At the moment, BMW is under a bit of fire for the grille design of its new 4 Series Coupe. The design is far bigger and bolder than anything the Bavarians have done before, even more so than the gargantuan BMW X7. However, if we’re being honest, Audi has been guilty of using enormous grilles for far longer. Back with the C6 Audi A6 and B7 Audi A4, the folks in Ingolstadt (BMW’s Bavarian neighbors) started putting big grilles on its cars. So why does BMW get the hate, while Audi seems to be abstained from it?
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A simple answer is just execution. It seems as if Audi is better at integrating a larger grille design into the rest of the car’s styling. There’s also a subtlety to the way Audi makes big grilles, if you can even call it that. Relatively, though, Audi’s big grilles seem to be more subtle and less obnoxious than BMW’s new grilles.
Let’s take a look at the BMW 4 Series Coupe and Audi A5 Coupe, as examples of this. So the newly facelifted Audi A5 has a massive grille as well. In fact, in terms of pure purchase space, the A5’s grille is likely larger than the BMW’s. So why is the 4 Series getting so much heat, while the A5 is generally regarded as a good looking car?
A lot of it might have to do with the shape. For instance, the Audi A5’s grille has sharp lines and points, in contrast with the 4 Series’, which is a bit softer, a bit more rounded at its edges. Also, the 4 Series has a thick grille surround, while the Audi’s is slim and actually tapers off toward the bottom.
Next, look at the placement of the grilles. The Audi A5’s grille is a bit shorter and mounted a bit lower than the 4 Series’. Or, at least it is visually. So it makes the front end of the car seem lower and, by nature, sportier. While the 4 Series’ grille is very upright and mounted high on the face of the car, giving it an almost truck-ish appearance.
Also, because of the Bimmer’s tall grille, its hood shut line then needs to be moved backward, exacerbating that effect and also making the shut line quite visible. Audi’s hood shut line comes down, past the top of the headlights, to the very top of the grille. That not only hides the shut line but continues to visually lower the front end of the car.
Now note the surrounding design and lines. Every crease and body line of the front of the Audi seems to coincide with a point or edge of the grille. It all seems very cohesive. That’s not always the case on the 4 Series. Sure, some points line up but that almost seems coincidental. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of cohesion with the face of the BMW, almost as if the entire face was designed without the grille and then some designer slapped it on at the end.
There’s also brand heritage and history of design. While Audi’s new Singleframe grille has become synonymous with the brand itself, Audi has nothing on BMW in terms of design heritage. The twin kidney grilles have long been associated with the BMW brand, dating all the way back to the first World War. So when enthusiasts see such an iconic design change so much, it can be startling and upsetting, even if those emotions are irrational. Because Audi lacks a lot of the same design heritage, it’s freer to experiment with design and take bigger chances without as much scrutiny.
In the end, design and styling are subjective things, as people are allowed to make up their own mind about what looks good and what doesn’t. Are there are aspects of the Audi A5’s grille design that seem more cohesive, more well-designed than those of the BMW 4 Series grille? Maybe and maybe that’s why most fans prefer the Audi. Having said that, at the end of the day, it’s going to be up to customers to decide. It will be interesting to see which grille design wins on the sales sheet.