It’s not unfair to call BMW and Mercedes-Benz two sides of the same coin. Both put forth a steadfastly Germanic and fiercely independent take on luxury, design, and performance that’s made them archrivals. As the industry transitions to electrification, the two brands are once again squaring off and, once again, are taking very different approaches.
Nowhere is that clearer than in how their EVs look, with Mercedes-Benz launching the EQ sub-brand, complete with a specific design language and models. BMW, meanwhile, just doesn’t really get the logic in that. Or at least Head of BMW Brand Design Domagoj Dukec doesn’t.
Gallery: BMW i5 eDrive40 (2023)
“Why does an electric car have to look different?” Dukec asked during a media roundtable at last weekend’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, in Como, Italy. “I'm the same person. I want the same experience. I will have the same life. You know, I don't want everything to be completely different. If it becomes different, then it's different because it makes sense for everyone. We didn't design a diesel different from a petrol.”
Dukec’s comments came mere days before BMW rolled out the 2024 5 Series and the visually identical, all-electric i5 – and not long after it took the same approach with the 7 Series and i7. In fact, BMW’s only electric vehicle that stands out, design-wise, is the iX, which has no combustion-powered equivalent to conflict with. That’s left Dukec arguing that electrification has no real impact on the freedom of design.
“The people inside have the same space. You could say there is no engine in the front, but you still have motors, yeah? You have a bigger battery [and] you have to put underbody components – which would be there where the battery is – somewhere else. And so our cars don't have a frunk. [But] you still need cooling. You still need all these things.”
Dukec suggests that sustainability doesn’t need to be a stylistic compromise, pointing out that Mercedes forces its customers to choose between a conventional gas-powered S-Class or a polarising, all-electric EQS. In contrast, BMW is offering its customers a choice of ICE or EV power, but with consistent design between the two.
Whether you like BMW’s propulsion-agnostic styling – an approach shared with Genesis’ Electrified G80 and GV70 by the way – is a separate question.