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Which Car Brand Has the Most Distinctive Grille?

These days, every automaker is desperate to create a "corporate grille" — a front-end design that’s so distinctive its cars will be recognized the moment you catch a fleeting glimpse of them as they come toward you. The goal here is not only to create corporate unity in design, but also to ensure there are no "What’s that?" moments from the public. They should, the thinking goes, be able to recognize your car right away, regardless of whether it’s an SUV, or a truck, or a van, or a coupe. But who does it best? Here are my picks.

BMW

It’s hard to say that BMW’s rarely changing "twin kidney" grilles aren’t the very best corporate grilles in the business. Virtually every automaker has tried to copy the instantly recognizable appearance these grilles offer — and few, if any, have succeeded. As BMWs grow longer, wider and more advanced, one thing always remains the same: the kidney grilles. Find a BMW for sale

Jeep

But Jeep gives BMW a pretty good run for its money. Like BMW, Jeep’s distinctive grille design has been used for decades — a few vertical slats and a couple of circles on the outside for headlights. Even in cars that don’t have circular headlights — most of the Jeep lineup these days — the grille remains highly distinctive, immediately revealing that the car heading towards you is a Jeep. Find a Jeep for sale

Mercedes-Benz

Even though Mercedes-Benz uses a few different grille styles, its front ends are always highly distinctive — largely because they’re filled with the brand’s giant, ultra-well-known 3-pointed star logo. While most modern Mercedes-Benz models have left behind the old grilles with several chromed, horizontal slats, it’s still very easy to identify a Mercedes-Benz from the front. Find a Mercedes-Benz for sale

Lexus? Kia? Volvo?

Two newcomers to the "distinctive grille" world are Lexus and Kia, who have taken precisely opposite approaches to grille design: Lexus’s "spindle" grille is a mass of materials, and it requires a reshaping of the front end of the car just to accommodate it. Kia’s "tiger nose" grille, meanwhile, just has a couple small protrusions from the bottom and the top — and yet it gives the cars a surprisingly unique look.

And then there’s Volvo. Although Volvo grille design varies from car to car, Volvo’s vehicles are still easily recognizable with the diagonal line (containing the Volvo emblem) crossing the grille. No matter how Volvo’s grilles are shaped, few will forget the Volvo grille design.

So, what do you think is the most distinctive grille design? Any of these? A different one? Feel free to comment below.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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38 COMMENTS

  1. While they change with each new fleet, Mazda has a pretty distinctive front profile. It’s not as iconic and timeless as the BMW, they own this trophy, but the Mazda smile is easily recognisable, and even the least attentive observers will know the face.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a multitude of magazine publications and websites, including here at Autotrader — where he launched the Oversteer enthusiast blog — along with Jalopnik, GQ, and The Week. His YouTube channel has hundreds of published videos and has racked up hundreds of millions of views. Today, Doug lives in San Diego, California, with his 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 NAS, 2005 Ford GT, and 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon.

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