Traditionally, the launch of a new BMW 7 series has been a major event in auto design. Historic, even.
Fourteen years ago, BMW introduced a new 7 at the Frankfurt auto show that caused a commotion. This year, the arrival of the sixth generation caused hardly a whimper, at least in terms of exterior styling.
"We did a quantum leap on the interior," said Karim Habib, 45, chief designer for the BMW brand. As for the exterior, "I can honestly say it is more an evolution than a revolution," Habib said.
The fourth-generation 7 series unveiled in 2001 was lambasted for its bulbous rear end with a decklid that jutted out. American Chris Bangle was head of design at the time, and his 7-series rear end (as well as those of countless sedans to come from other manufacturers over the next decade) was nicknamed the Bangle Butt.
That controversial bit was softened when a new 7 series arrived in 2008. Now, the sixth generation of BMW's flagship goes very easy on exterior design changes.
The exterior, with its long hood and short overhangs, looks much like the outgoing model.
But the car does have the most luxurious interior ever seen in a BMW model. And it is a technology tour de force.
The 2016 model, which goes on sale in October, makes extensive use of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic and lightweight materials. And it's a Bimmer brimming with such features as gesture controls.
Habib says the interior gets the major design changes this time because not every owner of a 7 actually drives the car. And by that, he is referring to China, which will be the biggest market for the 7 series, and where so many owners of the vehicle are chauffeur-driven.