BMW insists you'll love this controversial new 4 Series Coupe grille

BMW has a new 4 Series Coupe to tempt you into dealerships, but the most controversial change may well be the new, vertical kidney grille. No recent BMW has escaped comment when it comes to their nose styling but, far from taming its exterior designers, the automaker has only leaned into their love-it-or-hate-it aesthetic.

The 2021 4 Series Coupe is a challenging design, certainly, not to mention a stark departure from other BMW models of recent years. We're far more familiar with BMW's wide, low grilles, albeit ones which have been growing in overall size significantly. For the new 4 Series, however, it's both a bold change and a nod back to BMW models of old.

"This product is very important to us," Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design explained after the new 4 Series Coupe's reveal. "We were looking also for something which is very typically BMW on one hand, because of course BMW is always very pioneering and we tried to be progressive ... But of course the heritage is very important to BMW."

Indeed, the automaker credits itself with changing how automotive grilles in general were styled. Originally, Dukec points out, cooler grilles were defined by the cooler itself behind them. BMW's embrace of a more stylized kidney shape changed that.

"In design it's not about beauty or ugliness," Dukec argues. "Successful design has unmistakable and very daring character, and especially for BMW this is very important. BMW's were always very strong in character, and this is what I'd like to bring back to BMW."

In fact, the design chief argues that 4 Series Coupe buyers do, in fact, want this aggressive design. They might just not realize it yet.

"This is more reflecting the zeitgeist, there is no right or wrong," Dukec suggests. "We try really to make the design not just what we think is right, or we like. It's what we think our customers are looking for."

If you aren't looking for it, don't worry too much. What this doesn't mean is that every BMW moving forward will have this same sort of vertical grille, even if the BMW i4 and other cars are expected to use it. The automaker will be basing its design decisions on a number of factors.

"It's just because we have so many different customers," Dukec says. "They all love BMW, but they're all looking for a different type of character from BMW." He points to the large, wide grille we saw first on the 7 Series, and then on the more recently-announced 2021 5 Series.

Looking ahead, BMW is trying to balance aesthetics, practical design, and the limitations things like individual country's regulations apply. One of the biggest challenges automakers – and designers within those companies specifically – face is trying to accommodate those areas where a front license plate is required.

"We would love to have a digital number plate," Dukec suggests, "but governments would have to adapt sooner or later."

The reality, Dukec explains, is that design always has to operate within the limits of production, legislation, and other factors – constraints that aren't applied to concept cars. "You just have to look at our show cars, that is where we want to go," the BMW design chief says. "It's something every company is dealing with, when we bring a product to market we have to use our creativity to use our technical base – the ingredients – to make the best product for our customers. Afterwards, once you drive a car, you will experience how it drives, but in the beginning it's just the design."

"But if you try anything, some things are required, like headlights, cooling, the width of the tires, pedestrian regulations," Dukec points out. "But everyone has the same regulations. It's a nice competition between competitors, because in this very restricted segment we have to differentiate from each other. Every brand has to differentiate their brand image, their heritage, that character that brand represents. This is why we try to look to very distinguished details: the kidney, for example or the Hofmeister-kink."

The new 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe will launch globally in October 2020, starting at $45,600 for the 430i Coupe. Later down the line there'll be a new BMW M4 Coupe, Dukec confirmed.