The 2021 BMW M4’s Kidney Grille Is Ugly Because Physics Said So

By now most are familiar with the faces of both the new BMW M3 and the 2021 BMW M4. To say the least, it’s a controversial move on the part of the Bavarian brand. To say the most, it’s hatefully ugly, at least to some. No matter your opinion, BMW wants you to know that the new B(eaver)MW kidney grille is rooted solidly in physics, and therefore a necessity.

However, that may also not be the case, as Nolan Sykes points out in Donut Media’s new video. Perhaps the new nose is motivated by a styling choice that BMW made for the 2021 BMW M4.

The kidney grille is bound by the laws of physics

An F80 generation BMW M4 at an auto show in Geneva
The F80 M4 was much better received | Jean-Marc Zaorski via Getty Images

Obviously, the big question here is why such a big change from the previous model you see above? As Nolan points out, it’s one of heat management. The 2021 BMW M4 makes 473 hp from a turbocharged inline-6 motor. That’s A: a lot of power, and B: a lot of heat from the turbos. Both those things produce heat, and the new motor needed more cooling than the last one.

So, in order to cool the motor more efficiently, BMW had to move some things around. Chief among those was one of the 2021 BMW M4’s seven radiators. It’s the big one, designed to cool down that high-power motor. Effectively what had to happen here was that the radiator needed to be closer to the front for aerodynamic and cooling purposes.

Why is the 2021 BMW M4 so ugly?

A diagram explaining the science behind BMW's choice in a new grille stating "large air intakes for optimum inflow and supply of cooling air to the engine"
The science behind the kidney grille | BMW

However, the kidney grille on the 2021 BMW M4 also breaks a pretty significant BMW design rule that’s existed throughout the company’s history. As Nolan points out, the famous grille has always been above the car’s crash structure, usually perfectly visible on almost all BMW models, especially the E46.

Take the previous M4 above. The bottom of the grille meets the crash structure in the middle of the bumper, which then gives way to another intake vent close to the bottom of the car. That is the cardinal rule of BMW design, and BMW broke it. The crash structure is still there, it’s just hidden in the maw of the new car. You can even see it in the bulges on either side of the grille.

The new M4 is a flawed near-supercar

The 2021 BMW M4 kidney grille shot from the front on a racetrack
The new M4 has a new face | BMW

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Is there a way around this for the 2021 BMW M3 and M4? Potentially, yes. Supposing BMW can figure out how to keep airflow the same on the back of the bumper as it is when it enters, the problem is solved. Of course, that will require a new grille, and that’s too late for it. However, the brand may have solved it already in the new 3 Series.

We’ll have to see if the smaller kidney grille can make its way onto the refreshed M3 and M4 models for 2022. For now, if you’re not sold on the new looks, it may be best to hold off. The new model year is already almost upon us, and the Bavarians may have some tricks up their sleeves.