The Senses of Luxury

18 Jun 2024

The last 18 months have seen BMW roll out key high-end models with technological touchstones that reflect the future of the Bavarian automobile brand.

Since the end of 2022, BMW has introduced several high-profile models that resonate with avid proponents of the brand. From the new BMW 7 Series and electrified i7, to the bold and brash BMW XM, to the all-new X7, the BMW world spins non-stop with technological features that propels the legacy of performance engineering.

While BMW’s Creative Director of Sound, Dr Renzo Vitale, and his team focus on producing auto soundscapes for tomorrow’s BMW electric vehicle owners, current drivers can still enjoy the familiar, and beloved grunt of today’s combustion engines. And from the moment you press the start buttons in the latest models, the excitement begins on the next drive.

The BMW 7 Series remains the flagship of sedans from the group. The all-new 7 Series is the epitome of executive saloons with wider surfaces and electric adjustment and lumbar support for driver and front passengers. In Singapore, the BMW 735i, with 48V mild hybrid technology, comes with an in-line six-cylinder engine putting out 272hp, 400Nm of torque and gets you from 0-100km in 6.7 seconds. And for those who prefer an electrified mode of transport, the first-ever BMW i7 xDrive60 leaves little to be desired.

If the electrified BMW i7 comes across as a bit too quiet, drivers will be happy to know that Dr Vitale’s work with famous composer Hans Zimmer in the BMW IconicSounds programme provides an exclusive sound experience in the car. It is an effort that BMW doesn’t take lightly.

“We expanded our sound technology in the car to be able to react in real time to the driver,” professes Dr Vitale. “Driving sounds are reading the technical information relating to the driving action. Be it, speed, acceleration, load or recuperation, for example. All data is gathered in real time and translated into sound. Think of the car as a synthesizer in the hands of the user. We are trying to expand the sound capability of the texture, create more variety, create the possibility to have a diverse range of sounds and to do this, you need a sound architecture.”

Needless to say, the BMW i7 offers this automotive symphony in high-fidelity quality. The front-end design of the all-new BMW 7 Series presents unique equipment features, such as the multi sensory vehicle experience BMW iDrive with BMW Curved Display and the Manoeuvre Assistant for automated parking and manoeuvring, highlight its status as a symbol of the BMW Group’s innovative strength.


The all-new BMW 7 Series is offered worldwide exclusively in a long wheelbase body variant that maximises spaciousness in the rear compartment. Here, new and particularly high-quality materials, the innovative new in-car entertainment system and the upgraded Executive Lounge (optional) combine to provide an unbeatable sense of well-being in an exclusive ambience.

For those who prefer a more adventurous disposition, the distinctive presence of the new BMW X7 is everything you expect from a high-end full-size SUV from one of the premier car manufacturers in the world.

By ticking the boxes in luxury, spaciousness and versatility, the BMW X7 has earned its position as a much sought-after model in its class. As the largest X model, it’s proposition of on-road elegance and off-road capability is a mark of BMW to combine form with function.

From its aesthetics, the new BMW X7 does not disappoint. The newly structured front end picks up on signature BMW design cues such as the twin headlights and BMW kidney grille. At the rear, the progressive style of the extremely slim light units come with three-dimensional sculpting. The elegant chrome bar connecting the rear lights on the new BMW X7 is enclosed within an classy looking glass cover.

Driving Concerto Dr Renzo Vitale reinterprets his classical music background into automotive sounds. He discusses the complexities of creating the unique blend of vehicular music at BMW and how it redefines the esoteric and technologically advanced field of sound engineering.

How do your music and engineering backgrounds come together at the BMW Group? 

I am both a musician and an engineer. As a classically trained concert pianist, I studied composition, electronic music and engineering. I have a degree in electronic engineering and PhD in architectural acoustics. I have always been curious about how sounds work both on a physical, technical and psychological level. In 2015, the BMW Group reached out to me to be an acoustic engineer. I see the car as a highly complex performative art installation. After two and a half years, I was tasked to develop sounds for our electric vehicles as part of the design division. My role today is Creative Director of sound design responsible for the sonic aesthetics of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce. 

How is sound a consideration in cars?

Sound is essential in the driving experience. In the past, sound was linked to the combustion engine. With EVs, we wanted to define a new sonic identity for the company. ‘What does BMW sound like?’ Part of our sound research was to define who we were, who we are and where we are going to be in the future. All of this needs to be delivered by the sound without any explanation. In the past 5-10 years, sound became integral to the user experience, and we offer many driving sounds (My Modes) and day-today warning sounds. I have developed a constellation of over 50 sounds and some can be as short as a few milliseconds. 

