The Removal of Doubt

Sometimes a quantum leap is called for, but be careful where you land.

Image: emercedesbenz
Image: emercedesbenz

“Evolution: /e-va-loo’ shan/ n the cumulative change in the genetic composition of an organism over succeeding generations, resulting in a species totally different from remote ancestors.”

There are a number of striking aspects to this photo, but most compelling for me is the iterative nature of each model from Ponton through Heckflosse, Strich Acht all the way to the 1976 W123. The break in the evolutionary chain therefore begins with the 1985 W124 which is stands out, not just for its essential rightness but for the fact that in this company it appears so dramatically at odds with Mercedes’ previously more cautious approach.

The fact that the cars that followed it were varying degrees of awful suggests that when you sever four generations of carefully managed change, you might temporarily obtain a high water mark, but you can never be quite sure what you’re going to end up with.

Image: internationalbanker
Image: internationalbanker

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “The Removal of Doubt”

  1. The W124 on that picture is an end-of-line, post-facelift model. The original one with rectangular headlights held more of a resemblance with the W123 at the front-end. Still quite a departure from it’s predecessor, but more so than between W110 and W114? I’m not entirely sure. That said, breaking the lineage on two separate rows makes a lot of sense here.

    1. The question is really, does the W124 belong in the fron or in the back row. There is obviously a lot of discussion as to which is the Last True Mercedes (reminds me of similar discussions over big Citroëns, by the way). In the German motoring press, common understanding seems to be that it’s the W124. Some even try to argue for the W210, but that’s rather daring, I suppose.

      I see the W124 as an evolution of its predecessor, especially if the 190 is considered as an intermediate step. Its design is sober, solid and not too fashionable. All modernness can be argued with technical relevance (aerodynamics!), and not with subjection to a current design mainstream (and cost cutting). This only starts with the W210.

    2. For me W124 should sit right in the middle or closer to the back – while aerodynamic considerations on the outside were the biggest change, the rest is very much in keeping with the previous two generations at least, from the layout and finish of the dashboard to the bounceability of the seats…

  2. I don’t agree it’s the W124 that is the odd one out. The two first cars are more of o sort of assembled accidental design than designed as a coherent hollistic whole. The W114 to W124 are clearly designed by a coherent mind. First with the W210 they stray from the path and make that creased hood as a sort of retro design fashion statement. That’s straying from the path, the W124 didn’t stray from the path, it merely took the language into the streamlined age. It’s the W210 that’s not really sure what it is, the earlier cars are very self consciously Mercedes like.

    1. I think everyone would probably agree with you on that.

  3. I think Simon’s point about the 190 is relevant. W124 only looks like a step change if you view it in isolation. Viewed with the 190 and W126 S Class, it looks far more evolutionary. But then, so does the W210 really. It just looks like they’ve taken the W124 and tried to give it a bit more ‘character’. Yes, they did it badly, but they were still referencing past models.

  4. Here on Driventowrite, we’ve danced around the W210’s visual crimes without really delivering the coup de grace it so richly deserves, after which we can perhaps stop picking at the wound and move on. Lacking the design vocabulary to do so, I’ve avoided addressing it, but maybe more disciplined minds might consider it a service worth offering for the benefit of the collective?

    It might also save you from further posts like this one. Just saying…

    1. Yeah, on the other hand, this is fun! And some cars deserves all the scorn they can get. I also see discussions like these as a way of describing events in history that we perhaps have collectively lacked a way of expressing. It’s the discussion itself that creates the vocabulary to do so.

    2. Well Ingvar, I can’t disagree, and I’m gratified you’re enjoying the conversation. On the subject of W210, it was only by studying this image that I realised how much W210 owes to its larger W140 brother. If you look at the canopy area, it is considerably broader looking than that of its predecessor or indeed it’s replacement owing to the reduced tumblehome effect. Also, W210’s flanks ape those of W140 in their sheer-sidedness, which only serves to amplify the car’s lack of grace. I think Richard is correct in suggesting the 201 was altered at a late stage to give it more character. It has the appearance of a clumsy amalgam of three entirely different proposals. A committee car in other words, like Jaguar’s X200 S-Type – the 210’s spiritual brother.

    3. I agree to the committee styling of the W210. And if I have to give credit, I’ve never really understood why I never liked the car until I’ve read all the discussions about it on this site. To me, it seems to be the amalgamation of three different designs, a front, a middle, and a rear. And nothing really fits together. The front is in a too steep angle with too much of a cab forward design. The rear is simply too rear heavy to balance the front. And the middle part is a disjointed mess that don’t really fit with either front or rear. On top of that, arbitrary post modern styling cues like the double round headlights and the creased hood. Styling cues that aren’t brought together with the middle or the rear. It’s simply a mess, and just not as cohesive as it should be.

    4. Not so fast, my friends!

      You want coherence? I give you the W210’s delicious rear light, which, of course, elegantly refers to…

      those decade-defining headlights!

      You know a better-designed car, you show it to me!

      Sincerely yours,

      Hermann Weichprengel,
      President, Mercedes-Benz W210 Fahrer-Club Niederschwaben-Ost

    5. The right rear light cluster is still misalligned between trunk and sail panel. And the front has panel gaps wide enough to put a finger through. O tempora, o mores!

  5. The real nail in the coffin is to be found inside W210. You could forgive the quirkiness and lack of cohesion on the outside if the interior gave the same feel of rationality and durability as its predecessor, but it’s far from the case, and the finish didn’t withstand close scrutiny either.

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