BMW have released photos and a rather toe-curling video for their new concept Z4, said to provide broad clues as to how next year’s production Z4 will look. Good grief, it’s an angry looking thing, isn’t it?
Here are some words. They’re lifted from BMW’s website, (verbatim) so I take no responsibility. Apart from the annotated comments of course, which are mine. Continue reading “Anger Is an Energy”
After sighting a few dark and tatty examples I saw this conveniently clean and pale W-201 yesterday. Where’s quality hiding?
I asked this of a BMW 3-series (E-30) recently. Both came out the same year, 1982 (as did the Ford Sierra). So, presumably the cars gestated at the same time and without a large likelihood of designers and clay modellers migrating between studios. First let’s take a close look to find Ms. Quality… Continue reading “Can’t, And Will Anyway”
How come the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190E was W-201 and the 1984 200E cars were coded W-124?
We see in this quite small car the effect of the well-evolved centre console. The ashtray is situated in an undercut of the fascia and it’s a decent sized ashtray too. The ashtray is a chromed metal item, with a cigarette lighter built into the drawer. Under that is a cubby for bit and bobs. Continue reading “Micropost: W-201 Mercedes 190E Driver’s Ashtray”
This is something of a marvel, a relic from the Ulm Design School ethos at Untertuerkheim.
This article is one of three items today which pay special regard to ashtrays.
For the 1991 W-140 rear ashtray the designers located the tray and adjusted it to the surrounding forms and materials. That meant it got a matching carpeted panel when, purely functionally, a one-piece cover in plastic might have sufficed. The Ulm attitude involved taking great care to Continue reading “Micropost: Mercedes-Benz W-140 Rear Ashtray”
If the W168 A-Class was a poorly executed answer to a question few had posed (and nobody at all had asked Mercedes), how do we even begin to assess the Vaneo?
Lets get two things out the way here. First: The Vaneo not only was frightful, it was an inferior product that did Mercedes more reputational harm than any additional revenue or scale it garnered. Second: It clearly began life as a commercial vehicle. Let’s imagine for a moment the product planning meeting that took place when the Vaneo was greenlighted. Continue reading “Commercial Break – 2001 Mercedes-Benz Vaneo”
Having a special edition named after you is normally something of a compliment. But there’s an exception to every rule.
The world of Formula One is brutal and uncompromising. Few make it to its pinnacle, fewer still achieve greatness. Double World champion, Mika Häkkinen appears to have been one of Grand Prix’s more pleasant individuals – famously taciturn when fixed in the camera’s glare, but said to have been considerably better company once they were turned off. Quick too – perhaps the only driver of his era who gave seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher a genuine run for his money. Continue reading “Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition”
With total sales of over a million, the W168 Mercedes A-Class is possibly the best selling commercial flop ever. We chart its fall.
The 2012 announcement of Mercedes’ current-generation A-Class and its re-alignment in ethos and market position was viewed by most observers as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While Daimler’s U-turn elicited little by way of overt criticism, it could equally be regarded as a potent symbol that the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim car giant had conclusively lost the argument. Continue reading “Fallen Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class”
The 1993 Vision A and ’94 Studie A were everything the ensuing A-Class failed to be. A genuine Mercedes in miniature.
One doesn’t get to the size and scope of Mercedes-Benz by being incautious, even if at times, an element of risk is sometimes both prudent and necessary. For example, the W201 programme saw the German car giant risk a move downmarket, albeit one taken only after a great deal of consideration and iterative trial. That programme, instigated during the dark days of the post oil-shock 1970’s, wouldn’t see series production as the 190-series until 1982. Continue reading “Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A”
Some time back I harvested a set of detailed photos of a Mercedes W-123. It wasn’t until recently I had a chance to take a corresponding set of its replacement. Alas the correspondence is not complete. Some details are paired for comparison and the rest are dumped in a ragbag of two slideshows. The conclusion is that in replacing the W-123 Mercedes merely wanted to Continue reading “The Two Mares From the Wild Fellow’s Forest”
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”
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”
A sober brochure for a distinctly sober car – the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190-series.
