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Here’s What BMW Got Wrong With the 2021 4 Series, According to Design Vet Frank Stephenson

When it comes to that grille, he says BMW "tossed the baby out with the bathwater."

Considering I’m not a designer, and judging simply as a person with functioning eyesight, I’ve come to the conclusion that new grille on the BMW 4 Series is a catastrophic mistake—a choice presumably made in a room where none of the attendees dared to raise a hand.

Being utterly disproportionate is only the start, followed by the fact that no modern car needs such large air intake. Also, there’s no excuse for BMW’s design team for forgetting the mandatory license plates. Looking back, the narrow, pre-war vertical grilles were never cut in half by the plates, unlike the nostrils you see on the 2021 G22 generation.

In case you don’t believe me, now, we also have former BMW and Mini designer Frank Stephenson dissecting all aspects of the 2021 4 Series, not just the grille.

See the difference?, BMW

Interestingly, looking at the profile as well as the rear of the car, the creator of the first X5 SUV says that it’s almost as if BMW wanted to tone down all of its signature design elements, including the Hofmeister kink on the C-pillars, and the traditionally bold body line crossing the door handles that was quite pronounced on the previous gen.

“De-BMWing,” normalizing their own car to perhaps create a new design language? A strange approach, especially given that at the same time, the grille is supposed to project “a very strong character,” said Stephenson on his video.

Overall, Stephenson appears to be happy with the surfacing and the headlights, as well as the general proportions of BMW’s new coupe. As for the grille, he has a suggestion on how to make those supposed kidneys look less foreign, yet also adds that all in all, “they tossed the baby out with the bathwater.”

A graphic out of nowhere., BMW

BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec argues that the new front end gives the 4 Series “a very strong character that’s unique,” and that it will be recognized as a “brand-shaper” further down the line. I feel like the last person who knew how to push the Bavarians’ boundaries was American Chris Bangle, who’s era at BMW aged better than most expected.

I once asked Chris Bangle about the same thing, but he chose to remain more diplomatic than Stephenson.

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