BMW's new 4 Series Concept is an absolute grille-o-rama
You thought those BMW grille memes were jokes, didn't you? Well the joke's on us, it seems. BMW is far from finished embiggening its grilles, and its new 4-series concept, which points the way forward for the sporty coupe, takes the famous kidney shape and transforms it into a magnificent butterfly that stretches from the hood right down to the splitter.
It gives the whole front of the car an unfortunate Chief Wiggum kind of look, all nostrils and goofy grin. It utterly dominates the design. And why, you might ask, would BMW be lumping what's otherwise such an attractive car with such a crass and showy face? Well, I've been around the forums, and the bulk of speculation is putting the blame on China.
Chinese BMW buyers, people seem to think, have never seen a grille they thought was big or shiny or statusey enough. If that's true – and I'm not saying it is – then good luck talking BMW out of pandering to them. Nobody else in the world is buying enough luxury cars; more than 25% of all BMW's sales were in China last year, with second place being the United States at 14%. The Chinese market is colossal and growing, and if those guys like monster grilles, then that's what you're gonna get. If you don't like it, you'd better start making more babies.
Otherwise, this is a really good looking concept car that leads the 4 series off in a terrific direction. When the 4 Series made its debut in 2013, it had a bit of an identity problem: up until that moment, it had just been the 2-door version of the 3-series sedan. Why call it the 4 series, people asked, when calling it the 3-series coupe did the job just fine?
This concept, on display at the Frankfurt IAA Motor Show this weekend, makes it clear what the 4 series is going be moving forward: the muscle car of the BMW stable, a wild, untamed stallion far less family-friendly than the 3 series. It's sharp. It's slick. It's got wide, athletic hips and aggressive channels down the side. It's got a fast-sloping roof, big diffusers, sexy 21-inch rims (complete with watch-strap tires that are probably rubbish to drive on) and razor-edged "heartbeat" tail lights.
The headlights look sly, and determined, you can just imagine this thing coming sideways out of a turn, smoke pouring off the back tires, and ... Damnit, it looks like it's trying to read a newspaper as it drives along because of that dorky big grille. This car is a solid 8 or 9 from the rear three-quarter view, but a rolling butterface if you have the misfortune of getting in front of it.
Then again, if you love your gasoline cars, nothing says "I burn fuel" like a big grille on the front, when so many other concepts are going electric with no need for a big front radiator. Coal-rolling 'Murican truck jockeys can't get enough chrome on the front of their pickups, maybe the petrolhead crowd might get on board too.
Enjoy an utterly baffling video below.