Large Headlights + Small Kidney Grille = Beautiful BMWs

The huge shnoz on modern BMWs sure deserve critique, but its tiny lights are also partly to blame. 

For reasons that are way too boring for this already nerdy article here, I have been spending a lot of time lately looking at the current BMW 4-series. And while the large shnoz on this German coupe is certainly less aesthetically repulsive (to me at least) these days than when it was first shown off to the world, it could nevertheless still be reasonably argued that its predecessors were a whole lot prettier than it. 

What more is that while the aforementioned current-gen 4 Series is perhaps the most well-known example of how BMW can’t design a pretty front end anymore, it is unfortunately far from the only example. The all-electric iX SUV and i7 limousine do exist after all, with even the good ol’ 3 Series having also grown a slightly-too-big grille for itself during its most recent facelift too.

Upon further consideration however, while its iconic kidney grille have certainly transformed to lung-sized in recent time, it only actually is part of the problem when it comes to the aesthetic challenges facing of modern BMWs. Such is because the other thing wrong with the front of modern Bimmers is that, in its attempt to chase the current in-thing of slim LED headlights, said headlights have since become slits, which in turn puts even more emphasis on that embarrassingly huge nose.

See, the prettiest BMWs of recent history all followed the formula of having its headlights to be at least on par size-wise relative to its kidney grille. Just think of the decently handsome face of even the most sedate E46 3 Series variant, against the rather squinty-eyed look given off by the X7’s double-tiered headlights. 

Another better example in support this argument is perhaps for the still aesthetically-controversial Bangle-designed E60 5-Series to somehow become more pleasing to the eye than the newly-revealed i5 — a car that looks like it has continued on its aforementioned predecessors (much-maligned) efforts to pull its now-shrunk headlights even further up the fenders, while of course on top of also continuing to inflate the size of its grille to an almost hilariously large degree. 

Just to hammer this point of the headlight-grille size parity being paramount to a good looking BMW face too, remember the i8? This arguably most beautiful of BMWs (from the front at least) in recent time is precisely so because it has got decently large headlights flanking a set of similarly-sized kidneys. 

Now of course, there are perhaps reasons for BMW to still be producing cars that most people tend to feel a little bit of sick come up into their mouths when looking at it from the front. The C word comes up often enough when hypothesising the rationale, where it is speculated that buyers in the world’s second largest car market wants a brash bit of kit to proudly display that they have indeed succeeded in life. 

Putting on the tin foil hat for a moment here too, it could further be hypothesised that BMW is actually creating these shockingly ugly cars as a means to prevent its designs from being copied by the automakers from the same aforementioned country, with it then hoping that its brand cache will be sufficient to still help it shift stock elsewhere. And credit where credit is due, for now at least, they seem to be succeeding at this particular regard

Though if, for the sake of argument, this new controversial styling choice is instead because of an issue in not wanting to bear the expense in creating large LED headlight units for their cars, they really ought to look at their back catalogue to gain inspiration. That is as BMW had actually perfected a way to get that large headlight and small kidney grille look when only still going through their circular light phase, which is simply by setting everything up front within a black panel. 

A styling trick that began from the ‘60s Hofmeister-era of BMW E3s and E9s to late 90s with the E34 5-Series and E32 7-Series, it could be said for the black panel adds visual emphasis on the size of the quad-circular headlights typically featured on the face of BMWs over that 30 year span. While at the same time too, the black panel does somewhat focus the attention away from the kidney grille, by reducing them to just two thinly-lined chromed squircles in a sea of black. 

And credit where credit is due to BMW, it might have already be bringing back this old trick with its new Vision Neue Klasse concept. Sure it may be a still be a bit overstyled relative to the classic clean lines that the German automaker used to do, but it certainly is a whole lot better than what it is producing now…

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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