Back in its day, the first-generation BMW X5 was a controversial new design direction for the German luxury brand. Today, the gaping maw of the 2020 BMW 4 Series is perhaps the most controversial new BMW design in decades.
Funnily enough, the guy behind the design team for the BMW X5 is Frank Stephenson, who now makes YouTube videos about car design. He’s taken some time to professionally critique the controversial new 4 Series:
What I like about Stephenson’s take here is that it’s not the typical reaction to the car, which seems to typically be violent, or shocked, or offended, or some combination. It’s the take of someone who knows how BMW operates, who knows the challenges of designing a new car for a storied automaker, and who—hopefully if he’s still any good—has a good grasp on what the future of car design looks like.
Stephenson finds the 4 Series design interesting because of how, he claims, it remains recognizable as a BMW product while eschewing with many of BMW’s traditional signature styling and design traits.
From the profile view, BMW has removed a strong, creased shoulder line that was a defining feature of the traditional BMW 3 Series and the later 4 Series legacy. He also highlights the disappearance of the signature Hofmeister kink shape of the rear window border.
There’s also a strange lack of harmony with the cut line behind the front wheels, which doesn’t line up with any other drawn line on the car, making it (literally) stick out from the rest of the design. The back is very busy, especially around the exhausts in the lower corners of the bumper.
What’s fun, though, is the genuine pause and hesitation that fucking kidney grille gives the veteran Stephenson. The guy can barely find words careful enough to explain his issues (I think to make sure he wasn’t oversimplifying as we all are want to do), which is very relatable.
Regardless of whether you’re open to the idea of the BMW abandoning much of its styling legacy for something, perhaps, softer and more flowing, it’s definitely not immediately as recognizable as the cars that have come before. At least not yet. If anything, it’s just interesting to look at.