When the current Audi A8 first made its debut, the jokes about its massive Singleframe grille were seemingly endless. Audis grilles have been growing drastically since the B6 A4 turned into the B7, but the brand reached fever pitch with the new A8. However, the big Audi A8 will be getting a run for its money in the grille department by its Bavarian neighbor — the BMW 7 Series.
The 7 Series LCI (Life Cycle Impulse, which is refresh in BMW-speak) has just been revealed and while it’s not drastically different than the pre-LCI car, it’s different enough to keep it fresh in the segment. Though the biggest change to the big BMW is most definitely its Kidney Grille design, which is now large enough to swallow most hoofed mammals. Now, the Audi A8 has a true competitor to its grille-dominance in the segment. But aside from their gaping maws, which is the better looking car? Let’s take a look.
From the front, it’s interesting. The Audi A8 is more modern, sharper and sleeker looking, with crisp lines and sharp angles. While the BMW 7 Series is more rounded and smooth, with softer edges and more subtle details. But let’s talk about the obvious grilles. The Audi’s is certainly better integrated, as it seems to fit the front of the car. The 7 Series looks like someone took the old 7er and enlarged its grilles in Photoshop. It’s not very elegant. Still, it’s more interesting than it looked before the LCI refresh. So again, in my personal opinion – which is not always the same as my colleagues’ – the Audi A8 wins at the front.
In profile, the BMW 7 Series is the more muscular looking car. It’s less slab-sided and more visually interesting than the A8. The Audi A8 looks more modern but it’s also a bit more boring. Though, neither of these will blow you away. Still, the Bimmer is more interesting to look at down the side, so it’s the winner here. Out back, both cars now have an LED light bar that connects the two taillights. Both of which are also really well integrated and look very good. It’s a bit of a toss up because the 7 Series’ actually looks more well integrated but the A8’s taillights do cool LED dances. So it’s a wash out back.
Inside, things get interesting. The Audi A8 is far more modern, with its horizontal air vents that flip to hide away when the car is off and return when it’s turned back on. It also gets massive touchscreens and tons of piano black trim. It’s the more high-tech, modern looking of the two. Having said that, the new BMW iDrive system is easier to use and its new Digital Cockpit is also pretty cool, even if it’s not as functional as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Also, the 7 Series looks a bit more sophisticated on the inside, because it’s more traditional.
Realistically, these two cars are going to be judged on their interiors, their luxury and their technology. That’s ultimately what buyers want in this segment. In that regard, the A8 has a slight edge, especially in terms of tech. It has Level 3 autonomy in markets where it’s available, trick active suspension that can react to certain events before they happen (raise to go over speed bumps or tilt to brace for side impact) and the best digital instrument panel in the business. It also features a more modern looking interior that has a bit more flash.
But logic aside, this is really about the grille. Customers are going to see these two massive, gaping grilles in both cars and immediately draw their conclusions about them and so are enthusiasts. So which car wins the grille-off? I think, in my personal opinion, it’s the Audi A8. While its grille is seriously massive, it at least sort of fits the car. The BMW 7 Series LCI looks better than the car it replaces but it’s still not great looking and those massive Kidneys look comical, as if they’re caricatures of the real ones. So for that reason, the Audi A8 is declared grille champion.