Home » BMW’s Giant-Grille Tokyo Auto Salon Booth Is A Big ‘Eat Shit’ To The Internet

BMW’s Giant-Grille Tokyo Auto Salon Booth Is A Big ‘Eat Shit’ To The Internet

Bmw Tokyo Auto Salon Topshot

We’ve seen Big M8, we’ve seen the motorized tumor known as the BMW XM, and now BMW is making its biggest grilles yet just to piss off everyone who hates good taste. Mind you, this set of grilles won’t come attached to a car. That’s because these engorged kidneys are parts of something so massive that BMW can park multiple cars inside it. I’m talking about the Bavarian marque’s 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon booth, which is interesting, as BMW has bowed out of several international auto shows recently. There was no official BMW booth in Los Angeles this year, nor was there one in Detroit. Mind you, it’s likely because BMW Japan plans to unveil something at Tokyo Auto Salon; your guess is as good as mine on what that something is.

Anyway, back to the booth. As we can see from BMW’s render, it looks like it should accommodate multiple cars, and the giant grilles feature some neat Easter Eggs. Not only is there an M3 Competition emblem on the upper right slat, the right grille appears to feature a giant parking sensor. More importantly, this big-grilled booth makes a statement, and that statement is “y’all can suck it; this is who we are now.”


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It’s no secret that BMW’s latest styling language has been the subject of vitriol in the press and from fans, and rightly so. BMW’s been producing some very ugly cars as of late. There’s the current 4-Series which I still haven’t warmed up to, the XM which is a horrible blocky mess full of fussy elements, and the iX which never quite manages to look confident from any angle. Clearly, I’m not the only person to feel this way, just look at what the internet thinks, starting with Reddit’s r/autos.

Bmw Mean Comments 1

[Editor’s Note: I actually don’t agree with Thomas on this one. I recently saw an iX in person, and find it to look legitimately stunning. I even took a photo:

Screen Shot 2022 12 14 At 9.45.02 Am

It looks futuristic and cool in person, I think. Then again, The Autopian’s in-house designer, Adrian Clarke, thinks I’m full of it. Just look at what he has to say:Screen Shot 2022 12 15 At 7.44.40 Pm Screen Shot 2022 12 15 At 7.44.56 Pm

Anyway, the booth is awesome, though. -DT]

However, it often takes time for an automaker to grow into a new styling language. Early spindle-grilled Lexus models were often incongruous messes, the pre-facelift E65 BMW 7-Series still has the face of a pug, and early quad-headlight Mercedes-Benz models have aged like hot milk. However, every one of these examples was eventually able to find its footing. Lexus now makes the universe-shatteringly gorgeous LC 500, the E60 BMW 5-Series still looks fresh today, and the W211 Mercedes-Benz E-Class looks leagues better than its similarly-themed predecessor. Although BMW’s latest styling has largely produced misses, I have a feeling it’ll all work out eventually. Mind you, that doesn’t stop the hate for now.

This is hardly the first time that BMW has doubled-down on its latest controversial styling language. Not only has designer Domagoj Dukec firmly asserted that the era of big grilles will continue in an interview with Top Gear where he stated “All our early kidneys were vertical. So we’re not just doing it for change’s sake. It’s our original,” BMW tried a particularly cringeworthy ad campaign around the iX electric crossover.

Yeah, that’s still difficult to watch. What’s more, BMW paired this strange video with an equally-strange Twitter strategy that, in some ways, was meant to tell people that they should be more open-minded to the iX’s design. “OK boomer” was an internet fad like the Harlem Shake; nobody brings it up anymore. The whole spot desperately reeked of an out-of-touch organization trying to co-opt internet culture, which only alienated the extremely-online. In addition, the phrase itself likely didn’t play well with BMW’s older buyer base, a true lose-lose all-around.

Bmw Mean Comments 2

With this booth, things feel different. There’s a sincerity to this latest statement, partly because rendering a concept using physical materials shows conviction, and partly because it’s not defensive. BMW is owning its new grilles, whether people like this styling direction or not. These massive kidneys are now firmly a brand identifier, an unmistakable sign that the car keeping a distance of five feet from your rear bumper is a BMW.

What’s more, BMW has little incentive to change. The fanbase of owners who lived and breathed the tagline “The Ultimate Driving Machine” were put off roughly a decade ago when the F30 3-Series debuted with numb electric power steering. BMW hasn’t had the favor of hardcore fans or the internet for years now; why chase an audience that seems to have moved on?

