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BMW defends new design language

BMW is thrilled with its bigger grilles but don’t expect the nose to look the same on every single model.
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BMW is defending its controversial decision to use considerably larger versions of its classic double-kidney grille.

Product boss Peter Henrich told Autocar the new design language has received “very positive” feedback and that he was “convinced” the new direction was wise.

Under design director Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW grilles have increased in size, starting with the refreshed 7 Series and all-new X7.

Those are big cars, however, where a big grille doesn’t necessarily seem out-of-place. As van Hooydonk pointed out in an earlier interview with Autocar, the X7’s grille is in proportion to the size of the SUV and is actually smaller than the snouts on some rivals.

More controversial has been the reveal of the Concept 4, previewing the redesigned BMW 4 Series.

As spy photos have revealed, the production vehicle’s grille looks to be just as vast and polarising as the concept’s.

It appears the oversized new grille won’t necessarily appear on all upcoming BMWs. When asked if models like the 5 Series would see their grilles enlarged, Henrich told Autocar each BMW model will have its own character.

“Each car has its own positioning,” he said. “In the early stages of development, we sit down – product, design and engineering – and define the character and the positioning.”

“Some cars are more extroverted, more bold than others as they have different messages to transmit. The customer is looking for a different type of a car with a 3 Series to a Z4 or X6.”

Van Hooydonk has also pointed out Chinese and American buyers are more receptive to bolder designs. That would explain why the 7 Series and X7 have been the first adopters given their popularity in said markets.

While BMW isn’t reversing course on its new design language, there is one upcoming BMW that’s had to have a nose job.

The iNext SUV, first previewed by the 2018 Vision iNext concept, was supposed to use that concept’s grille design.

While massive like the Concept 4’s grille, the Vision iNext differed in that the two kidneys were joined, creating a peculiar, dumbbell-shaped grille.

Head of design Domagoj Dukec confirmed this design has been nixed following feedback.

BMW’s designers joined the two kidneys to aid the iNext’s array of sensors it uses for autonomous driving.

Dukec said the Vision iNext’s grille no longer looked like a BMW grille, so the company has decided to spend the extra money required to implement sensors that don’t need such a large space in which to work.

He also confirmed the upcoming i4 and iX3 would have two separate kidneys.

While the iNext will have two discrete kidneys, they won’t necessarily be discreet. Expect a large grille and the ensuing criticism.

We’ve heard this maelstrom of criticism before, directed at BMWs designed under Chris Bangle’s tenure as head of design.

Some of his design elements, however, were influential – Bangle’s flame surfacing arguably inspired other automakers to experiment with more extroverted surface detailing, while the infamous “Bangle butt” was also widely mimicked.

With van Hooydonk’s grille designs, BMW is following the lead of rivals like Audi and Lexus who’ve been making cars with seemingly oversized grilles for many years now.