Nobody knows the interior of the BMW X7 as well or on such a deeply personal level as Eva-Maria Günther. Responsible for the X7’s interior design, Eva-Maria was the winner of an internal BMW competition that asked entrants to design a completely new and complex vehicle from scratch. From a field of 25 designs, Eva-Maria took top spot.
The sketches she submitted for the competition remained the guideline for all design questions right until the end. “It's very useful to have these key sketches,” she explains, “in a process that has taken several years, they provide orientation and help us stay true to the original vision.”
She worked with a team of twenty people, including designers and other experts, to tackle the big and small issues of this particular brief: engineers, material specialists, ergonomics experts and modellers.
Graduating in automobile design with a specialisation in cabin design, Eva-Maria’s passion for both cars and design helped her throughout the process. “I love this field of work,” she explains, “because you can fuse function and emotion.”
BRINGING LUXURY TO LIFE.
The new BMW X7 doesn’t just have an imposing appearance, its interior is also designed to surpass even the most exacting standards. Eva-Maria spent nearly three years thinking about and shaping the cabin space, and she knows every seam, every detail and precise shade of colour in it.
“The car is a very emotional space, and you want the time you spend in it to be as pleasant as possible, both on long journeys and on the short commute between home and work,” says Eva-Maria.
The interior is the most important interface between human and engine, and the particular challenge here is to enable all functions to be experienced in such a way that passengers can fully enjoy the elegant, comfortable and luxurious feeling that characterises the BMW luxury class: “The digital instruments give the driver a wide range of interaction options, and using them is as intuitive as a smartphone,” says Eva-Maria.
Eva-Maria’s creative approach was holistic, which meant that every aspect was considered and integrated as part of the whole. “Usually we design an interior from front to back,” explains Eva. “But here we thought of the interior as a holistic space from the very beginning.”
The rear seats were designed with exactly the same care as the first row – from the decorative elements to the rear entertainment and functional details such as the USB ports. “At the beginning of the sketch phase I asked myself how passengers would want to feel inside the vehicle. The decisive characteristic of the BMW X7 is its generous amount of space, with a third row of seats and seven seats as standard. The aim was to use the design to emphasize the size, primarily by using horizontal lines.”
Another unique feature of the BMW design process was that highly detailed 1:1 clay models allowed the interior to be experienced at a very early stage. “As good as digital visualisation is, it’s when the design is translated into a physical model that you suddenly become aware of details that simply didn’t stand out in the digital visualisation,” says Eva-Maria.
“Apart from the displays, there is not a single flat surface in the vehicle.” Accordingly, the design team focused fastidiously on the exact curvature angle of each element.
To achieve supremely pleasing curves, even smoother transitions and enhanced line and surface tensions, the clay model was revised by hand until the team was absolutely satisfied with the results. Only then was it scanned again by laser and digitally edited.
DESIGN THAT DELIGHTS.
At the BMW plant in Spartanburg in South Carolina (USA), where the BMW X7 is produced, Eva-Maria was able to drive a finished model for the very first time.
On reflection, Eva-Maria says that she has been particularly enthusiastic about a couple of details. Firstly, the cupholder with a heating and cooling function: “It was a really hot day and after only a short time, my mineral water was chilled to the ideal temperature.”
And secondly: “The hood that covers the instrument panel behind the steering wheel,” says Eva-Maria. “For functional reasons it isn’t symmetrical, but nevertheless it must feel that way for the driver.” This was a creative squaring of the circle, which demanded many hours of input from the team. Naturally, everyone is particularly proud of the result.