First, some explanation. There are people at every car company whose job it is to work out the styling of the car. This may sound like fun, but there are a few things that drain every stylist's will to live. First, there's the sheer volume of government-mandated safety regulations. Then there's the giant committee of auto executives that love the idea of "fresh new designs" while simultaneously hating anything that's actually different from what they've seen before. There's also the huge amount of money at stake if the model is a consumer failure. So combine massive pressure, design constraints like handcuffs, and mico-managing oversight from terrified bosses, and you have an environment for designing the perfect stupid-looking car.
In the past, the bumper was a big chrome metal thing. If you liked chrome, it wasn't a bad compromise. Might as well glam up the bumper with some shiny chrome, right? But in recent years, designers have been trying like hell to absorb the bumper into the silhouette of the car's body, enveloping it within the body panels, and as a result, concealing it. This is an expensive game, since the body panels (which are ...protecting the bumper?) will suffer visible damage after even the gentlest of fender benders. Still, everyone loves a sleek shape, so, this is the way the wind is blowing. Have a look at the AMC Matador in the picture. That's about as safe as a bumper can get: a spring-loaded bash guard way out in front of the vehicle. Imagine how much nicer the car would look if we just deleted the bumper? Can't.
So, this is the dream of the automotive stylist: no more bumpers, But, it can never be. Instead, they're trying to pretend it doesn't exist.
Along with the no-bumpers wish, there's a strong desire to have a car with a gigantic grille. Maybe this implies that the motor is massive and needs loads of air. Why? Dump trucks have huge grilles, and they're slow as hell. No matter! People are basically huge children, and fads defy reason. To the six-year-old brain inside your average adult, a huge grille means POWAH! Better still if your giant grille is all frowny and angry-looking, because you're a child whose afraid of the world and you want to scare off the bigger kids that may pick on you. If you're a stylist and want that child's money, you'd better have a big angry grille. So what do you do when you're told to follow the massive grille fad while hiding your bumper shame?
Let's explore some great examples of Big Pretend Grille Syndrome!
Hyundai Genesis Coupe
|Here's the 2010 Genesis Coupe. The mouth at the bottom is supposed to simulate, what? ...brake ducts? At least they had the good taste to cover the bumper area with body color.|
Audi A4 (but really most Audis, really)
|Audi has been loving the dump truck grille for a number of years now. Please fail to notice the bumper blocking about 30% of the pretend grille on their 2015 A4.|
|See? It CAN be done. Only the fake brake ducts are fake. The Ford Fusion gets our Ray Of Hope Award.|
Toyota Corolla S
Tesla Model S