The Hommage CSL (2015) is a missed opportunity. For while BMW’s latest back catalogue reinvention has been met with nothing but breathless adoration and joy, for now the official response is almost painful in its predictability. ‘Don’t expect styling elements of the Hommage CSL to reappear on future BMW products – this is purely a concept, albeit a very exciting one,’ comments a company spokesman. Cue global mourning.
With understandable resignation, the men behind the Hommage toe the company line. ‘This model is not earmarked for production,’ says Adrian von Hooydonk, grandmaster of the group’s drawing board. For now at least, it’s only a design exercise,’ confirms chief brand designer Karim Habib, before adding with a broad smile: ‘But of course we would be delighted to take it to the next level.’
Will the suits ever learn? Here we are, on our knees, admiring yet another amazing design study, and once again the company behind it fails to recognise its potential, to draw up a business case and to run it through a couple of customer clinics. The only way to make the bureaucrats change their mind is by public opinion.
The doors open wide to reveal an unexpectedly spacious cabin (the car itself is 4997mm long, an intimidating 2018mm wide and 1302mm high, with a 3190mm wheelbase), though sliding down into the cockpit requires care because the solid-looking carbonfibre sills are actually wafer thin. Equally worrying, the seat frame is made of fragile small-diameter aluminium tubes. You sit low in a not too narrow tunnel clad with dark, man-made materials. Alloy-capped pedals and plenty of bright yellow stitching and piping pin-prick the gloom like stars in the night sky. Instinctively you grasp the steering wheel, an intriguingly cut-down creation that references both racing car helms and motorcycle-style handlebars. Dotted with numerous (currently non-functional) controls, the wheel sits so close to your chest that you’re forced to angle your arms like a DTM racer.
‘It’s a very race-orientated cockpit,’ says Habib. ‘A BMW interior needs to be ultra-high quality – in the materials, in the fit and finish, in the displays – but if the car’s about driving then the interior shouldn’t be a distraction. For me calm, uncluttered interiors are a part of our future. There’s a purity to this one, and I love the way the wooden dash echoes the original 3.0 CSL’s. We added the M colours on the ends of the wooden section, so it’s like you’ve milled through to the M soul inside. That’s something I’d really like to see on future M cars.’
Inside there are key retro touches – that dash, contrasting brightwork and wooden accents, minimalist nylon loops to open the doors, the central single-arm wiper resting in an upright position – but it’s not a slavish reconstruction of the original car’s interior. The fingertip controls are clearly inspired by avionics, and much of the detailing – that anodised fire-extinguishing system, the two helmets stowed behind the seats, the slim-fit carbonfibre fixed bucket seats – by cutting-edge competition cars. The main information cluster consists of a relatively small multi-functional monitor straddling the bottom end of the steering column. It shows speed, revs, gear and shift recommendation. Assisting are a rectangular e-boost readout in the centre of that wraparound wooden panel and a head-up display.