BMW insists its customers love the new enormous grilles

Ronan Glon

As BMW's grille grows, so does the number of people whose opinion it splits. Top officials previously defended the move to a polarizing design, and they again stressed they're sticking to it.

Recent additions to the company's range, like the X7 and the facelifted 7 Series, raised more than a few eyebrows when they broke cover because they wore an unusually big interpretation of the emblematic twin-kidney grille. The Concept 4 Series Coupe (above) unveiled during the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show shook the internet like an apple tree by taking this styling cue to the next level. BMW explained it took a bolder, more controversial approach to design by popular demand.

"This is crucial for success. BMW customers are demanding. They want to express something, and are not afraid of vehicles with strong characters. They are looking for it. So, we have decided to focus even more on strong characters and bold designs," explained Peter Henrich, BMW's senior vice president of product management, in an interview with British magazine Autocar.

In other words: the big grille stays. Recent spy shots (below) strongly suggest the next-generation 4 Series will arrive in showroom looking a lot like the aforementioned concept unveiled in Germany.

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Customers love the new look, Henrich added, and his team takes the feedback it gets from buyers seriously. The Vision iNext concept introduced in 2018 is well on its way to production, for example, but it won't reach showrooms with the open, one-kidney grille seen on the concept. Designers initially deleted the separation between the two parts of the grille to make space for the armada of sensors required for semi-autonomous driving features, but they concluded the crossover no longer looked like a BMW. "We spent the money to have sensors that can see through the chrome," BMW head of design Domagoj Dukec revealed to Autocar.

While the idea that electric cars don't need cooling air is a myth, it's true that they require less of it than a comparable gasoline- or diesel-powered model, so it stands to reason they can get by with a smaller grille. The iNext argues that's not the case, and getting rid of the kidney grilles altogether is out of the question, Autoblog learned from BMW design boss Adrian van Hooydonk in 2018.

He told us his team considered launching the i3 with a sleeker, more electric car-like front end that would have marked a clean break from BMW's design language. Stylists ended up putting the grille back on because it's such a significant part of the company's identity. Without it, the i3 wouldn't be easily recognizable as a BMW. And, ultimately, that's one of the most powerful marketing tools in the firm's arsenal. Disputably (and suddenly) making it jumbo-sized drives that point home.

BMW customers, and potential customers, is Henrich right? Is this the look you're demanding? Add your comments below.

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