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Old 11th January 2021, 13:45   #1
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Default NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

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Every generation of automotive design has its Mona Lisa — and its Dogs Playing Poker.

We’ve had tail fins (time for a comeback?) and the mock-convertible tops of landau vinyl roofs (I cruelly — but rightfully — judge my parents on that tacky 1980s decision). Remember the sharply angled rears of the “bustleback” Cadillac Seville, Lincoln Continental and Chrysler Imperial? No? Lucky you.

We may look back at 2020 as the moment automakers reached peak grille. Of course there’s that pandemic and political chaos. But more than ever, grilles are in. Grilles are big. Grilles are bold. Grilles are somewhat unnecessary on some cars, but there they are. Some could qualify for their own ZIP code if they weren’t on wheels.

To understand why this is, it helps to understand the difficulties automakers face in trying to produce standout designs. Cars and trucks are global products that must meet seemingly countless worldwide governmental safety and fuel efficiency standards. Imagine a new law school graduate having to pass the American, German, Japanese, Korean and Swedish bar exams in order to work. I rest my case, Your Honor.

Automakers spend billions of dollars meeting the blizzard of regulations and shaping silhouettes to cheat the wind. We see only the styling that envelops the engineering. Design is the sizzle, the emotion, at the very least a tiebreaker when it comes to choosing a vehicle.
NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-grille-lexus.jpg

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“Years ago, Lexus didn’t have identity,” said Kevin Hunter, president at Toyota’s Calty Design Research studio. “It was trying to be a brand for everyone, which neutralized our position and identity.”

Thus, the Spindle Grille was born. The exaggerated hourglass shape is now the unmistakable face of Lexus, Toyota’s luxury marque. Initially likened to Predator or Darth Vader’s mask, it quickly divided various camps. And that’s OK with Mr. Hunter.

“The identity is one we call our own, very different from our competitors,” he said. “It’s very big and polarizing, that’s true, but we like the fact we’re polarizing now. It means that we’re pushing the envelope and taking more chances. Consumers recognize it — the grille binds our cars together as a cohesive unit.”
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With aerodynamics dictating auto design, the front is the best place to give vehicles some character. People don’t buy the cars they forget. You may not like Picasso’s Cubism period, but you know it when you see it.
NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-grille-bmw.jpg

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It might come as a surprise, but automakers aren’t necessarily trying to appeal to the widest possible audience. Ask Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW design, what the brand stands for and he says, “Be stunning, and make a difference.” Mission accomplished with the 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe. The current “it” car for maximum face, it takes the brand’s classic twin-kidney grille and turns the visual up to 11. Maybe 12.

The design has generated attention that money can’t buy — exactly what Mr. Dukec and his team aimed for.

“Design is the emotional approach to any product experience,” he said. “It’s of course very subjective. Not everybody will like it, but it must have personal and individual significance to the customer. This can be different from product to product. That bold face on the 4 Series is not something a businessperson would want on their 5 Series.”
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BMW is no stranger to styling controversy. In a 10-year run that began in 1999, Chris Bangle turned out designs so polarizing there were back ends widely known as “Bangle Butts.” Now many see Mr. Bangle’s designs as groundbreaking.

Mr. Dukec understands that not all will like the large nostrils of the 4 Series. But they get the message across.

“It’s very distinctive in our portfolio, and clearly BMW,” he said. “Polarizing, yes, but this is very welcome because people want to show off.”
NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-grille-genesis.jpg

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Another contender for Grille of the Year can be found across the Genesis lineup. Called the Crest Grille, it’s an elongated version of the emblem found between the wings of the brand’s badge. And it’s the size of Seoul.

Brash? Certainly. But the scarcity of the brand’s new GV80 S.U.V. suggests the designers did something right.

“You might absolutely hate the grille,” said Jarred Pellat, from Hyundai’s luxury brand, “and that’s what I love about Genesis design. The designers aren’t afraid to make strong statements while building a brand from scratch. We don’t have the history of some of our German competitors — we’re free to innovate with design. The Crest Grille tells people this is a Genesis, like a second logo.”
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The round headlights and seven-slot grille of Jeep’s Wrangler are an actual trademark for the brand (though the lights were square for a spell starting in the late ’80s). Jeep defends it like a Rubicon clawing rugged terrain, suing General Motors’ Hummer division and most recently Mahindra, the Indian automaker.

Fun fact: All Jeeps have a seven-slot grille, but “not all of them are actually functional,” said Mark Allen, head of Jeep design. “It’s completely blocked off on the Compass, but it’s far from useless: It says this is a Jeep.”

