Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked

Lines and creases – so last season, dahling…

The Blessed One in person. Image: focus.de

This week has seen the unveiling of Mercedes’ latest concept car, previewing the styling direction to be taken by the next generation of A-Class-series Mercedes models. Concept A was previewed earlier in the year with a conceptual sculpture and a toe-curling lecture by the blessed Gorden (sic) on how his signature design theme was evolving. Since then, he’s completed a glossy coffee table book in conjunction with Conde Nast, called “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design” and is rumoured to be working with Eyna on a concept album to accompany it. Continue reading “Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked”

Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys

Back at the Louwman Museum, we ask how far is too far.

I’ve always liked the Mercedes 500K and 540K cars despite the fact that they seem tainted, through no real fault of their own, by association with high-ranking Nazis. In 2 seater form, it’s one of those cars of inordinate length that accommodates just a couple of people. Were all cars like this, our roads would have become gridlocked many years ago, but there’s a harmless decadence to it in my eyes. The Louman’s 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 30 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall. Discovered and auctioned late in the 1980s, it was beautifully restored in Germany and was a prizewinner at Pebble Beach in 1994. Continue reading “Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys”

Geneva 2017 Reflections – Butch Insignia

Looks like someone’s been hitting the weights…

Image: Mercedes Benz

Looking for all the world like some kind of steroidal Insignia Grand Sport, the Mercedes-AMG GT concept sees the once mighty Daimler slide further into a self-reverential maelstrom.  Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Butch Insignia”

The Accountant and the Pimp

Who says all cars are the same these days? Two so-called premium manufacturers come to very different answers to the same question. 

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One car is the epitome of crass, gimmicky style over substance. The other one is a sober piece of design that adds just the right amount of adornment for it not to appear dreary. Continue reading “The Accountant and the Pimp”

Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…

A sober brochure for a distinctly sober car – the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190-series.

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Daimler-Benz were not in the business of hyperbole when they presented the W201-series in 1982. Instead, they were offering a purity of an entirely different order.  “The new Mercedes models will set the standards for the engineering and the styling of compact cars for years to come”, they said. Prescient words. The 190 was a benchmark car, arguably the apogee of a once-dominant, now deceased engineering-led Swabian modus. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…”

Base Metal

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Welcome to entry level. Image: Motorpoint
Welcome to entry level. Image: Motorpoint

The general consensus amongst the great and good of the Driven to Write community appears to be that Mercedes’ current crop of rear wheel drive saloons, if not exactly a triumphant return to form, are at least broadly acceptable. But never mind us and our vain masthead slogan, the sheer ubiquity of the current W205 C-Class model eloquently testifies to the broader market’s giddy endorsement. However, on this matter I continue to stand unmoved; arms metaphorically folded in petulant refusal. Continue reading “Base Metal”

Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines

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.

Aesthetic A. Image Source: Autocar
Aesthetics A. Image Source: Autocar

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? Continue reading “Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines”

What’s This?

Fewer are the classic cars of Dublin. While I saw no Volvo 240s, no W-123 Mercedes and only one Saab 900, I saw several of these things:

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1972-1980 Mercedes S-class

One parked up right in front of me as I tried to decide upon my New Year resolutions. The vehicle served as family car: two bulky child seats occupied a heck of a lot of room in the back, defeating the car’s space.

I took a chance to look over the car in detail when the owner had popped off to do some shopping. I noticed the odd way the gutter is handled. Like the W123 it’s actually quite complex and non-intuitive. It is as if they had never seen one of these before and Continue reading “What’s This?”

New Realities

I hope there is a central committee of car journalists who can hand down a decree or decision to use the term ‘prestige’ more selectively in future.

Image: carbuyer

Among the best-selling cars in the UK we find the Audi A3 and Mercedes C-class. Admittedly they are at nine and ten yet they are exactly as mainstream or volume as Vauxhalls, Fords and VWs. All the usual suspects, the ones called ‘mainstream’ linger somewhere below this. The committee for car journalism terms needs to redefine the word prestige so as prevent anyone imagining that the C-Class is more prestigious and exclusive than the equivalent vehicles it comfortably outsells these days. I suggest Ford and Opel add 33% to their large car’s prices and advertise this point. Also, try only building to order and interview prospective buyers to see if they are the right people for such cars.

