BMW’s iconic kidney grille has gone through 13 major redesigns – tour all 88 years of its evolution

bmw nose long
BMW grilles through the ages.

  • The BMW kidney grille is one of the automaker’s most iconic design aspects.
  • The first kidney grille appeared in 1933.
  • The newest kidney grille is extremely polarizing but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Say what you want about BMW, but you cannot deny that its signature kidney grille is one of the most iconic front ends in automotive history. Its shape may have changed over the years, but the kidney style has always been there.

The newest kidney grille – which debuted on the current 4 Series – is controversial, to say the least. Fans on social media denounced it, but BMW’s head of design, Demagogy Dukec, recently told Autocar the grille isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The automaker wants its cars to stand out, Dukec said. To do that, it made the grille distinguished. That’s one word for it!

The saga of the BMW kidney grille started in 1933, according to BMW. Since then, nearly every single BMW has had one as a nose. The grille has undergone 13 designs over the course of 88 years.

Keep reading to see them all.

The BMW kidney grille is perhaps one of the most iconic grilles in all of automotive history.

BMW 2 Series
BMW 2 Series.

In 1933, the BMW 303 became the first BMW to wear an air intake in the shape of a set of kidneys.

1933 BMW 303 (1)
BMW 303.

BMW rounded off the top and bottom of the functional grille and stuck its blue-and-white logo on the top like a crown.

1933 BMW 303.JPG
BMW 303.

The giant radiator grilles gave way to a much smaller design on the BMW 503 in 1956.

1956 BMW 503 (1).JPG
BMW 503.

It didn’t dominate the front fascia as much as the 1930s design did.

1956 BMW 503
BMW 503.

The year 1956 also saw the gorgeous BMW 507 roadster, though the grille was revised to be far wider and horizontally positioned in order to channel more air into the V8.

1956 BMW 507 Elvis.1
BMW 507.

The 507 was very expensive; only a handful were ever sold. This white one belonged to Elvis.

1956 BMW 507 Elvis.2
BMW 507.

Source: Hemmings

By 1961, the kidney grille had trickled down to BMW’s volume-sellers such as the BMW 1500.

1961 BMW 1500.1
BMW 1500.

For the first time, the two kidneys appeared linked and skinnier than ever before.

1961 BMW 1500.2
BMW 1500.

The grille appeared on the 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo, which was BMW’s very first turbocharged production car.

1973 BMW 2002 Turbo.JPG
BMW 2002 Turbo.

Source: Hagerty

It also appeared on the BMW 3.0 CSL race car.

1972 BMW 3.0 CSL
BMW 3.0 CSL.

As well as the stunning BMW 2800 CS coupe from 1968.

1968 BMW 2800 CS.JPG
BMW 2800 CS.

The legendary 1978 M1 had horizontal intake grilles, but BMW was unwilling to give up the kidney shape – so it wound up with tiny kidneys.

1978 BMW M1.2.JPG

To date, the M1 is one of the coolest BMWs ever built.

1978 BMW M1.1.JPG

The tiny kidneys found their way onto the 1988 Z1.

1988 BMW Z1

As well as the wedge-shaped 8 Series from 1989.

1989 BMW 850i.1
BMW 850i.

The 8 Series famously sported flip-up headlights.

1989 BMW 850i.2
BMW 850i.

The year 1990 saw another redesign of the grille – flat, not very wide, but still horizontally positioned.

1990 BMW 3 Series2
BMW 3 Series.

It debuted on the third generation of the 3 Series – or the E36 generation in BMW-speak.

1990 BMW 3 Series1
BMW 3 Series.

The grille was extremely prevalent in the 1990s, with the 7 Series, 5 Series, X5, and the next generation of the 3 Series (the E46) all wearing it.

1997 BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series.

The 1995 BMW Z3 – which appeared in the James Bond film, GoldenEye – also wore the new grille.

1995 BMW Z3.JPG

In 2011, the sixth generation of the 3 Series (the F30) had a new, wide grille that touched the headlights for the first time.

2011 BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series.

You can still see this grille on the current 5 Series.

2021 BMW 5 Series
BMW 5 Series.

On the 2013 i3, the kidney grille was still wide but had a blue outline and was sealed off to articulate the EV aspect of the car.

2013 BMW i3.1
BMW i3.

The hybrid BMW i8 had a similar design.

2014 BMW i8
BMW i8.

The i3’s grille will inspire all future electric BMW cars.

2013 BMW i3.2
BMW i3.

For the 2018 8 Series and Z4, the grille became less rectangular and more angular.

2018 BMW 8 Series
BMW 8 Series.

The grilles are also slightly slanted, drawing your eye downward.

2018 BMW Z4

The 2018 Vision iNext is a design concept of what future models could look like. Like on the i3, the grille is sealed off.

2018 BMW Vision iNext
BMW Vision iNext.

The BMW iX, which will launch in 2022, is the all-electric production version of the Vision iNext concept.

2020 BMW iX

The 2019 BMW Vision M Next is a conceptual hybrid sports car. You can see similarities between it and the i8.

2019 BMW Vision M Next
BMW Vision M Next.

The current, seventh-generation of the 3 Series (the G20) – launched in 2018 – has a grille that sits higher than the headlights. Performance versions replace the vertical grille rods with a mesh design.

2018 BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series.

In 2019, things really got big on the 7 Series and first-ever X7.

2019 BMW 7 Series
BMW 7 Series.

The big grille works better on the X7 because the car is so huge.

2019 BMW X7

The most recent version of the kidney grille first showed up on the 4 Series Coupe in 2020. It was very controversial.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe.2
BMW 4 Series Coupe.

Since then, it has also appeared on the new M3 and M4.

2021 BMW M3 and M4_1
2021 BMW M3 and M4.

Despite quite a bit of uproar, BMW’s head of design, Domagoj Dukec, says the grille is sticking around.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe.1
BMW 4 Series Coupe.

Source: Autocar

“If you want to create something that stands out, it must be distinguished and it has to be different,” he said.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe.3
BMW 4 Series Coupe.

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