Door handles often go by unnoticed, but they are quite an essential part of the entire design philosophy, besides ensuring the easy access into the car. To be visually effective, door handles must evenly complement the styling of the car. They come in many shapes nowadays, but mostly the technical and practical essence stays the same.

A short intro

In recent years, the automotive constructor have tended to standardize the design of the door handles and add more security features to this type of vehicle equipment.

The evolution was from the basic door lock that was visible in the driver’s door handle towards more digitalized and secure versions. These new door handles incorporate either pressure-sensitive areas that can be pressed to lock/unlock the vehicles or more state-of-the-art sensors that can sense the key in the proximity of the door and proceed to automatically open/close the car.

At BMW, this last type of convenient entry/exit system bears the name Comfort Access to better suggest its role. Simply keep the keyfob in your pocket and voila, your car automatically unlocks/locks you having to touch anything.

Another feature that gained further traction in recent years is the BMW Digital Key. It is now developed for smartphone featuring the Android OS, but in the future, the technology will be available for the iPhone users as well.

The BMW Digital Key is plain simple. By means of a secured code generated via BMW Connected app, the smartphone can be transformed into a digital key to lock/unlock and start/stop the BMW. The code can also be shared with multiple smartphones as well.

Thus, the Android-based smartphone communicates with the sensors inside the driver’s door handle. They recognize the terminal as the valid key of the vehicle and thus grant to entry into the car. The phone can also be used to start the engine and drive off.

Last, but not least, the door handles also incorporate the needed projectors for the Welcome Light Carpet, which has been a common feature some time now.

BMW current door handle design

At the moment, there are 5 different door handle designs within the BMW model portfolio split as follows:

  • The new corporate door handle design that is featured on the F40 1 Series, F44 2 Series, G20/G21 3 Series, G05 X5, G06 X6, G07 X7, G14/G15/G16 8 Series and G29 Z4, which debuted during 2018 on the third generation of the X5 Sports Activity Vehicle

  • The simple door handle design version for the outgoing generations of the F22/F23/F45/F46 2 Series and F32/F33/F36 4 Series

  • The chrome door handle design version seen on the G30/G31 5 Series and G32 6 Series (which was premiered back in 2009 by the first generation 5 Series GT – the F07)

  • The non-chrome door handles for the F48 X1, the F39 X2, G01 X3 and G02 X4, similar to the F07-style door handles

  • The high-end luxury door handle design variant with a polygonal, 3D look, reserved solely for the G11/G12 7 Series brand flagship

Past designs

BMW models of the 80s-90s era were equipped with integrated door handles, visibly sporting the door locking area. The first model to premiere the lever type of door handles was the E46 generation of the 3 Series in 1997.

Even though most BMW vehicles were sporting the new lever door handles in the late 90s, the E52 Z8 icon roadster that came in 2000 featured chromed integrated door handles to further underline its special status.

Until then, all BMW models had their door handles integrated within the design of the door, which had slight variations depending on the model. For example, the handles on the E38 7 Series were different than those of the E31 8 Series.

Basically, most door handles for the 80s-90s BMWs displayed a black plastic finish, but on the high-end 7 Series like the previously mentioned E38 they were painted in the car’s body color.

On the more classic generations of vehicles from the 70s era, such as the E12 5 Series, E24 6 Series and E23 7 Series, the approach was bohemian as the integrated door handle had a full chrome finish to suggest the luxury, high-end status of those models.

Those classy chrome door handle are rooted way back in the history, with the 1968-premiered BMW New Six (E3) and BMW New Six CS (E9) generation of range-topping models being the pioneers in this direction.

The use of chrome in the 60s and early 70s was meant to evoke the exquisite philosophy of luxury brands from that era, BMW included. The chromed door handles were also found on the BMW New Class officially presented in late 1961, with market introduction in 1962.

The New Class models featured a lever-type design for the door handles, which were fixed. To enter the car, you had to use the old fashion way, which was widespread at that time: while grabbing the handle, you had to press the visible door lock with the thumb as to open the door.

A look into the future

With the advent of the future G22/G23/G26 4 Series generation and G42 2 Series in 2022, those models will also receive the G05 X5 door handle type launched in 2018. The current 5 Series and 6 Series GT are set to march on with the F07 door handle styling until a new generation arrives (the G60/G61 5 Series from 2023) or the complete phase-out, in the case of the G32 model series.

We can expect as well more revolutionary door handle designs to emerge in 2021 with the advent of the forthcoming BMW iX (iNEXT) and the first-ever i4 electric Gran Coupe (G26), as well as in 2022, when an all-new 7 Series generation is scheduled – the G70/G71. Fully integrated door handles, with an electrical pop-out function when sensing the hand or keyfob, could be on the list of solutions.

Furthermore, the BMW Concept i4, that previews the homonymous series production car coming out next year, was equipped with integrated door handles, that are said to improve aerodynamic efficiency. They are finished in the car’s special Frozen Light Copper color.

If you want my opinion, while writing this article and documenting the photo gallery, I came to the conclusion that the Concept i4 door handles look to have been slightly inspired by the classic design of the door handle that debuted first on the E3/E9 BMW New Six generation in the late 60s. This again shows the rich and complex styling philosophy created by BMW and the harmonious connection between classic and modern designs.

Door handles: A must-have accessory

Door handles are here to stay for at least many years as they are pretty perfect at accomplishing two opposite tasks: the practical side of securely getting into the car, as well the styling role, ensuring a perfect match and added cohesion with the vehicle’s exterior design.