A pair of "kidney" grilles has adorned every BMW automobile built since the 1930s. They're one of the most recognizable designs in the world—even outside of the automotive space. Recently, BMW kidney grilles got big. First on the also-quite-big X7 SUV, then notably on the face-lifted G11-chassis 7-Series (pictured above) that debuted earlier this year.
The enormous kidney grilles on the new 7-Series, and to a lesser extent, the X7 have caused controversy among enthusiasts. BMW Group design director Adrian von Hooydonk is aware of the criticisms, and told Autocar that, the big grilles won't be around forever. "Don’t worry, I don’t want the brand to turn into an oversized kidney grille brand," the Dutch designer said.
Von Hooydonk also defended BMW's decision to go big with the new 7-Series kidney grilles. "In Europe—the smallest market—the buyers are understated, but in the US and China—where most 7-Series are sold–they are younger and more extroverted," he said. "When we launched the new 7-Series [in 2015] it was criticized for not looking different enough, so the message for the face-lift was clear: make it stand out. And now we have."
As for the X7? "That one is in proportion," Von Hooydonk told Autocar, noting the X7 is the biggest car BMW sells.
Von Hooydonk also said BMW kidney grilles will probably shrink down over time. "I hear from [BMW's Shanghai Design Center] that design tastes in China are developing rapidly," he said. "Yes, they still want a modern look that pushes boundaries, but they are increasingly calling for subtlety too.
"The gap is narrowing down, so I see the 7-Series design coming together with the rest of the range in a short time...I believe we understand the reasons for what we have done with the 7-Series, and that the issue will solve itself thanks to evolving tastes in the markets for which the grille was introduced."
Perhaps BMW should look to the original 8-Series for inspiration going forward.