When it comes to modern BMW design, there seems to be one consistent punching bag for the media and enthusiasts alike — Kidney Grilles. With each new BMW that debuts, it seems as if BMW’s iconic Kidney Grilles get larger and larger. They seem to have reached fever pitch with the BMW X7, which has grilles large enough to catch small children (which I guess could be looked at as a safety feature). I, too, was one of the critics of the X7’s enormous grilles. However, I’ve seen a different light and am now of the opinion that BMW’s new grilles aren’t too big.
Let’s take a trip back to the olden times, pre-war times. Namely, 1936, which was the year BMW developed the 328 Roadster, one of the brand’s best looking, most iconic cars. Now, let’s look at its twin Kidney Grilles. They’re the size, and width, of baseball bats. They’re absolutely enormous, just tall and skinny. Do they look ridiculous? No, they fit perfectly with the car and the era. What about the BMW 501, the spiritual precursor to the 5 Series? It also had very tall grilles and they were even a bit wider than the 328s.
But let’s move one to one very specific car, a car that is quite possibly the pretties BMW of all time, the BMW 507. The 507 is an icon. Elvis Presley owned one. John Surtees owned one. It was, and still is, an absolute legend of over-engineered technology and timeless beauty. Ever see its Kidney Grilles? They’re wider than John Goodman’s waste line. And the same goes for the BMW Z8, a stunning car designed by Henrik Fisker to evoke the spirit of the 507.
So BMW has been doing large grilles for a very long time. Some of its earliest grille designs ever were massive, just differently shaped than they are today. And, sure, the tall, skinny grilles of the BMW 328 Roadster are prettier than the massive squares of the new X7, but that doesn’t mean the X7’s are too big. They’re fitting with the times, when large engines need large amounts of airflow and the designs of cars are getting bigger and chunkier.
Cars are getting bigger, there’s no two ways about it. Ever take a look at modern wheels and brakes? The brake rotors on the new BMW M5 are bigger than the original wheels of my E36 328i. That’s not a joke, I had 15-inch wheels on my E36 when I first bought it and the new M5’s carbon ceramic brake rotors measure 15.55-inches. Everything is getting bigger and grilles are too. It’s the sign of the times.
So while they might be a bit shocking to see at first, I no longer think BMW’s grilles are too big. Despite how unpopular of an opinion that is.