The kidney grille is arguably BMW’s most defining styling feature that stems all the way back from the 1930s. However, the identifying feature on recent BMW models have been, well, controversial to say the least. 

Despite the flak that the grilles have been receiving on the internet, the German marque still claims that they have received “very positive” feedback to the stark change in design language, according to BMW Product Chief Peter Henrich in an interview with Autocar.

The kidney grilles on the BMW Concept 4

Henrich believes that the bold styling direction under design director Adrian van Hooydonk was the right way to go, and that customer data backs the claim as well. 

“This is crucial for success,” said Henrich. “BMW customers are demanding. They want to express something and are not afraid of vehicles with strong characters… So we have decided to focus even more on strong characters and bold design.”

When BMW first unveiled the new X7 seven-seater SUV, it was the massive grilles in front that drew the most attention, especially online. However, Henrich claims that actual customers “never reacted like that” and the car was received well. “It’s sold out for a very long period and people love it.”

Fortunately for some, Henrich says that there are still going to be BMW cars with a more conservative design, so to speak. 

“Each car has its own positioning,” says Henrich. “In the early stages of development, we sit down – product, design and engineering – and define the character and the positioning. This is then the base for the design and engineering team. Some cars are more extroverted, more bold than others as they have different messages to transmit.

“The customer is looking for a different type of a car with a 3 Series to a Z4 or X6,” he added. 

If you’re one of those angry keyboard warriors online, Henrich has this to say to you: “There are always people specifically looking for something critical and afraid of something new. But we are very self-confident and will continue.”

As confident as they may be though, BMW seems to be backtracking a little on their more out-there design, specifically on the Vision iNext Concept. The large conjoined grille on the electric SUV concept car has been abandoned following feedback, according to design chief Domagoj Dukec. 

The kidneys were initially connected due to requirements of sensor placement, but BMW decided that “it wasn’t considered to be a BMW kidney grille any more.” 

“The grille is critical, so the iNext, the i4 and the iX3 will get separated kidneys – we spent the money to have sensors that can see through the chrome,” says Dukec.


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Woon
Believes that a car is more than just numbers and facts, it's about the emotions they convey. Any car can be the right car for someone, but he'll probably pick a hot hatch over anything else.