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Inspired by your opinions of the newest iteration of the iconic kidney grille, we take a look back at some of the more universally loved examples from the company’s past, and present!
When BMW unveiled the 2021 4 Series Coupe, reactions to the grille and face were very polarised. Yes, the rear-end looks pretty good and the interior gets a refresh too but the massive grille at the front has certainly got plenty of people on either side of the love-hate fence. This has not been a sudden change — the kidney grille has been growing consistently for the past few years. However, if you rewind the clock a bit, there was a time where the iconic kidney grille was far more subtle, and far more appreciated. So, let’s take a look at five of the coolest applications of BMW’s kidney grille:
The M1 was an extremely cool car — it was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, an icon in the world of car design and the M1 was probably his finest creation. Aside from the Aston Martin DB4 GT Bertone obviously. The M1 had a wedge shaped design, clean, straight lines everywhere and probably one of the smallest kidney grilles ever. Instead of being the centerpiece of the car’s design, it was just a subtle touch to signify that the car before you was indeed built by Munich’s best.
The E30 M3 is widely regarded as one of the best BMWs of all time — it was a front-engined rear-wheel-drive sedan, with a sweet sounding naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. What more could one want? Well, the E30 also hit home in the styling department. The wheel arches were flared, it got a spoiler and the subtle M-spec bodykit made it look so damn good. What also went down well with enthusiasts was the grille — the horizontal lines across the front met the almost nostril-like interpretation of the kidney grille. Yes, it was larger than the one in the M1 and it had some around it but it still looked cohesive and timid.
The 507 is probably one of the most beautiful BMWs of all time. Not aggressive, or imposing, just beautiful. The haunches at the rear and the swooping lines lend the 507 a very distinct appearance compared to other BMWs. What’s also different from other BMWs is the kidney grille — instead of being squared off, the 507’s grille smoothly tapers off toward the round headlights. It looks very neat and goes well with the rest of the car’s rounded corners and smooth edges.
The i8 was a very important car for BMW. It showed the world how advanced their electrification technology was but more perhaps importantly, that a three-cylinder hybrid car could be cool. Very cool. Even today, almost exactly six year on, the i8 looks futuristic. The split design over the rear haunches, the purposeful stance and blue touches are all complimented by the wide, and fairly thin, rendition of the kidney grille. It is surrounded by blue trim to signify the car’s eco-friendly intentions and most of the grille itself isn’t actually functional. However, it plays a very important role in connecting the most modern of BMWs to its rich history.
You don’t even have to rewind the clocks to find a BMW with an attractive kidney grille, it’s probably sitting in your friendly neighbourhood BMW dealership! The G20 3 Series was a big overhaul for the company’s iconic sedan. It was bigger than before, more technologically advanced and looked a lot more pleasing. The grille on the G20 3 Series is wide and compliments the aggressive headlights really well. It doesn’t look too big, or too small, and doesn't look out of place. This is one of the more nicer applications of the kidney grille in a contemporary BMW.
We also wanted to give an honorable mention to the BMW V12 LMR. It was an LMP1 car to compete in the 1999 and 2000 Le Mans races, and was built in partnership with Williams. Sure enough, like all BMWs, the V12 LMR also featured a kidney grille. However, it was probably the tiniest they’ve ever fitted to a vehicle, just a subtle nod to the V12 LMR’s origins.
It is hard to carry forward a design element for a long time. Very few car companies have managed to do it successfully and BMW is one of them. With grilles in the car industry getting bigger as a whole, BMW followed suit as well but their peculiar design is what splits opinion. However, aside from a few bad apples, the kidney grille is probably the most influential piece of design in the company’s history, and it’s here to stay.