If you’re still reeling over the leaked look at the upcoming gaping front end of the 2022 BMW M4, you can sigh with relief knowing the company’s design team won’t force it on other cars just yet.
Last week, BMW officially revealed the new 2021 4 Series, the first production BMW in decades to stretch its signature kidney grille design vertically, rather than horizontally. In the right color and the right spec, the new grille does work in the context of the history of the brand. But it is objectively controversial, and just borderline ugly in the leaked BMW M4 photos.
But if you’re worried that the new 4 Series grille signals the direction all other BMW vehicle designs will soon follow, you don’t have to worry just yet. Instead, this is just a continuation of the trend of turning every even-numbered BMW Series model into something controversial and experimental.
At least that’s according to BMW’s head of design, Domagoj Dukec, in a roundtable interview via Autoblog:
On a broad scale, he explained that with BMW’s expansive line of vehicles, the brand wants to start differentiating each model more, giving them unique identities. As such, the design team made sure the 4 Series wasn’t just a smaller version of the 8 Series, or a larger version of the 2 Series. He also noted that customers don’t just want a different size of one style. As for why the 4 Series is particularly bold, part of that has to do with a design decision that the even-numbered coupe and coupe-like models are to be more expressive and distinct than the odd-numbered sedan and crossover models. The takeaway is that the 4 Series design won’t spread to everything, and there will probably be more conservatively designed models in the future, including popular models like the 3 Series sedan.
While the first generations of the even-numbered BMW models were all serious attempts at expanding the traditional BMW lineup and design language into more niche markets, the latest versions seem like grabs for attention at the efficiency with which they incite controversy.
It started with Chris Bangle. The 6 Series. The absurd naming of the 3 Series and 5 Series “Gran Turismo” hatchbacks. That was followed by the 4 Series and 6 Series “Gran Coupes,” four-door models adapting a name often (but not exclusive to!) two-door cars. Just a mess.
Then there was the front-wheel drive European 2 Series Active Tourer, followed by the latest-gen Mini-derived front-wheel-drive biased sedan model in the U.S. that looks like a 10 year-old Kia. I won’t even mentioned all of the even-numbered crossover coupes.
The biggest change came to the iconic M3 coupe, which is now the M4, along with the two-door version of the 3 Series name changing to 4 Series. So there’s plenty of precedent for BMW doing weird things to its even-numbered cars without it ruining everything.
While it is good news that we won’t be seeing more of that M4 face on anything else for a bit, the more clarifying piece of info from that interview is why the change was made.
Dukec claims the new design is so dramatic not just to try and attract buyers in the Chinese market, as many have claimed, since that market is currently only about 10 percent of the sales of the 4 Series. Dukec clarified that, rather obviously, BMW wants a model that’s appealing to all markets.
Instead, the designer doubled down on the look as an effort to try something new while playing with the past. That doesn’t excuse him for needlessly erasing the traditional Hofmeister kind out of the profile, though.