Currently reading: BMW previews next-gen 4 Series and i4 with bold concept
Concept 4 Series features large kidney grille is inspired by 1930s 328; electric version due in 2021

BMW has revealed the Concept 4 Series Coupé at the Frankfurt motor show, previewing radically revamped styling for the second-generation version of the two-door coupé, set to launch in late 2020 – and the new electric i4, due in 2021.

The new concept, designed as 85% production ready, shows how BMW is intending to give the Audi A5 Coupé rival a far more distinctive identity from the 3 Series on which it’s based, with a more ‘emotional and dynamic’ design that emphasises performance. 

The Concept 4 Series signals a change in how BMW is applying its flexible vehicle architecture, with combustion engine and electric models based on similar platforms. The firm says the concept previews the "4 Series range", indicating it will form the basis of both the 4 Series and i4.

The front is dominated by a large new interpretation of the firm’s kidney grille, featuring a more vertical design that BMW says was inspired by the grille from the 328 coupé of the 1930s. The grille features raised elements in it, to give a three-dimensional effect. 


“The intent is to give the car its own character, which is why it’s got a new kind of BMW face,” said BMW Design’s Stefan Woerns. “It’s clearly different from the 3 Series, and unique to the 4 Series, which is as it should be. The intent is to position this car as more exclusive and upscale.” 

The front of the car is shaped around the kidney, with a highly sculpted bonnet and a very low front that includes large side air intakes and a new U-shaped intake underneath the grille. The LED headlights are thinner than usually seen on a BMW, and on the concept do without a glass cover. 

The side profile of the car is that “of a classic coupé”, taking several cues from the larger 8 Series, with a long wheelbase and short overhangs to emphasis the flowing coupé roof. There are two ‘character’ lines on the car, placed lower than usually seen on a BMW. The concept sits on 21in wheels featuring 3D-effect alloy rims, while the slim wing mirrors are made of a single piece of aluminium. 


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The rear is built around a prominent diffuser, and features sculpted twin exhaust points. The lights retain BMW’s traditional L-shape, but feature a new ‘heartbeat’ design. 

The concept shown at Frankfurt is an exterior concept only, and BMW officials wouldn’t comment on any technical details of the production car, or an exact launch date. 

However, disguised prototype versions of the second-generation 4 Series have been spied testing, and it is understood the machine will use BMW’s latest CLAR platform, which supports both rear and four-wheel-drive. 

The engine line-up is expected to be similar to that of the 3 Series, using a range of 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants, with a plug-in hybrid model likely. 

A new M4 is also under development, while the production coupé will be followed by a convertible and a four-door 4 Series Gran Coupé.

Q&A with Stefan Woerns, BMW design

What was the design brief? 

“It’s about combining dynamic and elegant design. It’s simple, bold and characterful, and we’ve put lots of attention to detail into little features such as the grille elements and the lights.” 

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Why did you choose such a bold grille? 

“It’s a new shape of kidney, but it fits the proportions of the car. It’s more vertical than on our other models, but it references coupés from our past, like the 328.” 

Are you expecting a reaction to the grille?

“It’s a new car, and a new kidney grille, and it takes time to get used to it. The kidney grille is a unique design icon of BMW, and it’s about how you interpret it. We used to feature a regular grille across all models, but we wanted to use different forms and shapes for each model.”

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James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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Miguel202 6 June 2020


Camaro rear end and quarter panels, Kia/Angry Birds Pig grill, Mustang-like bulge of the hood, Audi C-pillar and window trim. This thing is atrociously misleading in every sense of the word. Ew.

Walid Khier 27 February 2020

It takes a lot of weeds....

..... to be able to look at

Nickktod 11 September 2019

Previews i4?

Really? The quote from BMW was “previews the 4 series range” I’d take that to mean coupe, cabrio and Grand Coupe, rather than the i4 which will (presumably) need a very different platform?