“A Tangible Experience of Modern Beauty”

Mercedes presented the X-class yesterday. It’s a pick-up. Launched in Stockholm, no-one knows why. Anyone?

2017 Mercedes X-class: source
2017 Mercedes X-class: source

The relevant facts are these: the Nissan NP300/Navara and Renault Alaskan will be pinned under using the same underpinnings. The X-class is not a concept though they talk about it as if it is and as if it’s not. It might not be sold in N. America. Apart from South Africa it won’t be sold in Africa. And not Japan either. Or. Continue reading ““A Tangible Experience of Modern Beauty””

Theme: Film – What Happened To The Most Important Car In Movie History?

There may be more famous examples of car casting – yet no other automobile has ever played as poignant a role, in the real world as in the movie realm, as a black Mercedes 450SL. 

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Photo (c) imcdb.com

The name of the man we actually need to thank/blame for the 1980s as we know them isn’t Ronald Reagan, but Ferdinando Scarfiotti.

Even without grotesquely overstating the cultural importance of the movies, few would argue about the value placed on style and glamour during the decade that gave us the power breakfast, braces and big hair/shoulder pads/mobile phones.

Continue reading “Theme: Film – What Happened To The Most Important Car In Movie History?”

Micropost: 1997-2003 Mercedes CLK Cabriolet

Today I am throwing stones at the CLK cabriolet.

1997 Mercedes Benz CLK
1997 Mercedes Benz CLK

The part I want you to notice is not the front-end treatment which is intended to make one think of the E-class saloon (W210, for anoraks) which was on sale from 1995 to 2003, about eight years too long. Look at the A-post’s brutal truncation. A nicer but perhaps more costly way would have been to run the A-pillar into the header rail as per, for example, the Mazda MX-5, shown below. I sometimes think that Mercedes do things which aren’t so pleasing and imagine it’s okay because nobody will be looking so critically at their output. Continue reading “Micropost: 1997-2003 Mercedes CLK Cabriolet”

Mind the Gap!

More shutcrimes from Sindelfingen…

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The early noughties’ S-class coupé in all but name

Far from being the worst offspring of the late Sacco/Peter Pfeiffer era at Mercedes-Benz, the CL-coupé (C215) still exhibits a very poignant reminder of what went wrong at Untertürkheim during this particular period of time. Its proportions are actually very pleasing indeed (unlike those of its immediate predecessor), yet the CL is utterly let down by its detailing. Continue reading “Mind the Gap!”

Point, Counterpoint II

By coincidence there parked side by side an example of Bruno Sacco’s era and that of Gorden Wagener.

Can you name the model?
Can you name the model?

To be fair, Sacco had nothing like the rules to follow that today’s designers do. Wagener’s team have CAD and rapid prototyping to speed the iterations and so work through the options. If only the shut-line around the grille didn’t dog-leg at the lamp the newer might be acceptable. Continue reading “Point, Counterpoint II”

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. Continue reading “The Removal of Doubt”

Theme: Materials – Decay II (1995 Mercedes W210)

During a conference on ugliness, the participants wondered if something could be ugly and still worth a further look.

1995 Mercedes W210 in a state of advanced decay.
1995 Mercedes W210 in a state of advanced decay.

I didn’t mention this car but I could have done. We’ve discussed here the marked difference between this and the predecessor; this example exemplifies Mercedes’ dropped standards of material quality and diligence of assembly. Even when tatty, the W-126 retains dignity, like an old tweed coat with a few patches. The W-210, in contrast, never looked good new and when the polycarbonate lenses become clouded and the MB star has fallen off, it becomes even worse. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Decay II (1995 Mercedes W210)”

Saving Grace – 2007 Mercedes W204 C-Class

Carl Heinz Bauer’s styling legacy isn’t necessarily one to shout about, but it could be argued he got at least one car (about) right.

