Why Are Front Grilles On Cars Getting Ever So Large?

There must be a rational reason to automakers fitting huge grilles to its new models these days, right?

Much like how one can easily date a car from the 60s just by looking at the chrome fins sticking out its back, the most distinctive design element that defines cars of today will probably be their large front grilles. This is simply because nearly every other automaker has somehow decided that sticking a huge shnoz on its latest products is the right way to go, with even the smallest of cars these days gaining the most ginormous of grilles. 

BMW and Lexus are of course the most notable culprits of this particular design (mis-)direction, with the M4 and iX of the Bavarian automaker as well as the LM and NX from the Japanese marque being proof enough on this charge. Though it is worth highlighting too that the likes of Audi, Aston Martin and even Toyota are slowly but surely letting the grilles take over the front of their cars.  

So since nearly every car manufacturer has got into the game of tacking on cutting huge holes in the front of their latest models, one might reasonably think that there probably is a reasonable and rational explanation behind it all. Perhaps modern engines these days require more cooling to meet the increasingly strict emissions standard, or maybe they more air to feed the increasing number of turbos popping up in the cars of today? 

Well to those who are holding out hope for a science-based reasoning behind the auto industry’s current obsession with affixing huge snouts to their new cars, you might then be more than a little bit disappointed in the answer. That is because while modern boosted engines do indeed intake a little bit more air than its naturally aspirated predecessors for that turbo oomph, the fact that most of these large grilles come with active air vents (that open and shut in the aim of improving aerodynamics) is evidence enough that there really is no need for such a gaping grille up front.

To add to that too, these large front grilles are to be made all but redundant in the age of EVs. Seeing as there is already no internal combustion engine up front that requires a huge amount of cooling. 

The topic of EVs though actually hits the nail on the head as to why automakers are pressing forward with these increasingly bold front end aesthetics, and it essentially stems from these brands attempting to further distinguish themselves in what is becoming an increasingly homogenous auto industry. 

See, as more and more brands are flirting with expansions into greater and greater segments, it has become rather difficult for a particular marque to stick out from the increasingly crowded pack of cars on the market these days. This is especially a concern when moving forward into the electrified era, where there is to be less deviation in the actual ‘heart’ (read: powertrain) of these EVs. 

The easiest and most impactful way therefore for a brand to differentiate itself these days is through its design, and there is unfortunately no simpler way to do so than by plonking the biggest and brashest front grille imaginable. The front is probably the most instantaneously identifiable and recognisable aspect of a car after all, considering that it is in essence the car’s face. 

Touching a little further on the subject of faces too, the continued proliferation of these massive front grilles could also partly be blamed on modern day buyers, who actively express a preference for buying meaner and more aggressive-looking cars. A look that is incidentally much harder to pull off when limited to working with a small shnoz. 

It would thus be safe (but perhaps sorry) to say that the era of large front grilles is here to stay for the foreseeable future, with it just remaining to be seen as to how large it will go before the grille before it eventually takes up the whole front of the car.

Then again though, the idea of big grilles isn’t actually a modern day design choice by any means. In fact, there are actually there are actually plenty of examples of cars throughout the ages that bear huge noses.

Rolls-Royce for instance had their massive pantheon grille topped with its Spirit of Ecstacy for well over a century already, and BMW too went through a time of fitting huge kidney grilles on their cars before. 

So to those who are lamenting at the increasing sizes of front grilles on cars these days, just give it a couple of decades and all could be back to your aesthetic tastes again. That is if cars are still to be around then of course. 

Joshua Chin

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

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