Until pictures of the new BMW 4 Series appeared, your author was of the opinion that too much of a good thing was, well, a good thing. After all, if two slices of bacon on a burger is tasty, four must be delicious, right?
Well, at least the more-is-more theory still applies to bacon. With the new 4er Coupe, BMW has literally taken its signature kidney grille to new heights.
Completely bifurcating the front fascia of the slinky two-door, the styling cue is no longer a tasteful callback to beautiful Bimmers of the past. We’re calling it “kidney failure” — and it’s long past the point of dialysis.
At least we can always rely on bacon, right?
BMW 326 Cabriolet
Yuppies in suburbs of the ’80s weren’t the first to lust after a 3 Series. Introduced at the 1936 Berlin Motor Show, the 326 went on to be one of the brand’s most successful cars of that (tumultuous) era. The sleek kidney grille plunges toward the pavement, consuming the car’s entire nose from hood on through the bumper, a style first seen on the 303 just three years prior. Perhaps that’s what designers of the new 4 Series were seeking to emulate. They didn’t.
BMW 502 Saloon
Following an inline-six-powered 501 of similar design, this eight-cylinder sedan deployed an aluminum alloy block measuring just 2.6L in displacement. At the time of its introduction, the 502 was said to be Germany’s fastest regular production passenger sedan. Its kidney grille was accompanied by a couple of chrome beans under the headlights. Thankfully, designers of the new 4er missed that particular history lesson.
BMW 1600 Cabrio
Fan clubs fawn all over themselves to praise the almighty 2002, as well they should — it was a stellar car. Still, that machine owes much to the 1600 series which showed up at Geneva in 1966. Legend has it a brace of company execs discovered they had both installed a larger engine in their own 1600s and the rest, as they say, is history. So, too, was the lithe styling which beautifully incorporated the brand’s trademark slim kidneys.
When the contemporary 1 Series earned its M stripes, there was a very good reason why it was called the1 Series Mand not the M1. This car is that reason. Fewer than 500 of these mid-engined stunners were built, a product of fights with Lamborghini and homologation rules. Pop-up headlights made for a shockingly narrow grille area on its nose, leading to a very-nearly-square take on the kidney grille.
BMW 3 Series (E30)
Nerds of the brand, yours truly included, will shamelessly refer to certain models in BMW’s history by their internal company code names. The second-gen 3 Series, also called the E30, was built for nearly a decade and is arguably responsible for the proliferation of blue-and-white propellers in tony neighbourhoods across this country. Its styling didn’t hurt, with the brand’s kidneys fitting perfectly in that lantern-jawed front end.
BMW 3 Series (E36)
If the E30 was BMW’s equivalent to The Beatles’ appearance on theEd Sullivan Show, then the E36 was itsAbbey Road. Success was immediate as it was worldwide, with this third-gen 3 Series becoming a common sight in driveways and atop ‘best-of’ lists. The mighty M3, shown here in period-correct colour, was powered by a silken straight-six engine residing behind that perfectly proportioned kidney grille.
Sidebar: Pontiac Grand Prix
Wait. What’s this tempestuously-assembled General Motors product doing on a list of Bavaria’s finest? If you were lucky enough to be around in the 1990s, you’ll surely recall the legal flap between The General’s excitement division and the mavens in Munich.
Pontiac was insistent its grille stylings were not ripped directly from various and sundry BMWs but, really, it’s difficult to parrot that assertion with a straight face. Hey, at least the GTP was supercharged.
BMW 7 Series (post-facelift G11)
Here’s the vehicle which cause our collective spidey senses to tingle with fear over the future of BMW’s kidney grille. For the 2020 model year, the large-and-in-charge 7 Series sedan was given a grille some40 per cent largerthan its predecessor.
Insofar as we can tell, this was done for exactly no reason at all save for the intentional consumption of the world’s supply of chrome plating. With a set of teeth like a bucktooth saw, we can be grateful the 7er’s maw cannot be had with the 5er’s orX6’s optional illuminated grille. Yet.
BMW 4 Series (G22)
All of which brings us neatly to the impetus for this article: the new 4 Series revealed today in Germany. If the early-2000s at BMW were defined by the polarized ‘flame surfacing’ designs of Chris Bangle, the dawn of the ’20s will surely be remembered for a blizzard of stretched kidneys and overwrought decisions.