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Marcus Syring about the BMW M Design DNA.

As head of the BMW M design studio, Marcus Syring interprets the origins of the brand and infuses them with further facets.

20 June 2022

They are bursting with both energy and style in equal measure. The older models have matured into automotive icons, while the newer ones are high-end sports cars with superior all-round characteristics. Alongside performance, a charismatically polished design has developed that transforms a BMW into an M model. Visual details with a big impact. Features that stretch like pearls on a string through the decades and evolve into ever new gems. As head of the BMW M design studio, Marcus Syring interprets the origins of the brand and infuses them with further facets. He explains the design DNA of the brand. An article from the book "BMW M Love" to celebrate the 50th anniversary of BMW M GmbH.

THREE M3 MODELS, ONE DNA. THE E30, E46 AND G80.

Marcus Syring, head of the BMW M design studioMarcus Syring, head of the BMW M design studio

This man knows everything about the soul of this brand – its history, its position in the present and its place in the future. Marcus Syring and his team create highly dynamic vehicles. He has been with the BMW Group for more than 30 years – including holding senior design roles at MINI and Rolls-Royce. A creative mind on the one hand, an analytical designer on the other. Like a time traveller from the future of design. He is one of the individuals are shaping the brand’s tomorrow from the very core of BMW’s being and condensing BMW M into its purest essence. "BMW squared", as Marcus Syring calls it. He uses the example of the M3 from different eras to illustrate how this abstract power has been the drive and soul of BMW M for three decades and will continue to be so in the future.

The rolling gate of a production hall on the BMW M site in Munich-Garching opens up and a currentgeneration M3 Competition (G80, available since 2021) rolls in, the low roar of its 510 hp six-cylinder engine resonating throughout the space. Two of its predecessors are already in position inside – the timeless M3 from the E46 series (2000 to 2006) and the iconic first M3 from the E30 series (1986 to 1991).

Before Marcus Syring uses these 3s to explain the process of how an M model comes into being, he takes a brief look back to a time when BMW M and BMW Motorsport GmbH didn’t even exist. To the time when BMW itself was originally created. This is important if we are to understand how the brand’s now signature design, which forms the basis from which BMW M’s diamonds are cut, came into the world.

FROM AIRCRAFT ENGINE MANUFACTURER TO CARMAKER.

BMW 328 Roadster at the Mille Miglia 1940BMW 328 Roadster at the Mille Miglia 1940

THE BMW KIDNEY GRILLE BECOMES A DISTINCTIVE FEATURE.

LEGENDARY MODELS IN THE POST-WAR PERIOD.

The BMW Isetta in the standard version with retractable top.The BMW Isetta in the standard version with retractable top.

"The world entered the post-war period and that was the beginning of the BMW’s third phase. The company had started making cars again. The spectrum was extremely broad – the bookends spanned from the round Isetta and the small BMW 700 on the one end to the ravishingly beautiful V8 Barockengel on the other. But none of them was a vehicle suitable for the masses," notes Syring. Side note III: BMW created some of the most beautiful models of all time in the 1950s, including the legendary BMW 507; Elvis Presley drove one of them. However, as outlined by Marcus Syring above, no model managed to sell the number of units that would have ensured BMW’s survival as an independent company. End of side note III.

THE NEW CLASS. USP THROUGH A SYMBIOSIS OF SPORTINESS AND ELEGANCE.

The New Class in the 1963 sales brochure.The New Class in the 1963 sales brochure.
The New Class in the 1963 sales brochure.

Bayerische Motoren Werke needed a fresh start. And they got it in 1961 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt with the mid-size 1500 saloon – at the time, BMW referred to it as the ‘New Class’. Syring explains: "With this 'new class', BMW saved itself and reinvented itself. This was the first time the company offered its unique combination of sportiness and elegance."

2002 TURBO. FIRST FORETASTE OF THE M3.

M3 E30. TRANSPORTS RACING INTO PRODUCTION MODELS.

