The Automotive Grille evolution ©audi.com, media.daimler.com, lexus.com
The gaping maw. That is what Lexus should call its new grille – instead of the spindle.
Since cars came onto the scene in the twenties, they pretty much have had the vertical grille extending from all the way from the hand crank to the top of the radiator. Just like the Bentley Blower in the picture.
But the postwar years brought the era of the horizontal grilles. For almost half a century, grilles stopped at the bumper line. In some instances, the bumper was the Maginot line which divided the upper and lower grilles. Perhaps it was glut of regulations, like the 5 mph bumper requirement, which drove the adoption of the horizontal bumper. Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with the three-pointed-star and the double kidney grille pretty much grabbed all the eyeballs. When you saw the BMW double kidney grille boring down on you in the rear-view mirror, you pretty much instinctively moved over. That was the visual power of a distinctive grille.
Audi, Infiniti and Lexus have been making decent luxury cars since the nineties. But they kept making forgettable grilles. That pretty much changed with the Audi Nuvolari concept in ’03. The trapezoidal grilles adorned with the four-ringed symbol have been the mainstays of Audis ever since. Infiniti tried dipping its toe into the distinctive grille fashion trend. Yet its foray seems half-hearted compared to Lexus.
Lexus? You mean the maker of ultra-reliable ultra-boring luxury automobiles. Yep. Lexus has tried to bring more emotion into the styling of its cars. And its latest evolution features the hourglass shaped grille. For once, I think this is the most exciting grille I have seen since the Audi trapezoid. Or the goatee as I like to call it. I hope Lexus does stick with it and not change it like Elizabeth Taylor changes husbands. More important, I hope the Lexus spindle does not become fashion symbol with no passion behind it. A double-kidneyed BMW which is not the ultimate driving machine, is not a BMW at all.