Hold your criticisms and listen to BMW's side of the argument.
Let’s sit down for a short lesson on car design, shall we? This time we’ll focus on the decision-making process behind designing an iconic super sedan, the BMW 7 Series. The latest generation of the 7 Series, known as the G11 (the short-wheelbase version) and G12 (the long-wheelbase model) in BMW speak, was released in 2015 and redesigned for the 2020 model-year.
The most obvious stylistic difference was its large grille, which stole the bulk of the conversation surrounding the new sedan and took attention away from its long list of new features. The new grille design was perceived by the car community as either an attempt to put an end to the Russian doll styling ethos that many German cars feature, to bring the 7 Series closer in line to its SUV counterpart, the X7, or to make the sedan look more like a status symbol in the way that its arch-rival, the Mercedes S-Class does.
But BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk has another take on the big grille, which he told Motoring about during a recent interview. According to the design chief, the 7 Series’ grille received a lot of criticism when the car was unveiled, which van Hooydonk claims he noticed and had "been hurt” by. "It’s more a 7 Series discussion than anything else and the backlash is more or less the same as we expected,” said the Dutch designer.
Still, he stands firm behind his team’s decision, in part because the 7 Series’ new grille amends one big issue the pre-facelift G11 and G12 drew customer complaints over: the fact it didn’t look much different than the F01-F04-generation 7 Series it replaced. "When we launched the car [the 7 Series] it [the grille] was quite smaller. The feedback we got on that was that people couldn’t see enough difference to the predecessor,” said van Hooydonk.
That, however, is only part of the story. The next part has to do with the hardships involved in designing a car that’s sold globally. According to van Hooydonk, his team was tasked with making the 7 Series in a car that would suit the tastes of multiple major markets, including in the Chinese, North American, and European markets. The former two regions are the most important for the 7 Series, and as it turns out, both also like larger grilles than the European market.
"The 7 has always been the hardest to bring the expectations of the entire world into one shape. The customers are very, very different in China, the US, the Middle East and in Europe,” said van Hooydonk. "In Europe people don’t want to get noticed. They don’t like being asked what they paid for a car and they like things in black like a stealth mode. The rest of the world is the opposite.”
So next time you go on criticizing BMW for building oversized grilles, just remember that you may not be a member of the 7 Series' target audience.