The Korea Herald


[Behind the Wheel] BMW's 4 Series grabs attention with expressive vertical kidney grille

BMW senior designer Lim Seung-mo says settling for familiarity more dangerous for the brand

By Jo He-rim

Published : Feb. 9, 2021 - 15:56

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BMW’s new 4 Series Coupe (BMW Korea) BMW’s new 4 Series Coupe (BMW Korea)

YEONGJONGDO, Incheon -- The second-generation BMW 4 Series has been introduced with a daring look, embracing a vertical kidney grille to show off a new identity.

Last week, BMW Korea introduced the renewed BMW 4 Series Coupe and 4 Series Convertible to the Korean market, and presenting the new signature kidney grille that has been made bigger and stretched not to the sides, but vertically.

It is the first time the German automaker has introduced the vertical kidney grille to a mass-produced vehicle. The funky grille for the new 4 Series has reinterpreted the faces of the models such as BMW 328 and the BMW 3.0 CSi that were introduced in the 1930s and 1970s, respectively, according to BMW.

The Korea Herald took the BMW 420i Coupe M Sport model on the road for a test-drive of about 50 kilometers around the BMW Driving Center in Yeongjongdo, Incheon, to get a closer look at the model that has created buzz among car enthusiasts. 

BMW’s new 4 Series Coupe (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald) BMW’s new 4 Series Coupe (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

At first glance, the design is completely different from its first-generation predecessor, which had often been pointed out as lacking its own character to be a sports car version of the BMW 3 Series.

Among those who have been waiting for the new 4 Series, opinion is polarized. Shocked by the new look of the 4 Series, some have referred to the grille as “beaver teeth.”

BMW was well aware of the dividing opinions on the new grille, and senior designer Lim Seung-mo, who led the design work for the new BMW 4 Series, said they anticipated the attention.

“Most people are used to BMW’s horizontal kidney grille, so (the vertical grille) may look rather strange at first, and it is natural,” Lim said in a prerecorded presentation during the test-drive event.

“By giving appropriate twists to familiarity, it becomes an opportunity to introduce a new image. And that is the power of design.”

BMW senior designer Lim Seung-mo (BMW Korea) BMW senior designer Lim Seung-mo (BMW Korea)

Lim added that settling for what is familiar may be the more dangerous option for a brand.

Lim, who majored in industrial design at Hongik University in Seoul and received a master‘s degree in transportation design from Pforzheim University, joined the BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany in 2010.

BMW hinted that the vertical kidney grille will be introduced in some other models as well, as it has used the grille in its concept car, the BMW Vision Next 100.

Seeing the cars moving on the road during the test drive, it did give a different impression from when standing still. So, while the different look is not the most familiar, it may come as attractive to those looking for something different.

Aside from the controversial front, the new 4 Series Coupe is a nice looking car with a longer and wider body, and does not fall behind potential rivals Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class Coupe.

On the road, the BMW 420i Coupe boasted a good driving performance, picking up speed fast, and gliding on old bumpy roads with sharp cornering. The powertrain is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin turbo engine that can exert up to 184 horsepower and a maximum torque of 30.6 kilogram-meters. The car uses an eight-speed automatic transmission.

For stable driving while accelerating, the automaker said it has lowered the center of gravity by 21 millimeters.

Getting in the car, the seatbelt automatically pops up to the shoulder area, and the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and the 10.25-inch infotainment system welcome passengers.

For a two-door coupe with a sloped roof, the rear seat is not ample in space. Both the headroom and legroom are a little too cramped for adults.

In Korea, the new 420i Coupe M Sport was released on Feb. 1. The M440i xDrive Coupe, which can facilitate up to 387 horsepower and a maximum torque of 51 kilogram-meters, and the new 420i Convertible M Sport will roll out in March.

Prices for the new 420i Coupe M Sport start from 59.4 million won ($53,100), and the M440i from 81.9 million won, while the convertible model is priced at 67.9 million won. 

By Jo He-rim (