The designs seem to go through periods of love and hate. Sometimes the swing is personal, as in only some people “get it” other times it is the masses…that is where the E60 is now. No one is saying anything about the E39 anymore, whereas it is a more beautiful design than the E60 in my opinion. That said, every BMW is beautiful…in its time. And that time may no be the present.

    All told, the real question is this:


  5. Guest says:

    BMW E61 LCI

  6. millifoo says:

    Nope. Blech, still hate it. The headlight covers swooping up like a girl’s overdone fake eye lashes. And the Bangle butt in all it’s horrific glory. Ugly then, ugly now.

  7. BeantownB says:

    Sorry, I disliked it when it came out, I dislike it today. BMW may have sold a lot, but I’m in an MB E63 now instead of an M5 thanks to that design. Just ugly front and rear. You can be progressive, avant-guard, whatever, but the design was just heinous. The Z8? beautiful. Newer 6’s? Very nice (X6 excepted). And the old E38 7-series and E39 5 series were just beautiful, aggressive looking cars, particularly in sport trim.

  8. Mark Adrian Sammut says:

    I love my E60. However when it came out in 2003 I hated the shape. It was years ahead of its time. The new BMWs are nice but do not look very different from other cars

  9. Firewombat says:

    Here’s mine, 2009 520d with the exclusive package. Still looks new and has 102,000km on the clock. I really like the design because it’s not boring.

  10. Ben'Jammin says:

    I loathed the E60 from the moment I saw it. It was so offensive to the eyes compared to the E39, but that can pretty much be said for all of the Bangle designs. The only exception I will give him a pass for is the E92 and the Z4/M coupe. Before he can along they always had a well flowing, evolutionary look from body style to body style and Bangle destroyed that. Then went from looking distinctly German to Fast and The Furious inspired, rice rocket, Japanese looking crap. I’m glad BMW came to their senses and canned him. Their new designs are finally starting to embrace their roots. I’m happy to see them coming back to what made them to begin with.

  11. Adam R says:

    Ahead of its time. This was the first BMW that interested me. In the late 90’s we had aggressive designs like the Corvette,
    F-body, RX-7, Supra, and the completely new (also controversial) 911. We also had sleek and smooth lines on the LS400, S and SL-class, and even the Prelude (a design masterpiece, btw). But the entire BMW line of that era will always look antiquated (for lack of a better word) to me. I understand why the purists don’t like the E60, but I think it is great!

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