BMW Zagato Coupé: Is BMW getting out of its styling rut?

BMW Zagato Coupe front three-quarter viewBMWs may be great to drive, but they are not always great to look at. The makers of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” have not always been able to grace their creations with ultimate styling. The “flame surfaced” designs, like the last-generation 5 Series, were, to say the least, polarizing. The newer Bimmers are handsome, but, with the possible exception of the Z4, not beautiful. Thankfully, the company’s latest styling exercise, the Zagato Coupé, has none of those problems.

Designed in collaboration with Italian styling house Zagato, the Coupé is downright gorgeous. It starts with the proportions: the classic long hood and short rear deck is still one of the best ways to make a car look good. Safety and interior volume considerations ruin a lot of production cars, but since the Zagato Coupé is a pure styling exercise, BMW was able to have at it.

Of course, BMW and Zagato could have built an aesthetically pleasing coupe just by copying classic design elements. However, that would make the result too generic; people shouldn’t need a BMW badge to tell what this car is. Luckily, the Zagato Coupé has a few unique twists.

The way the roofline meets the decklid creates a truncated fastback, not unlike the BMW Z3 and first-gen Z4 coupes. On the Zagato, there is a large rear window directly above the taillights (think Honda CRX), for increased visibility.

Side vents are a very popular way to jazz up a car’s flanks, but BMW and Zagato took them to a whole new level. The scalloping that runs through the door is a much more dramatic solution than sticking a piece of chrome on the front fender.

Even the traditional BMW twin kidney grille got some attention. The mesh is made of interlocked “Zs” to honor the car’s Italian parent. BMW says the design was inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes.

Every detail of the Zagato Coupé’s styling was carefully scrutinized, and so was the paint. The hue, which BMW calls Rosso Vivace, started with a black base coat, followed by a coat of metallic silver. The actual red was applied in six coats, followed by two coats of clear. The result is a color that can vary from deep black to an intense, almost orange red, depending on lighting.BMW Zagato Coupe rear overhead view

BMW wants people to believe that its cars are built without compromise, but the way they look is often compromised. The restraints of safety, interior packaging, and the simple fear of building an ugly car that no one will want to buy, can water down designs to a boring average. The Zagato Coupé shows what can be done when styling is the first priority. The result is very impressive, although it may not please everyone. That’s fine, since the Zagato Coupé was not meant to be sold in large numbers. It is a handbuilt, one-off car. However, it is also drivable, so you just might see this piece of automotive art on a road near you.