BMW M3 E30 FlügelBMW M3 E30 Flügel
Again, in the case of the E30, we looked at the issue closely and asked ourselves: where does the air stagnate? How much air is needed there? We see, for example, that the front end has been opened outwards in order to adapt the brake air ducts.
Marcus Syring, head of the BMW M design studio

M3 E46. THE M3 GETS ATHLETIC.

Side grilles compared: BMW E 30 and BMW G 80Side grilles compared: BMW E 30 and BMW G 80

Pull-through: The side grilles first used in the M3 E46 (bottom) still characterize the design of the series today, as the G80 (top) shows.

DUAL DESIGN ELEMENTS ARE TYPICAL OF BMW M.

The use of dual design elements is also an obvious part of the M DNA. This not only includes components such as the exhaust systems’ twin tailpipes or the two bars of the wing mirror bases (since the E36), but numerous other details.

Syring jumps back for a moment: "When I started at BMW, the M3 E36 was almost finished. All that was missing were the wheels and the wing mirrors. But Dr Reitzle (editor’s note: member of the board responsible for development at the time) wasn’t a fan of the wheels we developed. Then one evening I was sitting in a beer garden in Munich and briefly jotted down on my coaster: BMW has always had BBS wheels. BBS has the cross-spoke design. Then Alpina – they have radial spokes. And what are we going to do for M? So I thought to myself, let’s go with double spokes."

DESIGN IS ALWAYS A TEAM EFFORT.

A RADIATOR GRILLE SYMBOLISES EITHER STATUS OR SPORTINESS.

BMW M3 G80 rimBMW M3 G80 rim

Another signature M feature are the new forged wheels with double spokes (model 826 M) and a lightweight roof made of visible carbon, similar to the one first used in 2003 in the M3 CSL of the E46 series. The distinctive rear spoiler, split down the middle, is also made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) – the latest design in the evolution of the formerly large E30 spoiler.

BMW M3 G80 spoilerBMW M3 G80 spoiler

"We wanted to make it really bold, of course," says Syring. "But then we realised that it produces too much downforce. And if we produce too much downforce at the rear, we also have to readjust the front. But then this makes the aerodynamics worse. So in the end, we decided to lower the rear spoiler in the middle and direct the downforce via the sides alone in the way that our suspension engineers need it. Customdesigned. The beauty of this solution is that it has its own unique appearance and is something special." The lowered middle section of the spoiler also corresponds to the two fins in the M3’s carbon roof.

THE BMW KIDNEY GRILLE IS ALWAYS PART OF THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS.

BMW M3 G80BMW M3 G80

THE M FRONT OF THE MODERN ERA.

BMW M3 E30 kidney grilleBMW M3 E30 kidney grille

In other words, a mixture of the commanding presence of a BMW 7 Series (vertical slats in the kidney grille) and the sportiness of a BMW 328 Mille Miglia (horizontal). Because in addition to the BMW kidney grille with vertical bars, the first M3 had horizontal radiator grille bars to the left and right of that. Syring explains: "The pure verticality in the M3 E30’s kidney grille expresses status, prestige. And this width – it’s flat, sporty, it pushes it outwards. Semantically, it is the perfect translation of what BMW was expressing at the time, which was sporty elegance."

Detail: kidney grille of the BMW M3 G80Detail: kidney grille of the BMW M3 G80

The vertical and horizontal elements of the first M3 radiator grille are blended together in the vertically aligned radiator grille of the current M3 with its horizontal bars to create the M front end of the modern era. "It is vertically oriented, but the horizontal double bars naturally lend it that power. Not overstyled and yet radical. And it’s unique, so there’s a certain kind of copyright on it." That’s the point – BMW M once again delivers a counterpoint to the uniformity of the masses. A look at electric models in the style of the future XM shows that BMW M will remain true to its design DNA even in the age of electric mobility.

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