Mercedes-Benz’s recent Aesthetics A concept appears to signal a new dimension in Sensual Purity®. Is this the end of the Line? We hold our noses and investigate.
For some time now we’ve been pretty unequivocal as regards our impressions of Mercedes-Benz’s latter-day form language. Because, at the risk of labouring the point, it’s been pretty dismal. But for those of us who bewail the three pointed star’s descent from its automotive Mount Olympus, is salvation at hand?
Well, yes and no. The first signal of change came as far back as Autumn 2015 when Gorden Wagener’s studio released Concept IAA, a radical aero-influenced piece of future thought aimed at instigating a dialogue towards the Mercedes’ of the coming decade. A second a broader hint came to light last year with the announcement of the (C213?) E-Class Coupé, which eschewed its predecessor’s busy surfacing for a sort of blobular formlessness. Speaking to journalists at the car’s launch, director of exterior design Robert Lesnik stated – (with one assumes, a straight face) – “We started with cars that were a provocation – the CLA for example, where the proportions were so good you didn’t need many lines.”
[You will have to excuse me for a moment, while I go outside and scream].
Okay, that’s better. Lesnik continued by saying, “In 2009 or 2010 we set up this philosophy – sensual and pure, and by coincidence we started with our front-wheeled cars [like the A-Class] as we didn’t want to do another VW Golf. We wanted a very low progressive car.” Forward march to January 2017 and with the current generation A-Class family set for replacement, Aesthetics A appears as the next piece in the PR jigsaw; a means of telegraphing to customers that the next A-Class and its derivatives will represent not only a retreat from the visual spaghetti of the current model but will embody the next piece of the Sensual Purity® v2.0 puzzle.
What can we expect? Well, from the visual evidence an even more pronounced frontal overhang, a heavily sculpted bonnet treatment, an even larger, more ostentatious front air intake, and a more upright, truncated rear. A single prominent swage-line runs from nose to tail, but elsewhere the lines and creases appear to have been absorbed into the sensually pure reduction. A further development is what has been dubbed the Panamericana grille treatment. This hyper-aggressive vertically slatted arrangement, also described as the ‘predator face’ is to be adopted by AMG versions, which is something to look forward to.
In addition to the expected A-Class hatch, CLA coupé-saloon, GLA CUV and B-Class minivan, Mercedes are said to be planning a compact SUV to share the same wheelbase as the B-Class – the GLB perhaps? They have also hinted at another four-door saloon model to take on BMW and Audi’s offerings in this segment. (Answers on a postcard for the name of that one). At this rate one imagines a B-Class coupé isn’t utterly beyond the scope of reasoned imagination.
“Form and body are what remain when creases and lines are reduced to the extreme. We have the courage to apply this purism”, Gorden Wagener informed journalists while stroking a large fluffy cat in his darkened Sindelfingen lair. “In combination with sensual surface design, the upcoming generation of the compact class has the potential to herald a new design era.” Dear lord, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel isn’t it?
Now on one hand, it’s pleasing to know we are to be spared the surface entertainment of Sensual Purity® V1.0 for a newer less frenzied evolution. However, if the E-Class Coupé is any barometer, I’m somewhat unconvinced it will prove to be the improvement so many of us crave, and given Mercedes’ current global sales success why fiddle needlessly with a winning formula?
Robert Lesnik was recently quoted as saying; “This is the next chapter. We are taking lines out of everything.” I would contend that it wasn’t necessarily the lines that were at issue. It was the profusion in which they appeared and the manner in which they were handled. That’s before we get to the tacky detailing and surprisingly lazy shutline management. Removing character lines entirely I suspect will change little in this regard, but one should be thankful for small Mercedes’ I suppose.