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Which Car Brand Has the Most Distinctive Grille?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2017

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.

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.

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.

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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Which Car Brand Has the Most Distinctive Grille? - Autotrader