How will sound be part of electric vehicle development for BMW Group?

Sound is an essential part of development from day one. Today, we have the opportunity to create sounds that never existed before but we need to know what kind of car it is going to be. I have conversations with my colleagues on the car’s exterior and interior design, light and materials. I translate all the images, mood boards and sketches into sound so everything in the car speaks the same idea. The company embraces sound as a quintessential element. As BMW is an emotional brand, to deliver the joy of driving, we cannot do it without sound.

On the one hand, car makers are looking to make quieter cabins, and on the other engineers like you are creating new soundscapes. How do the two approaches reconcile themselves at BMW Group?

These two approaches are part of the same story. Sound is not only presence, but it is also absence. Before I was doing sound design for the cars, I was in the acoustics department trying to reduce all possible noise. But silence is not enough anymore.

The “other world” opens up. Customers can choose to switch these sounds on or off depending on their desires. The idea is to elevate their driving experience. I see the car as a very complicated performative art installation. The scope was for people to express themselves through the car to express their feelings. Ultimately, I believe the driver has to be seen as a performer, as an interpreter, almost as a composer.

Bringing this concept further with the BMW Vision Neue Klasse X, we introduced a new feature called the HYPERSONX WHEEL. This digital function allows passengers to have their personal favourite soundtrack accompanying every journey. The most important and tricky part is that all of these sounds speak about the BMW identity and the company’s diversity. I introduced a new philosophy that I call, sound genetics, for each brand, that contains the genes of who we are sonically.

Tell us more about BMW IconicSounds Electric and what goes into the creation of these soundscapes?

The first generation in 2019 was putting the fundamentals in place. We worked to develop the one BMW sound. This is where My Modes comes into the picture. 

If the driver is entering a new emotional portal, we wanted to know how this can be differentiated, and supported by different sounds.

In 2022, we developed the BMW IconicSounds Electric in cooperation with two-time Oscar winning composer, Hans Zimmer. We discussed ideas and beliefs on how a car should behave, and what we can bring from the past of music tradition to the future.

Hans composed a piece, and I dissected these sound elements to discover what was ‘hidden’ within. I recomposed this piece, turning it into a driving soundscape. The result was a first in the automotive industry where we have sound components that go upwards (high pitch) and downwards (low pitch) simultaneously.


How do soundscapes in a car cabin affects the mood of drivers?

We catch sound directly from the vehicle’s central device where all the information is collected. The soundscapes inform the driver about what the car is doing at any point in time. All this information changes quickly in real time. BMW is known for being dynamic, precise, athletic and the soundscapes need to support these. We are expanding the palette of data that is responsible for the modulation of the sounds.

We embarked on this journey one step at a time and are always exploring new territories. I am proud that BMW embraces this journey, this new philosophy of sound genetics that in the next evolution is going to be called HYPERSONX, the idea that the car is a hyper instrument. Ultimately, the person is at the centre of our development. I am very excited about the next generation of cars that are on the horizon.

Under the hood, the latest-generation six-cylinder in-line engine is offered in the model available in Singapore as the BMW X7 xDrive40i. Innovations aplenty enhance the combustion process, gas exchange, valve control, injection and ignition system for better performance and efficiency. The output of the new engine reaches 381hp (48hp up on the predecessor), while peak torque rises by 90Nm to 540Nm thanks in part to a 48V mild hybrid system. This form of electrification consists of a crankshaft-mounted starter generator integrated into the transmission and contributes an extra 9 kW/12 hp of output and an extra 200 Nm of torque.

The interior of the BMW X7 is designed to give a sense of space across the three rows of seats. The five-zone automatic climate control, panoramic glass sunroof with aluminium satin roof rails, a Harman Kardon surround sound system, and comfort seats for driver and front passenger with active seat ventilation and massage function answers all questions regarding how to make comfort and luxury key aspects of the car’s internal aesthetics. Throw in a sport leather steering wheel, and a new tray for wireless smartphone charging and you have the icing on top.

If the stature of the considerable BMW X7 leaves a little more to be desired, the first-ever BMW XM will surely meet higher demands. The Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) brings the concept of a spectacular vehicle together with BMW’s drive system technology in a hybrid car that defines categorisation.

Eight high-revving cylinders with M TwinPower Turbo and the BMW M Hybrid system combine to provide a monstrous 653hp in power and 800Nm of torque. As large a footprint as the XM has, it gets from 0-100km/h in a scant 4.3 seconds.

