There was a time when a front grille was a distinguishing, discrete, and functional part of a given car or SUV’s design. Unfortunately, in some cases, the “discrete” aspect of a grille’s style has been forgotten and replaced with the largest possible “IN YOUR FACE” visual assault imaginable. We really wish they didn’t have to be this big, though.
Many automakers have taken it upon themselves to shove this signature design element down our collective throats and, recently, none have generated more backlash, web-trolling hate, and negative comments than BMW. It’s simple. Many of these comments accuse the German automaker of ruining what had been for decades an icon of tasteful and distinct design. The fact of the matter is that, to a point, these dreadful eye sores are somewhat necessary.
Modern cars and SUVs have undergone some significant powertrain changes over the past 20 years or so. The larger front grille surface size allows for better airflow for cooling engines, though this is disputable given advancements in cooling technologies and overall improved efficiencies. For higher-performance or heavier vehicles, brake cooling is a consideration, as are advanced aerodynamics. More than anything, however, they exist to project a more aggressive, streamlined look that appeals to many consumers.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at five front grille designs that rub us the wrong way either due to their size or design, or both.
Many Modern BMWs
We have to start here because we feel as though BMW is the modern catalyst for this latest round of big-grille hate. Although it somewhat works on the recent X5 and X7 SUVs, it’s nothing short of distracting on the iX, where people have accused it of looking like buck teeth. The issue is that BMW has stretched the once elegant kidney shapes to now reach well below the front bumper.
This is where we and the internet think BMW went wrong. Such an obscene, elongated, and colossal snout has no place on the 4 Series, the i4, or the M3. Clearly, BMW is aware of its faux-pas, as the latest all-new generation 3 Series has been spared. Good move, BMW.
We try not to talk too much about personal taste here because it’s so subjective, but I’m going to do it anyway. The current Silverado, more so than the GMC Sierra, has a front grille that takes up about 90 per cent of the truck’s complete front fascia. Other than the relatively small headlights and dimples below them on the extremities, it’s all vents, horizontal bars, and slats be they black, chrome, or body colour. We get the impression that there’s overcompensation involved…
Silverado HD trucks fare even worse, especially when there’s chrome all over the front end. For real, the HD gives off a Tom Tucker’s son upside-down face vibe.
Lexus LX and other Toyota and Lexus Vehicles
More than a decade after it debuted, Lexus’ spindle grille design is still tough on the eyes, and nowhere does it take up more real estate than necessary than on the massive LX flagship SUV. Another example is the decidedly cool Lexus LM luxury van, which is not sold in North America.
In fact, the more we dig into the Toyota family’s collection of models, the more we realize that they might be kings of the giant grille.
The new Tundra is a great example. The worst offender is its handlebar moustache outline that only emphasizes the oversized snout. The recently discontinued Avalon, especially the “sportier” XSE trim, was another example of too much grille. We got the impression that Toyota designers ran out of ideas when they penned the sedan’s front end, gave up, and simply dragged out the grille from the top to the bottom and stretched it out from one end to the other. And on the topic of minivans not sold here, what about the last few generations of the HiAce?
Acura (The Dark Years)
To be fair, these aren’t the largest grilles ever affixed to a vehicle. In fact, they are reasonably sized by modern standards, but they were scary and ugly as sin. The 2009 Acura TL and TSX were the first to demonstrate that not all was well in Acura’s design studios.
The so-called “Keen Edge Dynamic” styling or Acura’s then-latest design language included the scandalous “Power Plenum” upper grille style, which many people said looked like a beak. This bland and uninspired silver piece eventually found its way on all Acura models from the era, including the unloved though novel ZDX. If you ask us, it’s the main reason why it died after only a few short years, eventually along with the powerless plenum design.
2023 Kia Sportage
Kia and Hyundai have developed a bad habit of going all out and redesigning a model from head to toe, killing any hope of continuity. One of the latest and worst-offending examples is the new Sportage with its scary and oversized front grille.
We’ll go right out and say it: The 2023 Sportage looks like a catfish that crashed head-on with the aquarium’s glass. The headlights are pushed to the absolute extremities and are isolated by boomerang DRLs, with a massive gaping mouth of a grille filing in the large gap. In our opinion, Kia can keep its current “Opposites United” design philosophy but tone it down somewhat as they have with the new Niro.