BMW has revealed an important concept car at this year’s Frankfurt show, with an early look at next year’s 4-series in the form of the 4-series Concept Coupe. Although not quite a production concept (that is to say a production car with bigger wheels), it is close enough for us to grasp what the new 4-series might look like, complete with that contentious grille that is sure to put BMW fans into a right spin.
So let’s deal with that first. The expanding kidney grille, already something of a recurring internet meme, is now bigger than ever, spreading not so much across the front bumper, but down to the base of the nose. The look is certainly distinctive, and those who like it will doubtlessly love the exaggerated, almost caricature face.
Subscribe to evo magazine
Those who are against it, and we have to say it would appear from a brief browse of the internet and social media that these folk far outnumber the likers, seem to be apoplectic with rage at what BMW has done. BMW’s tried to link this new concept with some of its most iconic designs – pre-war 328 and the 3.0 CSi Coupe from the 1970s in particular – and it’s fair to say this has met with similar levels of scepticism as Tesla going for a Nürburgring track record.
The headlights portray its concept status, with a skeleton-like arrangement without covers or an outer casing. They sit within a cowelled indentation in that front bumper, and below a heavily sculpted bonnet that drops down quite substantially towards the grille, not unlike that on the previous-generation F30 3-series saloon.
What the incoming M4 might look like with this dramatic new nose will certainly be interesting to see, while it’s also worth remembering the previous two generations of M3 saloon shared the Coupe’s front bumper, wings and bonnet, so there is a possibility that we’ll see this nose on the four-door M3 too.
The remaining body is a mixture of familiar 4-series proportions with some 8-series elements such as the soft haunches and the rising sills that are almost reminiscent of a Chris Bangle-era BMW. The windowline accentuates this kicked-up sill, but leads to a substantial rear deck and crisp bootlid – a complete contrast to the look of the more curvaceous, somewhat awkward 8-series.
However, while the internet is aghast at how it anticipates the new 4-series will look the concept is said to be around 85 per cent production ready, and it’s quite possible that gawping front maw may be replaced with something less controversial. None of the spy shots of prototype 4-series models have looked as if they’re hiding this type of front-end treatment, and while BMW tends to do outlandish on its larger models – 7-series, X7 – it does tend to play it safe on its more mainstream machines that sell in bigger numbers. Remember the shock of the E65 7-series from 2001 and the E60 5-series when Bangle was in charge? The 3-series (E90) from the time was a far blander machine.
There is also one other possibility, that this 4-series concept isn’t previewing the new coupe, but rather the all-electric i4 that’s bound to make its debut in 2020. BMW’s most recent i concepts, the iNext and i Vision Dynamics, both featured similarly styled front grilles.
Either way, BMW has been at the mercy of significant ridicule in regards to its recent design language, a level it probably deserves to some extent. If there is one broader theme apparent, it’s that at least BMW has the confidence to push the boundaries of design – whether buyers are into that or not remains to be seen. We expect to see the production 4-series Coupe, Cabriolet and Gran Coupe next year, with both the M3 and M4 following soon after.