Mercedes W204 C-Class. Image via 3dtuning
Mercedes W204 C-Class. Image via 3dtuning

It’s probably unavoidable. Over a lengthy career, every car designer worth his magic marker drops at least one absolute whopper on his CV, and frankly if the bulk of your time has been spent within Peter Pfeiffer’s dream factory, the chances of being responsible for anything even half decent is remote in the extreme. Continue reading “Saving Grace – 2007 Mercedes W204 C-Class”

Starship Benz – 2006 Mercedes R-Class

“A wholly new motoring experience” said Mercedes in 2006, but the R-Class not only fell between two stools, it also fell well short of expectations.

2005 Mercedes Vision R. Image: mercedes-benz-community-weebly
2005 Mercedes Vision R. Image: mercedes-benz-community-weekly

Product planning is an unholy art, akin to sticking a wetted finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing – scientific it ‘aint. Showing a marked similarity in conceptual terms to Giugiaro’s Maserati Kubang proposal of 2003, Mercedes-Benz showed their Vision GST (Grand Sports Tourer) concept in 2004, a window into the Swabians’ plans to straddle SUV, MPV and estate sectors; a concept habitually known as niche-bending. A year later they displayed the car in pre-production clothes as Vision R – the production car, dubbed W251 and marketed as R-Class debuting exactly a decade ago. Continue reading “Starship Benz – 2006 Mercedes R-Class”

It’s Not Quite News, but…

…I’ll talk about it anyway. Mercedes is still concerned their image is too staid. They want more women buyers. Can’t women be staid and boring too?

2015 Mercedes S-class. Stuffy? Source
2015 Mercedes S-class. Stuffy? Wikipedia.org

Automotive News had a recent article about Mercedes being more interested in the female buyer and the writer says this: “Mercedes has to make up ground, particularly in Germany, where years of conservative design and a stuffy image as the preferred brand for rich, older men has turned female customers away”. The litany about Mercedes being “stuffy” and “conservative” has been running for as long as I have been a grown adult. Continue reading “It’s Not Quite News, but…”

Mid-Decade Midliners

BMW’s E60 5-Series was a landmark design. Thirteen years on, it still is – something that could never be said about its main domestic rival. 

Image:BMWdrives.com
The W124 of its era. Image: BMWdrives.com

How long does it take for a car design to visually mature? I would suggest a good decade for the shape to either embed itself or to become hopelessly dated. Good design doesn’t really date that quickly – a notion I was reminded of the other day as I happened upon two mid-noughties contemporaries parked nose to tail in suburban Pinner and was struck by the modernity of one and the really quite homely appearance of the other. One was a Mercedes W211 E-Class and the other an E60 BMW 5-Series. I think you can guess which was which. Continue reading “Mid-Decade Midliners”

First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part Four

Driven to Write concludes its meditation on the definitive latter-day Mercedes, the W126 S-Class.

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Stuttgart’s Finest, Photo (c) flickr.com

Viewed with disinterest, it is surprisingly easy to come to this conclusion when judging the W126. Visually, it is far from stunning. Its vertical affinity, horizontal homogeneity-influenced styling (or rather: design) means it could easily be shrugged off as “just some Mercedes”. In terms of engineering, its focus on safety, solidity and efficiency also means it has never been at the forefront of performance data bragging contests, due to the lack of a V12 engine or an engine of almost ridiculous capacity at the top of the range. The W126 asks either for a conservative stance in the traditional sense of the word or an understanding of subtleties to be appreciated. Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part Four”

Ashtrays: 1984-1995 Mercedes W-124

Eventually this one had to make an appearance. It’s been a long while since I sat in a W-124 too.

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Everything about the W-124 is executed to a high standard. That includes the driver’s ashtray in this quite high-spec version. That said, I recall the Renault 25 and Citroen XM’s as been deeper and wider.  Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1984-1995 Mercedes W-124”

First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part Three

As the eighties progressed and those who could preferred to flaunt it, the W126 began to fall out of favour and, for the very first time, began to feel threatened. 

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The facelift W126, Photo (c) automobilesdeluxe.tv

The nature of the market during the late 1970s and early ‘80s played a crucial role in the unique process that lead to the W126’s creation. It is, for example, very hard to believe today’s clientele would accept a flagship modell with significantly reduced output figures compared with its predecessor – yet after a decade of fears of fuel shortages, even the most wealthy and conspicuously consuming of customers were willing to accept a certain amount of modesty.

Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part Three”

First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: Mercedes W126 – Part Two

Conceived under a period of intense socio-political turmoil, the W126-Series S-Class proved tailor-made for the early 1980’s landscape.

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An S-class for each decade, Photo (c). focus.de

The W126 was met with great acclaim when it was first unveiled in late 1979 and well into 1980. Auto, Motor & Sport, Germany’s major automotive publication, devoted a number of issues to the new ‘Best Car In The World’. In September 1979, Clauspeter Becker summed up the W126’s conceptual formulation thus: Bekenntnis zur Größe – which could be read as both a “commitment to size” or a “commitment to greatness”. This boastful title was however immediately followed by a paragraph explaining that development of the new S-Class had been dictated by tomorrow’s energy situation. Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: Mercedes W126 – Part Two”

First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part One

The car that would come to be defined as the quintessential S-class actually was a deeply conservative vanguard of modern engineering. However, its legacy was not to last.

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A black wreckage with blown-off bonnet and deflated tyres, lying across a cordoned-off street. This is how most Germans of a certain generation remember the Mercedes W126, the S-class model of the 1980s.

In the autumn of 1989, Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, as well as head of Daimler-Benz AG’s supervisory board, was killed on his way to work by the blast of a roadside bomb. Herrhausen had been one of the most influential economic leaders of West Germany, and certainly the most charismatic among them. A proponent of challenging concepts, he advocated the need for global corporate expansion, as well as debt relief for Third World countries. Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part One”

Geneva 2016: Mercedes C-Class Convertible

Quite apart from Mercedes filling a niche that ought to have been filled when Helmut Kohl was chancellor, they have bravely painted it metallic raspberry.

2017 Mercedes C300: source
2017 Mercedes C300: source

The vehicle is labelled the C300 because it is a C-class and because there are 300 stitches to the metre on the interior upholstery. It’s not because it’s a 3.0 litre straight six or anything. These statistics are courtesy of Automotive News: “The C300 comes with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine that generates 241 hp and has a 0-to-60 mph time of 6.3 seconds. Like the C43 coupe, the C43 convertible comes with a 3.0-liter, V-6 biturbo engine that produces 362 hp and can reach 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The C43 convertible has a top speed of 155 mph.” Continue reading “Geneva 2016: Mercedes C-Class Convertible”

Theme: Special – Too Special or Not Special Enough?

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to ask yourself “Do I feel special? Well, do ya, Punk?”

Special. Image: Mercedes-AMG
Special. Image: Mercedes-AMG

If we ignore the Citroen 2CV for a moment, Special (in automotive terms at least) has generally meant more. More equipment, more individuality, more value. But for some that’s not enough. The statement is the thing. Some of us will recall the era of Rude Mercs, those bespoilered, beskirted, altered images of Bruno Sacco’s finest; as emblematic of an Eighties we’d prefer to forget as Stock Aitkin & Waterman, Huey Lewis and the News and the Westland affair. Fashions change, the world turns and for all I know Huey Lewis may well be hawking his flaccid wares somewhere as I write. (I’m sure he’s a nice man by the way, but some things you can never forgive).  Continue reading “Theme: Special – Too Special or Not Special Enough?”

The Ulm Design School and Mercedes

Is this the best car there will ever be?

1991 Mercedes S-class: austere, robust and big.
1991 Mercedes S-class: austere, robust and big: bestcarmag.com

Just before Christmas I took a train trip, the last direct rail service from Aarhus to Berlin, itself part of the discontinued direct Copenhagen to Berlin service. Determining the fate of this service was Deutsche Bahn’s decision to phase out diesel trains. The ICE train running the Aarhus-Berlin route remained the only diesel main line train in Germany. The diesel carriages have no future Continue reading “The Ulm Design School and Mercedes”

2016 Mercedes Benz CLS Shooting Brake Reworked

In light of our Ssang Yong fun, I remembered the link to Mercedes. It’s not just the engines; it’s that the CLS shooting brake is another one of those cars where the sculpture and graphics have parted company. 

