BMW E12 Kidney grille close up



For more than 100 years, BMW have been driven by design. Design that makes the functional, beautiful. Or the beautiful, functional. Design that redefines a generation of automobiles or reignites a love of driving.


The BMW kidney grille is a shining example of that philosophy. Created to simply cool the engine, the famous grille has become a marque of almost every BMW since the 303, which was first manufactured in 1933.

Avid BMW fans can pinpoint a decade, or even a specific model, just from a glance at the grille. Here, we’re taking a look back at the evolution of the iconic kidney grille, starting with the all-new BMW 4 Series Coupé.

The BMW 4 Series 3/4 front view in motion

The BMW 4 Series G22: 2020

The BMW kidney grille has always been iconic, defining BMW models since 1933 and pushing each generation forward.

The new BMW 4 Series Coupé features a stunning re-design that looks to the future, whilst taking inspiration from classics such as the BMW 328.

The car’s athletic proportions, with its wider stance and flowing Coupé lines complement the confidence of the new grille and the trademark quad headlamps that sit either side.

The BMW X6 Kidney grille close up The BMW X6 Kidney grille close up

The BMW X6 G06: 2019

The third generation X6 was the first BMW to feature the “Iconic Glow”, an illuminated kidney grille that gives the car even more presence.

The X6 combines typical BMW X design characteristics with a sporting Coupé roofline, creating an unmistakable look.

The BMW E38 Kidney grille close up The BMW E38 Kidney grille close up

The BMW Z4 E85/E86: 2002

In 2001 BMW entered a new design era, launching the E65/E66 generation of the 7 Series, and in 2002 the first-ever Z4 E85/E86, with an ultra-modern take on the classic BMW Roadster design.

As well as a new, more rounded kidney grille, it combined the Roadster silhouette with an interplay of creases and concave shapes, most noticeable on the doors and wings.

The BMW E36 The BMW E36

The BMW 3 Series E36: 1991

When the BMW 3 Series E36 was released, its redesigned grille - wider, more square - became iconic.

It also featured BMW’s trademark four circular headlamps, and its aerodynamic efficiency ensured it offered the best possible performance and fuel economy.

This generation also introduced a new selection of body styles, with a Coupé model joining the range alongside the Saloon, Touring and Convertible for the first time.

The BMW E30 Kidney grille close up The BMW E30 Kidney grille close up

The BMW 3 Series E30: 1982

The E30 generation launched a number of firsts for the BMW 3 Series, one of which was the legendary M3.

This generation also saw the first 3 Series Touring body style, which began life as a prototype, built out of hours by BMW engineer Max Reisböck. It was so well received that it was put into series production in 1987.

The design of the E30 evolved the previous E21 generation, but utilised computer aided design (CAD), along with extensive wind-tunnel testing, to create a more upright front-end, smaller kidney grille and the trademark BMW quad headlamps.

The BMW E24 3/4 headlight and kidney grille close up The BMW E24 3/4 headlight and kidney grille close up

The BMW 6 Series E24: 1976

The first-ever E24 BMW 6 Series Coupé was released in 1976 - a sleek, luxurious, two-door Coupé featuring the most prominent front design to date.

The model set the template for future BMW Coupé models, with the “shark-nose” front flowing into a long bonnet, a low roofline and re-imagined Hofmeister Kink on the rear window. Its popularity saw the model run from 1976 to 1989.

The BMW 3200 Kidney grille close up The BMW 3200 Kidney grille close up

The BMW 3200 CS: 1962

The BMW 3200 blazed the trail for many BMW models today, with design elements that have been carried into the 21st Century.

It was the first BMW to use the Hofmeister Kink (a unique kink in the rear window shape) which is still seen on BMW models to this day, as well as a BMW roundel on both C-pillars, a classic BMW design cue now featured on The X2.

The 3200 CS was only available as a Coupé – unless you were a man named Herbert Quandt. BMW produced a one-off 3200 CS Convertible especially for him, and the Quandt family are still majority shareholders of the BMW Group.

The BMW 507 3/4 front sideview The BMW 507 Kidney grille close up

The BMW 507: 1956

The iconic BMW 507 set the design template for all future BMW Roadster models, featuring a low and long bonnet, short overhangs front and rear and a low seating position, twinned with a beautiful design.

Only 252 were ever built, one of the lucky owners of which was a young man called Elvis Presley. Its wide, short kidney grille has since been echoed on BMW models such as the Z8 and E85 generation Z4.

The BMW 327 3/4 front view The BMW 328 3/4 front view

The BMW 327: 1937

The BMW 327 was launched in 1937, first as a Convertible, followed by a Coupé in 1938, setting the template for all future BMW Coupé models. The streamlined form of the BMW 327 was extremely forward-thinking for its era and made the model incredibly popular.

In this period, the now-famous kidney grilles were long and narrow - a feature designed to aid cooling of the engine. This design also inspired the new generation of BMW models, such as the new 4 Series.


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