Wait, that wasn’t just a concept? 2021 BMW 4-Series may actually get that giant vertical grille
Leaked photo shows that BMW’s 2019 Frankfurt Concept 4 was actually a preview of the new 4-Series
A recent spy photo posted on Instagram by user WilcoBlok shows what appears to be a gray BMW coming off some kind of assembly line, and one of the prime candidates for what it could be is the next-gen BMW 4-Series, which was recently previewed by the BMW Concept 4.
Prototypes have been running around the Nurburgring for some time in heavy camo, but one of the reasons we think this could be the next-gen 4-Series is the very vertical design of the kidney grille, seen on the Concept 4 that was revealed just a few weeks ago at the Frankfurt motor show.
The concept took a sharp turn, to put it mildly, when it comes to the design of BMW front fascias (also seemingly ignoring the fact that a lot of jurisdictions require front license plates) while also featuring a transparent plate with the concept’s name across the grille. The problem, of course, is that European- and U.S.-size license plates are not made out of plexiglass and are not otherwise transparent, so they will visually interrupt BMW’s own design feature.
This is a bit of a problem because one rule of thumb in car design has been: If you’re going to have a signature design feature in the front fascia, don’t have a license plate niche interrupt that fascia. This is a lesson Audi learned the hard way with its second-generation A8, when that model switched to a large rectangular grille. License plates had to fit within it, and some countries’ plates obviously looked better than others. In Audi’s case, it wasn’t a factor when it came to airflow, because Audi actually designed a niche for a European-size plate across the front. The Concept 4 did not demonstrate any kind of bracket for fitting a plate, so we’ve yet to see how the concept will handle that issue.
“The vertically oriented grille fits seamlessly into both the proportions of the front end and BMW’s illustrious past,” the automaker tried to explain during the Frankfurt motor show. “Indeed, its form and design reference legendary classics such as the BMW 328 or the BMW 3.0 CSi and therefore shine the spotlight on the BMW brand’s long and successful history as a maker of fine coupes.”
Another element the Concept 4 ditched—one that few have noticed, is the Hofmeister kink—a feature present on most BMW models of the past several decades. The Hofmeister kink has also been conspicuously absent on the 2020 BMW M8 Gran Coupe, revealed in production form relatively recently. The M8 Gran Coupe, on the other hand, featured a horizontally stretched kidney grille, in contrast to the Concept 4 seen in Frankfurt.
Another possibility, of course, is that this is the updated BMW 3-Series, which debuted for the 2018 model year. This theory is a little weaker than this car being the 4-Series, simply because the BMW 3-Series is still fresh and it’s too soon for it to receive a mid-cycle refresh, especially one so radical.
Recent BMW concepts—and, let’s face it, production models—have pushed the limits of just how large the kidney grille could be. The recent BMW X7 is an example of the new direction that the automaker is taking when it comes to the corporate look of its SUVs. The mid-cycle update of the 7-Series has also introduced much larger kidney grilles to the design of the front fascia.
“The kidney grille has always been a signature feature of BMW cars,” Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design, said about the vertical grille of Concept 4. “The BMW Concept 4 presents a confident and classy take on this iconic feature. At the same time, the BMW Concept 4 offers a look ahead to the expressive face of the 4 Series range.”
If this turns out to be a pre-production example of the next-generation 4-Series, it will be shown in production form sometime in 2020, ahead of the start of sales in the second half of the year as a 2021 model.