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…”
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”
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? Continue reading “Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines”
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:
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?”
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.
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.
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””
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.
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.
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”
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!”
By coincidence there parked side by side an example of Bruno Sacco’s era and that of Gorden Wagener.
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”
Sometimes a quantum leap is called for, but be careful where you land.
“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”
During a conference on ugliness, the participants wondered if something could be ugly and still worth a further look.
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)”
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.
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”
“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.
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”
…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?
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…”
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.
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”
Driven to Write concludes its meditation on the definitive latter-day Mercedes, the W126 S-Class.
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”
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.
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.
Conceived under a period of intense socio-political turmoil, the W126-Series S-Class proved tailor-made for the early 1980’s landscape.
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”
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.
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”
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.
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”
There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to ask yourself “Do I feel special? Well, do ya, Punk?”
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?”
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”
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.
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.
Mercedes-Benz threw the piggy bank at the W212’s mid-life facelift. No, I can’t see where the money went either.
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”
Valmet and Mercedes have announced that production of the M-B GLC SUV will increase at their Uusikaupunki plant. This is to make room at Benz’s Bremen plant which is already completely busy making GLCs.
Production of the A-class at Valmet will move to Germany. Valmet will make as many GLCs as they did A-classes so it’s a production swap rather than an increase. The change will result in an increase in labour requirements at Valmet.
These cars won’t keep out of the way of this site. It’s a W114 coupe ashtray, as designed by Paul Bracq.
If you look at Bracq’s career, we see that the 1968 W114 (the six-cylinder cars) and the W115 (the four-cylinder cars) came out the year after he left Mercedes Benz. So where does this design fit in with the story of German design rationalism? How can we reconcile the fact that these cars which epitomise German design sensibilities were overseen by a French chap who trained under another French designer, the great Charbonneaux? Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1968 Mercedes W114 Coupe”
It’s another Mercedes. Say what you like about them, they do last.
The caption for this image should be “parked up like it’s 1979.” Or 1983, to judge by the licence plate (is it British?). Up until the late 1990s it was possible to park creatively like this in Dublin, in lots of places. There were lane-ways where double-yellow lines had not been applied or where traffic wardens seldom went. I used to park on pavements if the need arose (but only pavements where nobody actually ever walked). I had a list of places where I could hide the car and not pay while in town. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1979-1991 Mercedes SEC”
Mercedes-Benz gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.
While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsive technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether. Continue reading “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”
Mercedes once valued their wheels. That’s just another thing they’ve forgotten.
In the 1930s, Mercedes introduced body coloured hubcaps with a central star, as seen on the 170. At the time, in fact, many manufacturers offered body-coloured wheels or hubcaps. After the War, some companies continued with this, Rolls Royce and various US brands in particular, but none did it with as much style as Mercedes. Continue reading “Theme : Wheels – The Three Pointed Star”
Those were the days! 2002 and people still smoked in the back of their cars. This is how Mercedes catered to the self-medicating nicotine user.
There is a lot of work involved in designing and engineering one of these. Even by 2002 this was here not because anyone expected them to be used much but because it was expected, a nicety, a sign someone cared. I must report that the action of this example was not very finely damped. It sprang out with undue haste.
The Lancia Thesis has a much nicer ashtray based on a similar concept of the horizontal hinge. I don’t think this ashtray is illuminated but if anyone knows, please contact me. I think it could be bigger as well. Just saying.
Some collected, if slightly disconnected thoughts on this month’s theme gives us an opportunity for a little gratuitous Mercedes-bashing.
So much is known and quantified, be it politics, cuisine, architecture or indeed recognising a decent pasodoble when we see one. It’s all out there to be discovered, downloaded and co-opted into our lives and dinner party conversations: we’re all experts now. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap”