It's all part of the brand's future-oriented design philosophy.
There seems to be no end in sight for the controversy surrounding BMW design, and specifically, the enlarged kidney grilles on models like the BMW X7 and the heavily revised BMW 7 Series. It's not only the German marque's range-topping models that are adopting oversized grilles, however, with the BMW Concept 4 drawing gasps when it was unveiled at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this year.
Of course, the Concept 4 provides a glimpse into what the production version of the next 4 Series Coupe will look like. A photo of the new 4 Series on the production line was later leaked and confirmed what appears to be one of the tallest grilles in the brand's history. We caught up with Ralph Mahler, responsible for BMW product planning and strategy in the US, at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show to get a deeper insight into the upcoming 4's dramatic grille.
When asked to respond to the colorful feedback that followed the Concept 4's reveal, Mahler pointed to the need to ensure that new designs are unexpected and different enough to stay fresh throughout a regular lifecycle. "From my perspective, it all comes down to one point: is a design future-oriented and providing a glimpse into the future and, therefore, staying modern during the whole lifecycle - or not?" Mahler substantiated this statement by explaining that unexpected designs have a lower risk of dating quickly.
While BMW traditionalists may beg to differ, perhaps Mahler has a point. For instance, the E60-generation 5 Series looked nothing like the E39 before it and, initially, was heavily criticized. Today, the same E60 has aged remarkably well. But even that car had a much more modestly sized grille than the Concept 4. Again, Mahler had an explanation here: "So it's a large grille. Same thing with the 7 Series. And guess what? Now, nobody's talking about it anymore. You're getting used to it and it still looks modern."
Interestingly, Mahler also indicated that the brand doesn't want all its cars to look the same, another reason for the Concept 4's giant grille. And while it is possible to differentiate between the brand's models from the outside, the cookie-cutter approach to its interiors hasn't changed one bit.
While there isn't an exact science to predicting how consumer tastes may shift a few years down the line, BMW isn't designing vehicles that have even a slight chance of fading into the background, and there's nothing worse than customer apathy. Only time will tell whether this bold strategy pays off in the long term - and whether loyalists are willing to embrace the changing face of BMW.