Thursday, April 19, 2007

BMW's design delirium

I have been driving one of these during the last few days:

It's a $75,000 BMW 645i with a 333 hp 8 cylinder engine and it has a disturbing effect on me. Delirium.

Have you ever been delirious with fever, felt like your body was bloated and filled with stuffing, that your throat was severely constricted, and that gravity was several times normal? I have and every time I get into this car I can't shake that feeling. Seriously. It's the strongest negative reaction I've ever had to a product. I feel just like that woman in Gibson's Pattern Recognition, Cayce Pollard, who's career is based on her emotional and physical reactions to logos. She's used as a canary in a coalmine for companies testing whether their new logos will be positively or negatively received by the public.

This car is big for a 2 door. It's a full 12 inches larger on the outside than the 2 door BMW 3 series. Yet it feels less spacious and in many dimensions, is indeed smaller. Although I'm 6 ft tall, the driving position is deep bathtub. The steering wheel is too thick even for my large hands. And it's too large in diameter, emphasizing the feeling that everything is twisted and out of proportion. The bulbous Bangle trunk just caps the strange coherence of all this car's inharmonious proportions. Enough has been said about iDrive--link to a blog item about the 9 steps to change the clock. But the other controls also are ill conceived. The key fob still doesn't make sense to me--the icons are meaningless. If you hold down the trunk release too long the alarm will go off. The seat adjustment controls aren't intuitive, as they should be because as on any car you can't see them. The words on the stalk that controls the info panel on the dash don't have meaning to me. And I can't master the deft touch required to properly operate the turn signals!

I can't wait to give this car back to my friend and return to my old Miata, where the world is normally proportioned and comfortable in a way that plush leather alone simply can't match.
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