P90411226 Highres The New Bmw M5 Cs Sc

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a handful of recent BMW models that are great to drive. The current M3 and the limited-edition M5 CS are proof that somewhere deep in Munich, driving still matters. However, BMW wants you to know that it’s no longer the company it used to be and that everyone needs to get used to it and those big grilles. In some ways, this isn’t a bad thing; the interior on the new 7-Series is absolutely spectacular. That doesn’t mean we have to always like the brand’s exterior styling though.

(Photo credits: BMW, Reddit, Twitter)


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45 Responses

  1. “OK, Boomer”? What the fuck? Are we to expect that there are legions of 40 year old upper income types who are going to look at that and say, “Oh I get it now! The grotesque styling is there to signify that the owner is a super-hip younger person who proudly drives something that looks like a nearsighted beaver! I will go out and buy one right away to show my friends how I am young and hip! Take that, Dad!”

  2. MB and Volvo used to have little wipers to clean their headlights. I think it might have been a European regulation thing, so many other manufacturers may have done the same, but those were the two we saw in NA.

    I wonder who, (will it be BMW?) will be the first to pioneer a system to clear dead pedestrians off of their grills. Maybe they will just put some sort of cuisinart blades in them to grind up the road kill. I mean dead bugs on the windshield are a nuisance, but these pesky humans. Can’t someone PLEASE THINK OF THE DRIVERS?

    1. Also, using “OK boomer” to rebut criticism of their business decisions when:

      Chairman: Norbert Reithofer (b. 1956)
      CEO: Oliver Zipse (b. 1964)

      Do they even know what words mean?

  3. Quick Takes:

    The Spindle Grill is and always will be a mistake that cannot be fixed no matter how beautiful the rest of the car. It is only a combination of shame avoidance and arrogance that keeps it alive.

    The iX is indeed a mess. I saw one the other day. Yuck! Dame Edna with a bustle butt redux.

    Does anyone else detect a whiff of German Arrogance? Not that that has ever happened before.

    The BMW grill is getting dangerously close to being the head of a penis. I think there may being some unconscious phallic shit happening there. I’m not kidding.

    1. Why the gun ?
      Tbh. I’d like the interior of the ix in the prius, but i’d rather be prius reasonable and stylish than ashamed of myself everytime i would see / drive an ix.

      1. I mean I wouldn’t fork over my own money to buy either and I’d immediately sell them to go buy a yard full of shitboxes so you need rules so the DTs (myself included) of the world don’t avoid these types of scenarios.

    1. I encountered one of these in the wild when I was out on a walk a couple of months ago. It was as much, if not more of, a disheveled mess in person as it presents as being in pictures. The Bishop is correct in calling out the D pillar…it essentially makes it look as though two different cars were haphazardly welded together.

      And the grilles…THE CAR DOESN’T EVEN NEED GRILLES! There is no internal combustion engine to cool. I like BMW more than most but the iX is an unholy mess of a car and the 4 series/M3 will never grow on me. They’re hideous…and the LOL THIS IS WHAT WE DO LOSERS, DEAL WITH IT OR BUY SOMETHING ELSE attitude of the company is incredibly off-putting.

      You know what? I’d been considering an M2, X3 M40i, or an M440i as my next car but maybe I should look elsewhere. The current RS3 isn’t exactly a gorgeous car but in the darker colors it can reasonably be said to have some sleeper appeal…and I’d rather have that than beaver teeth up front telling everyone I have no taste.

  4. Overpriced, unreliable junk that became barely better than a Camry to drive and is now aggressively ugly and using the bold strategy of insulting people in a manner that has me recall the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes and all the idiots that nodded and pretended they could see the scammer’s spectacular fabric so as not to be thought of as stupid by other morons doing the same thing. I wonder why you feel the need to try so hard, BMW. It seems the douches went from driving them to designing and marketing them. With the new styling and embarrassing ad campaign, I cannot understand why anyone would buy one at a reasonable price, never mind what they charge. Good design doesn’t have to be explained or defended, much less pushed upon people offensively.

    I did see one in a nice green the other day. I felt bad for the pigments having to lay upon that sheetmetal and plastics, but it was a great color.

    1. Show us the numbers or it’s fake. Especially interested by the ix number (as i share design impression with Adam).
      Mercedes was also saying that “huge success, blah blah, can’t deliver the US due to success, blah blah” about their eqc suv and the thing is, a massive failure, 0 sale because the thing was a huge uncompetitive expensive turd, like this thing is.

  5. My mother recently bought a 2-series which is, and maybe will be, the last normal looking BMW. And it is a nice looking car that’s also enjoyable to drive. An artifact left in their lineup as a reminder of what once was. Mom thinks the ginormous grille on the other cars looks like a waffle iron and she’s right.

  6. BMW needs to sell their cars. Car buyers don’t need to buy BMWs. Who is going to win with BMW strategy you will take what we give you and like it? Well if they are marketing.it to massochists BMW, anyone else, the consumer.

    BTW you take hot milk add cocoa you get hot chocolate. I like hot chocolate

  7. All of the comments about “BEVs don’t need big grills” are a bit wrong. There is still a lot of cooling that BEVs need to do, especially when DC-fast charging, to keep the battery within thermal limits. If you don’t want to have to de-rate your charging speed once the battery warms up, you need to dissipate that heat and for that you need a big grill for airflow. Unfortunately your car is sitting still while charging so you don’t have 70mph air being pushed through the AC condenser and ambient heat exchanger, therefore you want plenty of flow area for minimal pressure drop so that the fans can work most efficiently. Of course this much grill area will hurt range when driving due to the extra drag; thus the proliferation of grill shutters (or the choice to limit fast charging for a more aerodynamic fascia). Additionally, the battery has temperature limits of 50-60C; this means that the temperature difference from the coolant to the ambient is half (or less on a hot day) that of an ICE, so you need roughly twice as much area and twice as much airflow to get an equivalent amount of cooling due to the temperature ranges alone.

    All in all, this points towards fast-charging BEVs needing the same or more grille area, but it can be located in different places since its most often used when the vehicle is stationary so there’s no need to stick it all on the nose to take advantage of vehicle speed.

    1. Yeah and the big grille is leading to a big vertical radiator while EVs don’t really use that. Seems like EVs should have their cooling vents distributed around the car and mostly low mounted. Not a cooling engineer though.

      1. Most modern ICE cars are bottom breathers as it is, pulling in air from low down near the road. The giant grille area is pretty well always totally or mostly ornamental

      2. Exactly, look where the new IONIQ 5 has its active grille shutters (at the very bottom leading edge of the front bumper). No need for a ridiculous grille.

  8. The bafflement of Western journalists and enthusiasts around BMW’s styling language continues to amaze me. The answer is pretty simple:

    From another article “In 2021, almost 40% of BMW’s sales came from China. Not only that, but its growth in the Chinese market is such that if current market growth trends continue, by 2023 the brand will sell more vehicles in China than in all of Europe combined.”

    The Chinese market likes the slightly over-the-top front end styling, and they buy a lot of cars. Not much additional analysis or hand wringing is required.

    1. As a Chinese person, I disagree that we like outrageously ugly grilles. I still can’t bring myself to look at a bmw ix. The thing about the Chinese market is that brand really matters so bmw can sell whatever just because its a bmw. An example is the very mundane 2 series fwd sedan

  9. BMW doesn’t care what North American or European buyers think. They will continue to lease every 3 Series the company can churn out, regardless of how the car looks. China is where the growth opportunity and hence the big money is to be made, and in China “Bling is King”.

    1. That’s a common, but I think slightly reductive take. China buys a lot of Land Rovers, and you’d never accuse them of being brash or over grilled.

      I think the real reason is attention (whether good or bad) is the new social currency, and it’s this BMW is leaning into.

      Oversized grilles aside, the underlying fundamental proportions are still all wrong.

      1. THANK YOU. If the Chinese were solely about ‘big grilles’ then the Li L9 or Nio ES7 wouldn’t exist. This is indicative of BMW’s own problems, that for some reason the ‘big grille’ market is all they can cater towards.

  10. Hey guys, when you post the messages from the private slack channel, can you make them any smaller? I barely had to lean forward and squint to read Adrian’s comments. I’d like to have to sigh and then immediately just jump to Ctrl+Scroll Wheel till I’m zoomed in about 800%.


    1. And it’s a picture, so Ctrl+Scroll only zooms until the picture fits the width of the page, and then doesn’t zoom any further. So even at 800%, I still had to lean in and squint.

  11. Adrian hit it 100% on point. Designers know how to communicate about design; everything he said was spot on.

    The funniest part to me is that as major cities start banning cars with ICE engines, BMW has doubled down on this visual cue from when cars had radiators, it reminds me of the time period when cars had vertical radiators with temp gauges on them, then they became morphed overtime to just a grill and a hood ornament, and eventually those entire proportions were dropped and labeled as antique because they’re out of date.

    One of the reasons I like older BMWs is their minimalism, they’re like a good suit, they never go out of style. Today’s BMWs are an incohesive mess of lines and scallops and scoops and GIANT NOSTRILS and it’s just not going to look good very long, and will go out of style quickly. Plus, most new cars have all that crazy styling to hide the fact that the proportions of the car look like utter dogshit.

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