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No, the 4 Series' huge grille won't proliferate across BMW's lineup

BMW's head of design, Domagoj Dukec, said the company wanted the 4 Series to have "a very particular kidney."

2021 BMW 4 Series
This will not be the new face of all BMWs.

Arguably the most controversial aspect of the new BMW 4 Series is its design -- specifically, the oversized kidney grille. But BMW designers say this isn't going to become the new face of the brand. Instead, it will be specific to the 4 Series family.

"It's not changing for all BMWs," Domagoj Dukec, the company's head of design, told Roadshow in a web conference on Tuesday. "We wanted to give [the 4 Series] a very particular kidney."

Dukec believes the large kidney grille "is the right character for this car," and that the design team "didn't want [the 4 Series] to look like a small 8 Series." Of course, the new 430i and M440i models do have some resemblance to the larger 8 Series coupe, but really just in the roofline.

The 4 Series shares its architecture with the upcoming i4 EV, which also uses this oversized grille design. There, it at least plays a functional role, as the i4's various cameras and sensors can be integrated into the grille panels. The same is true for the 4 Series coupe: The driver-assistance hardware can be neatly housed inside the grille, with room to spare for future technologies.

Now playing: Watch this: 2021 BMW 4 Series: More than just a giant grille

Overall, the goal here was to really set the 4 Series apart from other vehicles, especially the 3 Series sedan on which it's based. Dukec said coupe buyers "look for more show-off" design language, and the company was "looking for a front end which expresses this very unique character."

Yet when you open the door, the 4 Series' cabin is nearly identical to the 3 Series, save for a few small details and color options. Dukec said this was also intentional.

"The exterior is more the approach to a product," he said. "It's like your clothes ... it really has to represent what you want to say or what you want to be." The cabin, meanwhile, "is more for ergonomics," and to this end, Dukec said that's why you see a lot of similarities to interior design across all of BMW's product lines.

Still, Dukec knows the 4 Series' design is polarizing; "it's not for everybody," he said. But at the end of the day, regardless of personal opinion, Dukec said BMW's objective was to design a car that truly stands out. "It's not about beauty or ugliness. ... A successful design is if it's unmistakable."