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The first image is the CLS as it is. The second one is a mark-up of the main lines of the car as it would appear if it had been done as a proper estate car and not as a strange not-quite-a-hatchback. On the actual car the roof wraps down so markedly onto the sides that it seems to have deflated. That’s not a good image for a car. If you like you can actively see it that way before you turn on your heel and leave.

[Image: turbo.fr]

Losing Face – Mercedes’ Billion €uro Facelift

Mercedes-Benz threw the piggy bank at the W212’s mid-life facelift. No, I can’t see where the money went either.

What a transformation! 2012 Mercedes W212. Image via paultan
What 1bn euros buys you. Image: paultan

The Mercedes E-Class represents the quintessence of Daimler’s saloon car range. It’s been their heartland model; the one from which they made their post-war name, so it’s incumbent upon Mercedes’ engineers and stylists they don’t screw the pooch. Yet screw it they did, 1995’s W210 and 2002’s W211 instrumental in tarnishing the three pointed star’s hard-won reputation for solidity, build integrity and reliability. W212 had it all to do in 2008. Continue reading “Losing Face – Mercedes’ Billion €uro Facelift”

Theme: Facelifts – Bodylifts

When only basic proportions are giving the game away

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Plastic surgery may not be limited to people’s faces, but only on few – usually bizarre – occasions do the stylists tempering with flesh and bone go for a change of the entire body. However, in car design, the situation is presenting itself rather differently: the choice is between either just a facelift or the full Monty. Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Bodylifts”

Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty

Driven To Write descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.

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Today’s foray into facelift hades also stems from recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was, (like most Mercedes’ of its era), a good 35% less attractive than its far more comely (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Professor Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco era, the R230 in its original form was at least cohesive.   Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty”

Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it

Does my bum look big in this? 

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Image: Cars Data

As I’m sure I don’t need to point out, there are facelifts and there are, well, facelifts. Not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal – I mean has anybody seen Barry Manilow lately?
Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it”

From Stuttgart to Eternity

What happens to old cars when they die, Mummy?

MB Recycling

Whilst trying to find a download of a W211 Owners Manual for a friend’s ten year old E Class, I came across the above (full text below). Now, although the US website did finally provide the manual, Mercedes’ UK site appears to provide no such service. Despite the fact that it would only cost them a tiny sum to make electronic manuals for older cars available to owners, it’s telling that MB UK don’t see this as a priority.

Continue reading “From Stuttgart to Eternity”

A Niche Too Far?

Sometimes it pays to be brave, sometimes it doesn’t. Better luck next time, Renault.

Initiale-ParísBy the final decade of the 20th century, motor manufacturers, having established that engineering integrity would only take them so far in the quest for market leadership, began to realise that the answer to their prayers lay within the spreadsheets and focus groups of the product planning departments. In a mature market, largely populated by feckless new money garnered from illusory internet start-ups and awash with cheap credit, the differentiator between the automotive carnivores and their prey would be defined by one word: Segmentation. Entire departments sprang up in such demographically significant hotspots as Miami, London and Southern California, all tasked with seeking that elusive niche that would give the parent company a jump on their rivals.

Continue reading “A Niche Too Far?”

Falling Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class

With total sales of over a million, the W168 Mercedes A-Class is possibly the best selling flop ever. We chart its fall.

Image: auto.aggress.ru
Image: auto.aggress.ru

The 2012 announcement of Mercedes’ third-generation A-Class and its radical re-alignment in ethos and market position has been seen by most observers as as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While for the most part Daimler’s U-turn has elicited little criticism, it could equally be regarded as a sign that Mercedes has conclusively lost the argument. Continue reading “Falling Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class”

A Hypocrite Writes

I am a cry from beyond the pale. I have spent all my driving years reining in my hooligan element and, for much of the time, it has been my personal circumstances, rather than my self-control, that have prevented me from totally inappropriate purchases.

Image : carmagazine.co.uk

The first Audi RS6 Avant really fulfilled a long-held fantasy for a big, very fast, estate car, marrying the hooner with the homely. Lately, the AMG C63 Estate has taken my fancy, and I now see that they have produced a more powerful version, addressing the problem of the standard model’s woefully inadequate 451 bhp.

Continue reading “A Hypocrite Writes”