That rugged American image has helped the brand grow in sales to 1.5 million, from 350,000 at the start of Mr. Allen’s tenure in 2009. Jeep is the most successful American brand in the famously closed Japanese market. It can’t hurt that Wrangler is the most recognizable vehicle on the planet. Oh, and its grille is pretty darn large.
NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-grille-cadillac.jpg

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Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac design, said, “Design is ultimately about making the customer feel special, to make them feel like they stand out in the crowd.” While the brand’s frontal signature is large vertical LED running lights, only a few models, like the Escalade, have an acre of face space.

“We don’t do Russian doll design, where there’s a small, medium and large version of an S.U.V., ” Mr. Smith said. “They’re all Cadillacs, but they’re different, and the grille wants to be in proportion to the face of the vehicle.”

He added: “In the case of Escalade, the giant maw is functional. People tow with it, it hauls a lot of people and cargo, so there needs to be airflow to cool the engine.” The same goes for pickups.
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Cadillac has announced that it is accelerating the switch to electrification, starting with the Lyriq S.U.V. in late 2021. Electric vehicles will challenge designers. With no engine to cool, the fronts will still have a big role.

“Lyriq’s face will have a complex lighted feature so it looks like a truly luxurious vehicle,” Mr. Smith said. “Plus, we’ve got Super Cruise and emerging autonomous technologies with sensors that need to be at the front of the vehicle. We’re designing surfaces that are flush and clean to put those sensors behind so they’re invisible to the customer.

“The front will continue to provide identity, like a belt buckle of sorts,” he added.

BMW’s Mr. Dukec agrees. “Our upcoming iX electric vehicle has almost no openings in front,” he said. “The signature twin kidneys that announce this is a BMW are closed because it’s an E.V. But the kidneys will house the cameras and sensors that can’t see through paint.”

And those kidneys? You guessed it, they’re huge.
Source: New York Times
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Old 12th January 2021, 12:29   #2
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

"A face only a mother could love" - YUCK!

If NYTimes wrote on it, you can bet that its a worrisome trend. Not only for owners of these cars, but for poor us who have to see them . My eyes hurt from the pictures alone.

Am sure some consultant somewhere told these brands that they need to "stand out". Hence...There is no way the management doesn't know it looks ugly and will polarise opinions. Its intentional.

Looks are very, very important to me and these grilles are a deal-breaker. I'd never own any of the cars pictured above.

Contribution from Toyota India:
NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-toyotainnovafacelift02.jpg
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Old 12th January 2021, 12:35   #3
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

Love NYTimes and their articles. Each article is refreshing and love how they craft their humour ��.

As far as grills are concerned, I'm fine with them if they're done by companies that want to increase their products performance. But please don't fit a larger one to enhance the look ��

An example of what I'm talking about:
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Old 12th January 2021, 12:53   #4
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

Ugliest Indian grille in my opinion. The car's ugly as well.
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Old 12th January 2021, 13:33   #5
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

Everytime I see such an ugly and large grill, I'm reminded of Mater from the Cars animation series - is that what the manufacturers aiming for having a unique "identity"?


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Old 12th January 2021, 14:05   #6
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

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Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
Everytime I see such an ugly and large grill, I'm reminded of Mater from the Cars animation series - is that what the manufacturers aiming for having a unique "identity"?
Maybe every cycle of a product does come with a garish grille and this could be one of the reasons. But the new Lexus and BMW grille are just an eye sore, not sure what value it brings to a brand.

@ninjatalli, atleast Mater had a solid attitude unlike the current designs
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Old 12th January 2021, 14:10   #7
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

I think Toyota has some affinity towards ruining the Innova's looks or rather the grille with every facelift.

NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-2020toyotainnovacrystaindialaunchprice.jpg

A Hilux grille on the Innova seriously? Toyota.

I seriously want to meet the team who works on the facelift designs and give a piece of my mind to them on how not to ruin something which looks good.

Last edited by sv97 : 12th January 2021 at 14:11.
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Old 13th January 2021, 00:37   #8
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

Got me thinking - are these strange and unusual grills because of some performance enhancement or just for aesthetic value. I can still consider them is they add any substantial performance enhancement but I just don't seem to digest the aesthetic appeal.
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Old 14th January 2021, 00:32   #9
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

Maybe the designers are considering it as their last hurrah designing the radiator grill on the last few generations of IC cars before the world goes electric
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Old 14th January 2021, 09:11   #10
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

First time I noticed it was seeing a first gen Honda City and a Honda Brio parked side by side.
Blew me how clean the City front end looked, while the Brio grille and emblem were too loud and large.
Suddenly 90s cars started looking clean and reserved for me while modern cars started to look as if they were screaming out their brand identity (exactly what the companies wanted)