The BMW XM’s the driving experience is more than amply enhanced by the sports exhaust system featuring electronically controlled, continuously adjustable flaps and hexagonal dual tailpipes arranged one above the other for the first ime in a BMW M model.

The BMW IconicSounds Electric package, developed in a collaboration between the BMW Group and film score composer Hans Zimmer, also creates a suitable backing track for the electric motor’s power delivery. The M-specific electric drive sound provides authentic feedback to every movement of the accelerator pedal when driving in the locally emission- free operating mode. If the Sport or Sport Plus setting is selected while the drive system is operating in HYBRID mode, a boost sound will underline the electrical assistance being provided to the combustion engine.

Like in the BMW 7 Series and the BMW X7, the XM is as safe and easy to drive as ever. With the Driving Assistant Professional and Parking Assistant Professional packages fitted as standard, the front-collision warning system reduces the danger of a collision with cyclists, pedestrians or oncoming vehicles when turning. The exit warning function alerts occupants to a risk of collision when opening the door. The Reversing Assistant has also been updated to take over the job of steering the car for a distance of up to 200m.

The BMW XM further takes automotive advancements into the next era. With personalisation courtesy of drivers’ BMW ID, personal prefereces and settings can be transferred between vehicles. The My BMW App also acts as a universal digital interface, providing the vehicle’s status at any time. Remote operation of functions like vehicle location, locking and unlocking of doors, or monitoring the car’s immediate surroundings are just some advanced features that sing like a symphony to the ears of tomorrow’s drivers.

From 7 to 11 May, BMW Group Asia hosted a series of very exclusive luncheons and dinners for select guests. Calling it ‘7 Senses by BMW’, it was a celebration of the expansive luxury range of the brand, the BMW Grand Klasse Luxury (GKL), said Kidd Yam, Director of Corporate Affairs, BMW Group Asia.

The first luncheon was hosted for select readers of Portfolio who were provided with just the basic information: They are invited to a special luncheon on the 7th of May, to which they will be chauffeured from an address they indicated, in a BMW vehicle of their choice, to an undisclosed destination. One can imagine the air of mystery stirring the anticipation with such an alluring invitation.

The vehicles that would transport them hinted at the type and level of sensory experience they were about to undergo. The selection comprised of a Sedan and Sedan MPA from the BMW 7 Series, a Coupe and Gran Coupe from the BMW 8 Series, a BMW X7 and X7 MPA, a BMW i7 and i7 MPA, a BMW M8 Convertible and M8 Coupe, and a BMW XM. At the appointed time, the vehicles chosen by the guests were dispatched to the addresses to whisk them to the venue.

What awaited them was a heritage blackand-white bungalow on 7 Adam Road, where the second-storey rooms have been set up with interactive stations that engaged the different senses. At one station guests provided word prompts which the poet known as Graceful Quills turned into verses. At another, local perfumer Scent by SIX turned aromas picked from a range of samples into a custom fragrance. A barserved cocktails and mocktails, and a VR video brought guests deeper into the world of the GKL.

And finally, there was the dining hall where a long table was set with rows of wineglasses, one for every spirit that would accompany a specific dish. The menu — surprisingly yet tellingly — did not indicate what the dishes were, only the number of the courses and the inspirations behind them.

Chef Woo Wai Leong, whose credentials include winning the MasterChef Asia 2015 competition and running his own Restaurant Ibid, came up with the meticulously curated dishes. Each meal was prepared in the same vein as an omakase where every dish relied on the best produce of the day and the creativity of the chef; the only guiding rule was that they should each represent one of the seven senses — the conventional five: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight, to which were added time and art.

Each course was brilliantly paired with rare spirits culled from sources across the globe by Sommelier Yeo Xi Yang, owner of Convivial Champagne Bar, who has previously worked at Les Amis, The Black Swan, Straits Clan, and Park90. Together, Chef Woo and Xi Yang, and their teams, amplified the themes with flavours, textures, temperatures, aromas, and lingering impressions.

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“The attention to details is superb. I attend a lot of events, and this one, I must say, is special. It’s small and intimate, and the love and care given to every guest is very good.

I took BMW i7; it was a very smooth and quiet ride. I’m always on my phone when I’m driven around town, answering emails, so the comfortable and steady ride is a plus. The interiors are great — from the leather upholstery to the reclining seats.”


“I’ve been to (Ibid) twice, but the menu that Chef Woo presented today was still a surprise. It’s interesting when you don’t see the menu and do not know what you are going to be served.
I rode the BMW iXM — I actually asked for it. I heard about this car last year during the 7 Series launch.
They said they were going to launch a top-ofthe-line SUV and I wanted to test it. My ride was comfortable, quiet, and