Although a car’s grille serves a functional role in cooling and airflow management, its purpose is cosmetic as well:Automakers like to put a pretty face on their cars and increase brand recognition by using distinctive styling cues up front. Some luxury brands prefer to stick to a classic look that evokes their automotive history—even going so far as to trademark their grille designs, like Rolls-Royce and its long-standing signature Pantheon grille. Other automakers like Lexus and Lincoln have recently opted to give their models a facelift with brand new grille designs, hoping to draw in new buyers with fresh, modern styling choices up front. From the classic to the controversial, these are our favorite grilles from in-production luxury cars.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Alfa Romeo’s signature “trilobo” grille debuted in 1950 on the Alfa Romeo 1900, sporting a v-shaped central shield and side whiskers. While all of the automaker’s current lineup features this same style of grille, none of them look quite as sleek and mean as the “deep V” on the 4C. The car’s styling is inspired by the 1967 Tipo 33 Stradale—a classic Italian beauty in its own rite—so after a nearly 20-year hiatus from North America, Alfa Romeo’s return with the 4C is bound to draw some stares. (alfaromeo.com)
The centerpiece of Maserati’s grilles has always been the classic trident logo—originally created by the Maserati brothers in 1920 as an homage to the statue of Neptune in Bologna because of its connotations of strength and vigor. The GranTurismo’s macho styling lives up to that sentiment, right down to its prominent oval radiator grille. The car’s trident badge is surrounded by concave, vertical strakes, three air intakes on each side, and LED day lights that blend into the fenders. (maserati.com)
The prominent grille on the Acura NSX is thanks to what the automaker calls its “Interwoven Dynamic design,” which is an effort to blend form and function. The NSX’s exterior was carefully designed for total airflow management and tested in Acura’s wind tunnel facility in Ohio, so the grille’s mean design was not only created to give the NSX a supercar look, but to provide optimal downforce distribution and cooling as well. The crown jewel—or jewels—of this grille are the Acura Jewel Eye LED headlights, designed to improve efficiency and complement the car’s low, wide exterior. (acura.com)
Bentley recently gave the Mulsanne a total facelift for the 2017 model year, including a completely redesigned grille. The new version is 80 mm wider than its predecessor and the traditional Bentley matrix grille is topped with stainless steel vertical vanes. Surrounding the new grille are redesigned LED headlamps with better night vision and a lower grille section that mirrors the vertical vane styling above it, featuring bright chrome finishes. Bentley says the new front end is inspired by classic models like the Embiricos and R-Type Continental, and we think this inspiration has done wonders in making the Mulsanne’s face look more distinguished and high-end. (bentleymotors.com)
Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman has described the V12 Vantage S as a car that delivers sports performance in a “gentleman’s suit,” and we think the car’s understated yet unique carbon fiber grille lives up to that description. The grille—inspired by the CC100 Speedster concept and Vantage race cars—reflects the shape of the car’s dramatic hood louvers and is designed to maximize air flow to the engine bay. The grille can even be customized with surrounding “lipstick” in a variety of colors thanks to Aston Martin’s Q customization program, like the V12 Vantage S shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 that featured vibrant yellow around the painted carbon fiber grille. (astonmartin.com)
Rolls-Royce is very protective of its classic Pantheon grille design—so protective, in fact, that the grille is one of the few features on the automaker’s cars that isn’t optionally customizable.
The logo, the Flying Lady ornament, and the grille were purchased as trademarks by BMW Group in the late ’90s when they acquired the rights to produce Rolls-Royce motor cars, so as Gerry Spahn, head of communications for Rolls-Royce North America put it: “They are the core of the Rolls-Royce brand.” The Phantom features one of the most traditional takes on this grille design in the Rolls-Royce lineup, reflecting the original version, which was made from polished nickel steel with hinged vertical vanes that could be opened and closed for better cooling. The seventh generation Phantom will be ending production later this year, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the new version will maintain the classic elegance we’ve come to expect with the model’s grille design. (rolls-roycemotorcars.com)
Unlike Rolls-Royce, Lexus decided to throw caution to the wind when it came to recently redesigning its grilles. The controversial new spindle grille design was part of an effort to attract younger buyers, gain a competitive edge over German competitors like BMW and Audi, and—according to global chief of Lexus Tokuo Fukuichi—an attempt to get Lexus out of a conservative styling rut. While the design is controversial, it seems to be working: sales for Lexus in 2015 increased by 5 to 26 percent in markets across the globe and are projected to increase this year as well. We like the spindle grille best on the RC F, which has the lowest and widest application out of the Lexus lineup and comes available in bright, youthful paint colors like Molten Pearl (bright orange) and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0. (lexus.com)
McLaren’s design director Frank Stephenson said that he wanted the brand’s cars to evoke “visual drama,” and we think the front end on the 650S does just that. With LED headlights inspired by the P1 that taper down into the front air intakes in a shape evocative of McLaren’s signature speedmark logo, the 650S looks like it’s built for speed—and it certainly is, right down to the choices for the grille. The front bumper, air intakes, and splitter (available in either palladium gray or carbon fiber) were designed to improve aerodynamic efficiency, resulting in greater steering feeling and 24 percent increased downforce levels. (mclaren.com)
Bugatti Veyron Super Sport
The Bugatti Veyron’s traditional horseshoe-shaped radiator grille is about the only design element carried over from the brand’s historic models. Everything else is all about excess, whether it be the wide variety of custom design choices (over 100 different colors for paint finishes and unique materials like porcelain, crystal, gold, and platinum) or the ludicrous performance (a world record speed of over 267 mph). The Veyron’s speed is so intense that the original grille—which was made out of aluminum—shattered during testing due to bird strikes, so it was redesigned using titanium. While all 450 examples of the Bugatti Veyron sold out as of last year, the supercar’s successor—the Chiron—will carry on the brand’s signature horseshoe grille. (bugatti.com)
Lincoln recently revived its ultimate luxury sedan after a long hiatus, and we think it hasn’t looked this good since the 1960s, when it was coveted by celebrity owners like Elvis Presley and James Brown. The new Continental is more reminiscent of a Bentley or Jaguar, with a brand new one-piece signature mesh grille that replaces the split-wing grille in the outgoing Lincoln lineup. The polished aluminum grille features Lincoln Star mesh that reflects the brand’s logo, and we think it fits well with the Continental’s more elegant, modern styling. The new Continental hits dealerships this fall and only time will tell if Lincoln can win back the luxury audience it has slowly lost over the years, but we like the direction the brand is heading with its new styling. (lincoln.com)