Ofcourse you had Rolls Royce, Merc and Cadillac who had loud grilles for decades, but guess the modern trend was started by Audi with their Bulgarian beard (urgh..reminds me of French goatee)

But none pushed the limits as Lexus did. The pre-huge grille models had that outline, but none was ready for the eyesores that Lexus gave us.
Don't get me wrong. That grille in a Lexus LC, LS looks cool in pics as well as IRL. But to slap them on vehicles that were not even designed to have them. Especially crossovers and especially the body on frame GX and LX just looked butt ugly, more so the GX.

The Innova Crysta also did have the outline in the pre facelift model but thankfully they kept it clean.
Voila, they invoked the huge grille for the facelift and now it looks like a huge pug.

Thankfully, Mahindra. The purveyor of ugly grilles, made the XUV300 grille so small and clean that it is a treat for sore eyes in this era of huge grilles.


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Maybe the designers are considering it as their last hurrah designing the radiator grill on the last few generations of IC cars before the world goes electric

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Old 17th January 2021, 10:08   #11
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

IMHO nothing beats older models for looks. Whether it is the 90s Civic and Accord, or the classic lines of the 1960s Ferraris & Lamborghinis and Jaguars.
To digress from the thread topic, the imposition of more and more safety norms has certainly played a role in cars getting uglier, with thick A-pillars and reduced glass area being some of the most visible effects.

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Old 17th January 2021, 11:22   #12
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

This trend is really worrisome, as someone mentioned maybe it's the designers last shot at trying to design something that stands out before the transition to EVs. But many designers fail to analyse that cars can be made to look a lot better than by just increasing the size of the grill.
Just the other day I saw a Panamera Sport turismo and it made me go weak in the knees, my eyes were glued to it till it went out of sight and designers of those huge melons as grilles need to understand the Panamera doesn't have one remotely close to them.

I really wish we see some breathtaking designs as a last hurrah to ICE cars.
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Old 17th January 2021, 13:40   #13
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

The direction in which motor design is going is disheartening. It beggars belief that the design honchos sitting at the top of these companies either do not realise or do not care that anything there for purely cosmetic reasons without serving a functional purpose is bound to look incongruous at the very best, and revolting at worst. We only have to look at Nature to seek inspiration, where form follows function, and all beauty arises from it. The giant-grille trend is not about purposefulness at all, but about oneupmanship, about being shouty and showy, and it's turning out to be another specs war like the resolution war in cameras, or the screen-size war in mobile phones. Those at least serve a purpose, no matter how obscure, but these gargantuan grilles only serve to add more eyesores to the road. Why in the name of all that's holy, for instance, does an electric car need a gigantic grille as in this masterful design catastrophe that is called the BMW iX?:

NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles-bmwix202005min.png


Like the veteran designer, Frank Stephenson, said in his video reviewing its design, it's like being expected to fall in love with a refrigerator!





Some cars are becoming appliances, with no coherence in vision, emotion in lines and harmony in the overall getup. We really need a renaissance; more Romas than SF90 Stradales, more Honda Es than BMW iXs, and generally a little more subtlety and finesse than ostentation and garishness. And seeing as how even BMW has dropped the ball in the department of its otherwise taut sedan designs with the sloppy 4 series, I wouldn't for once mind a reverse evolution until we've figured out a more aesthetic future.
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Old 17th January 2021, 14:39   #14
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

When I saw the word ugly grill, these were the two cars which immediately appeared in my mind. The designers should be fired and should never be given a job in the automobile industry.
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Old 17th January 2021, 15:10   #15
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Default Re: NYTimes makes fun of the new, weird radiator grilles

all those designers from car companies who are competing with each other to use phrases like :
"we know it's polarizing, we want that" ; "stand out" ; "attention seeking" ; "people like to show off that's what sales figures prove" etc etc

How I wish NY times underwrote all these qoutes with "but it's plain ugly". What if people who bought them, bought them because they were the ones who were able to like the car despite it's looks and were able to see past the ugliness ? Haven't these guys heard about the words like "subtle" & "classy". Sometimes I feel car designs of today happen 'live' in conference rooms over tea and biscuits, with a representative each from legal and HR, sat there forcibly (regulations) inorder to take disciplinary action against anyone whose comments contain the words "what the hell" or "that's stupidly" or "no way, impossible" as a response to any suggestion from the new recruits and interns in that room.

Last edited by venkyhere : 17th January 2021 at 15:12.
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