Back in earlier years, rookie motoring journalists writing about BMW would have constantly been reminded of the two design elements of the company’s cars – the kidney grille and the blue and white roundel. It was standard text to mention them when describing a new BMW. Those who know BMW’s history know that the roundel was inspired by a propeller as the company had been making aero engines before it ventured into making cars.
The kidney grille wasn’t on BMW’s first cars, appearing only or the first time on the 303 in the 1930s. Thereafter, it would become a permanent part of the BMW ‘face’, re-interpreted by the designers again and again in the decades that followed. For production models, the proportions of the kidney grille were appropriate to the car’s size and inserted between the bonnet edge and top of the bumper.
For concept cars where the designers had more latitude to experiment, various more sophisticated interpretations were presented. Some were quite appealing, high-tech and elegant while those in recent years seem to border on the ‘bizarre’ with their outsize proportions which take the grille beyond the confines of the front end. On such occasions, as with the Concept 4 on display in Frankfurt this week, the massive kidney grille comes to the forefront of commentaries.
New face of the 4-Series range
Grabbing the attention at the heart of the front end is the vertical kidney grille. The distinctive grille, remarkable air intakes and prominently sculpted surfaces provide an immediate advert for the car’s performance and its engaging character as a driver’s car.
“The kidney grille has always been a signature feature of BMW cars,” stressed Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design. “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.” The vertically oriented grille fits seamlessly into both the proportions of the front end and BMW’s illustrious past. 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.
The kidney grille is also home to some elaborate details. The grating itself contains horizontal trim elements with a faceted cut which create a neat contrast against the sporty design of the front end and lend depth and exclusivity to the grille. Look closer and another highlight is revealed: the intricate grating within the kidneys and air intakes, which is made up of an array of small ‘number 4s’ joined together.
The slim and focused twin headlights are slightly angled and team up with the kidney grille to lend the front end a modern look with a strong identity. The striking LED light elements have no glass cover; instead they are worked into the body like three-dimensional sculptures. This allows them to bring an even greater sense of modernity and technical sophistication to the front end. The sharply contoured bonnet extends the lines of the front end through powerful volumes and edging of precision. The bold surfacing frames the kidney grille like a gemstone.
Aesthetic essence of a modern BMW coupe
The Concept 4 displays BMW’s signature proportions at their most modern form yet. The stretched bonnet, long wheelbase, flowing roofline and short overhangs create a modern, elegant and dynamic coupe outline and send energy coursing through the low-slung body even while it’s standing still.
Within the silhouette, the ultra-pure surfaces of the concept car form a powerful main body. The interplay of tautly chiselled volumes and a small number of extremely precise contours create a rare sense of emotion and dynamism. The expressive exterior paint tone Forbidden Red accentuates the car’s surfaces particularly vividly; those in the light at any one time project a rich, glossy red, while shade creates an almost black effect and a striking contrast. The interaction of contours and volumes therefore exude a dramatic sense of radiance and depth.
The athletic body incorporates a slender glasshouse with a narrow window aperture, which further emphasises the dynamism of the side. The long, sweeping roofline flows smoothly into the bootlid, giving the rear end a high-class and sporty aesthetic. The bulging rear wheel arches lend visual expression to the power coursing through the rear wheels and accentuate the muscular shoulders higher up.
Look more closely and further classy details are revealed. The minimalist, two-section exterior mirrors emerge harmoniously out of the weather strips. The lower section in polished aluminium extends the weather strip in a flowing movement and becomes a mirror surface, while the aerodynamically optimised rear section is in body colour and rounds off the design of the mirrors in dynamic fashion. On the inside of the mirrors is an apparently floating BMW logo, which only comes to light on more detailed inspection.
The light-alloy wheels of the Concept 4 are equally rich in detail. The 21-inch items represent a heavily ‘dished’ take on the sporty 5-spoke design, drawing the eye into their centre-points. The fronts of the intricate spokes have a high-polished finish, while the set-back surfaces are finely ground to create a slightly darker effect and give the rim design a sophisticated contrast.
Eye-catching, dynamic rear end
The rear sits low over the road, as befits a sporty car. The character line transitions from the flanks into the rear end in a broad, horizontal sweep and visually reduces the coupe’s height off the ground even further. Picking up where the front end left off, generously sized and clear surfaces with only a small number of lines are the dominant theme.
Purism runs through every element of the rear end and creates a prominent tail graphic. The sporty glasshouse is indented into the powerful body, allowing it to chisel broad and athletic shoulders into the Concept 4’s design. The vertical air outlets frame the lower section of the rear and emphasise the car’s broad stance. The LED rear lights consist of a single fibreoptic element, which lends the familiar BMW L shape a cutting-edge ‘heartbeat’ graphic and dispenses with a glass cover. Their contours underscore the sportingly horizontal focus of the rear end and accentuate its brawny stance on the road.
The striking diffuser integrated into the muscular rear apron sets the seal on the car’s rear-end design. Its vertical fins break up the clean surfaces of the car’s tail to send a statement of fine sporting pedigree, while the High-gloss Black paint finish with metallic particles lend it additional visual impact. The pair of exhaust tailpipes highlight a new and dynamic free-form, a detail of the Concept 4’s design that expresses what this car is all about: the modern essence of a coupe with a huge dose of aesthetic appeal.
The Concept 4 looks ready to be added to the assembly line as the next 4-Series Coupe, though how much those huge kidneys are downsized remains to be seen.