Here's a tidbit to make you feel old. 2003 was 11 years ago. 2003 was the year Saddam Hussein was captured, 2Fast 2Furious came out and the release of the BMW E60.
Controversial. Perhaps the best way to describe the E60 5-Series when it first came out. Gone were the elegant soft curves of the E39 and was replaced with sharp edges and acute angles. Some critics said that it lost its elegance. For others, it looked so ugly that some say that BMW has lost their way. Of course, there we a few who thought the car looked good when it first came out. James May was one of them. May called the car "modern and groovy". Unusual that Mr. May would like something that looked far ahead of its time.
So, why the initial backlash? It's rather simple really. With the E39, you had the easy on the eyes looks of Leonardo DiCaprio with the bonus of talent. With the E60, you got the exact opposite. A little challenging to look at but still very talented nonetheless. It was the radical change that put people off. The backlash was made worse with the introduction of iDrive. So if it wasn't scaring enough people away on the outside, it was as if BMW wanted to make more people technophobic.
So, why am I defending it?
Time to bring out the flame suit and state my case
1. It Aged Well
The E60 was flamed by almost everyone when it first came out in '03. Nowadays, people can't believe it's been over 10 years since it first came out. Show the Average Joe a humdrum E60 and he might think it came out in 2010 or 2011. The design is still relevant to this day and perhaps in another 10 years time. It will still be an aspirational car and still surprise people in the future. This was proof that daring didn't have to mean it wouldn't age well.
2. It's Influential
Bangle's styling direction was bashed by a lot of people at first. By the late 2000's though, you can see a hint of Bangle in a few best sellers. There's the small Bangle Butt in the 2007 Camry and with the previous generation Lexus line up. The previous generation Accord had a bit of a 5 Series tail light from the side. Just about every car in the mid to late 00's was styled using a machete. Hell, just take a look at the Korean cars now. Slashy.
- 3. It Changed The Game
With more features and gizmos to put an E38 7 Series to shame, we soon started seeing the competition playing catch up. It made the W211 feel decidedly last century. It forced the Audi A6 to take Vosprung Durch Technik literally and inspired Lexus to step up their game. See the scroll wheels in just about every premium and aspiring premium cars? You gotta give credit to BMW for that. Now you have Audi's MMI, Mercedes-Benz's COMAND and Lexus' quirky mouse pad thing. Some would say iDrive, and the similar systems that followed it, is safer than good old touch screen as you don't have to aim where your fingers go when you drive (they may have a point). Sure iDrive came first with the E65 but it was more livable with the E60.
Now, as an E39 owner, I would say mine still has that hint of elegance to it that the E60's techie personality lacks. As time goes by however, my E39 started to feel decidedly analogue. Hell, my friend's Honda Civic was better equipped. With the E60, you feel more in touch with the decade. Get one now and it's still better equipped than most new cars. Step in one and tell yourself, this design will be 11 years old by July. It's revolutionary, influential and eventually aged gracefully. James May once said "It will take a little bit of getting used to, I know, but the good stuff always does". With over 1.2 million sold, BMW had a royal flush with what people thought were a pair of 3's.