Wednesday 08 April 2009
Designers and engineers may inhabit the same world but they seldom see eye to eye.
Those who pen the cars, for instance, are often branded fanciful and unrealistic while the mechanical types rub their corporate chins, suck air through their collective dentures and shake their heads dismissively.
A prime example of this of course is the concept car. Those that dazzle on revolving pedestals at automotive shows around the world in tarted up clay, wood and plastic bear little resemblance to the actual models that drive off the production line.
They are either impossible to manufacture at a realistic price, breach Euro health and safety laws - or in most extreme cases human rights - or would scare most conservative buyers silly.
In the end what we drive are the results of some sort of compromise and sometimes innovative technical skills so the designs actually work.
Take the 7-Series BMW as a prime example. This car inhabits CEO-land; it's a boss-mobile. It's not for the great unwashed; it's for those who not only want a decent way to travel but also a symbol of status and wealth.
Give that brief to a designer and the first thing he will draw is a bonnet the length of an oil tanker. And sure enough that’s what you get with the 730d and it’s all the better for it. That's 1-0 to the design boys then.
Thing is the engineers might just enjoy pointing out one simple fact; when your nose is that long it is going to get cut off by passing traffic every time you edge out of a side road.
No matter how far you crane your neck at the junction you can’t help being in the middle of the road by the time you can actually see - just leaving enough time to utter a short prayer before the juggernaut hits you.
It was going to be a long and dangerous week then, until that is, a small button on the transmission tunnel sporting a movie camera graphic was observed and depressed.
At rest, at the killer junction, the dashboard display that had been showing me the satnav map suddenly became a split screen television showing what was coming from the left and right - genius. That's an equaliser to the spannermen then.
The rest of the 730d shows a similar symbiosis of design flair and engineering prowess. Glance at the wing mirrors for instance and when there’s a car hidden in your motorway blindspot that’s picked up by their built in radar, a little warning triangle illuminates to tell you.
Under the long bonnet lies a 3.0 litre six cylinder diesel. You have to have one of those because they are the most functional offering good miles per gallon and efficiency, say the engineers.
Fair enough but for the designers it has to sound and feel right, offer breath-taking performance and be entertaining to drive, which of course it is.
But so often compromises please no-one and with the ride that could be true. Limos like the 7-Series should have a cosseting floaty ride which soaks up the bumps and comforts the occupants.
The problem with that is for the enthusiast it is like driving while under anaesthetic. It's all too woolly and numb to know where your wheels are and what they are doing. BMW don't do that sort of vehicle and sure enough the ride errs on the side of firm so the driver gets the feedback.
There's another natty little button on the transmission tunnel this time altering the suspension from comfort to normal and sport. They are all quite hard but it’s the way the lumps and bumps of the road transmit through the steering that is surprising. Now that’s a bit of a own goal to designers and engineers. It's not bad but it is noticeable.
At the end of the day the new 7-Series BMW was probably produced in the right spirit benefiting the most from a lack of compromise in design and engineering.
Model: BMW 730d
Engine: 3.0 litre, 24v, six cylinder turbo diesel
Drivetrain: six speed automatic
Top speed: 153mph
Insurance group: 19
Miles per gallon (combined): 39.2
CO2 (g/km): 192
Life & Style blogs
iPhone 7 (or iPhone 6S) leaked pictures show similarities to older model — but Apple is fixing the biggest issue of all
The face of fertility: why do men find women who are near ovulation more attractive?
'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
Google has set its terrifying, dreaming image robots on the public
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
- 1 Michelle Watt's father says TV presenter killed herself because she was in constant pain
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
- 4 North Korean defector flees to Finland 'with evidence of chemical testing on humans'
- 5 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...