BMW M1

Designer Frank Stephenson says three qualities define BMW design language: athletic elegance, visual lightness, and dynamic proportions. Without explaining the terms, you can probably get a pretty good idea of what Stephenson is talking about simply by looking at an array of varied BMW models. There are a few examples that seem to stand out in the court of public opinion though; a few models which seem to have nearly universal appeal among enthusiasts from all ages and every corner of the world.

These particularly compelling BMW models are famous for a variety of reasons, including facets such as their historical significance or motorsport record, but we wouldn’t still be talking about them and analyzing their individual design elements if they didn’t look good, whether standing still or at full tilt down the straight. Rarity and uniqueness, either among the BMW portfolio itself or automotive design in general, also play a role, but when it comes to the models Stephenson chose for his list, it seems whether or not you turned your head and were instantly enticed is a more apt determinant of whether or not a car made it.

So, without spoiling the entirety of the list, do Stephenson’s selections for the three greatest BMW designs line up with your own? As we explained above, the models chosen seem almost universally appealing, but that still doesn’t mean they’re for everyone, no matter how iconic they are in the world of BMW. If Stephenson didn’t get it right on the first try, his honorable mentions, listed at the end of the video, contains a few crowd pleasers along with something some might consider a bit of curveball.

There’s also the question of what someone like Frank Stephenson thinks of BMW’s current design language and where things are headed, and to get the full rundown on that, check out the video he released covering the subject last summer.—Alex Tock

[Photo courtesy BMW AG. Video courtesy Frank Stephenson on YouTube.]

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