At Mercedes-Benz, pioneering automotive concepts and a high level of design expertise have what is arguably the longest tradition anywhere. And the finest evidence of that pioneering spirit and innovative power is to be found in the world’s first motor car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen of 1886.
The delicate design of the three-wheeler also makes very clear, even at a quick glance, that a new age of mobility has begun. The lines of the Patent-Motorwagen, created by its inventor Carl Benz himself, represent the embodiment of pure engineering skill. Design or, as we sometimes call it, styling, was not initially a discipline in its own right, so automotive development in those early years followed the techniques used in the building of carriages.
A radically new automotive architecture in the form that we, in essence, still use today, was defined early in 1901 by the Mercedes 35 hp, the original forbear of all modern passenger cars. This milestone in automotive history established for the first time an independent design for the motor vehicle and is still seen today as a masterpiece of technical ingenuity and beauty.
The characteristic features here are the long, sleek lines, an engine set deep into the frame and a radiator grille integrated organically into the car’s front section. This, which became known as the honeycomb radiator, was to become over time a brand-defining feature. The 35 hp, which was also the first vehicle to bear the brand name Mercedes, marked the final departure from the carriage-style design then prevailing across the industry and would thus go down in history as the first modern-day motor car and as a trailblazer for new concepts.
Many other manufacturers would go on to adopt this innovative concept, which was proven to be superior in every aspect. The claims of Mercedes-Benz to both conceptual and technological leadership were thus established at a very early date. Right from the very beginning, part of the innate responsibility felt by the founding fathers of the oldest automotive manufacturer in the world was to deliver constant improvements to their products as a way of always being able to offer their customers the best possible solution.
1909: engine compartment and body merge into a single formal unit
The same thing applied in terms of the aesthetic design of the motor car, influenced in not inconsiderable measure by the “Lightning Benz”, launched in 1909. The innovative design of this automotive milestone, conceived originally as a racing and record-breaking car, saw aerodynamic principles followed for the first time and managed at the same time to convey a tremendous sense of dynamism through its very coherent design idiom. Even though aerodynamics were not an important issue for road-going vehicles of the era, the “Lightning Benz” nevertheless set new standards in automotive development: the chassis, including engine and front end, was no longer separated at the bulkhead from the main part of the body, but joined to it as one formal unit.
This characteristic design feature became common in passenger cars in general at around the same time – although in several stages, due to the varying widths of the vehicle bodies. One particularly distinctive design feature was what became known as a torpedo. Also known as a cowl, this curved section beneath the windscreen provided a formal link between the engine box and the body.
In the years that followed, Mercedes-Benz cars would receive enthusiastic praise time and time again for their innovative approach to design, seen as a reflection of both the philosophy and the profile of the brand. Design draws attention to the product and is also a visual interpretation of the brand values.
Mercedes 540 K as the epitome of sporty elegance
While powerfully masculine, sculpted lines characterised the Mercedes-Benz models of the 1920s, design from the early 30s onwards began to focus more on softer, flowing lines and more rounded styling elements. An absolute highlight of this development was the Type 500 K of 1934 and its largely identical successor, the 540 K, introduced in 1936.
Both models were built in a range of different body variants. Their custom-designed bodywork and elegant, flowing lines, made them objects of sheer beauty and the embodiment of the automotive aristocracy par excellence. The elegant lines and sophisticated shape of the body were complemented perfectly by the interior design, giving rise to an impression of absolute harmony which, in turn, was reinforced by the use of high-quality and exquisitely crafted materials.
In those days it was perfectly common to take a basic chassis and have a customised body individually made for it by an independent bodybuilding company.
Mercedes-Benz’s company-owned “Sindelfinger Karosserie” however, with Hermann Ahrens at the helm from 1932 onwards, soon set the benchmark here with some extremely elegant designs.
Bodywork made in Sindelfingen
It was not only their elegance but also the sheer variety of the Sindelfingen car bodies that reached a zenith in the 1930s. The design principle involving a combination of chassis and separate body that had prevailed since the very early days of the motor car meant that customers were able to put together virtually any type of vehicle out of a whole range of different body variants. The enclosed Saloon and Pullman Saloon models that, since the mid-1920s, had begun to dominate over the open versions prevalent until then, were still being built in the classic two-box design in the 1930s. Engine compartment and passenger compartment formed one unit, while the luggage compartment and spare wheel carrier were added on the back and didn’t start to be formally integrated until the mid-1930s.
A step into the modern age: the Ponton design of 1953
Following an interim step, characterised by the Type 220 of 1951 and – even more so – by the Type 300 “Adenauer Mercedes”, Mercedes-Benz finally completed the transition into the modern age in 1953, with the Type 180. The integral body construction, now firmly welded to the chassis to form a single unit, had become reality in the form of the three-box design, or Ponton shape. The third “box”, along with the front end and passenger compartment, is provided here by the boot. The all-enveloping “Ponton” body was not only a convincing blend of improved stability and better safety in the event of an accident, it also had a much more contemporary look. Compared with the classic shape involving pronounced wings, free-standing headlamps, running boards and a short rear overhang, the Ponton models also offered the very practical advantages of a more spacious interior, better visibility, lower drag coefficient, less wind noise and a significantly larger boot.
For all the modernity of its lines, the interior design reflected values that had always been typical of Mercedes-Benz. High-quality materials and interior details designed to complement perfectly the bodywork styling added up to a harmonious overall impression. But never at the expense of that sense of functionality that is also so typical of Mercedes-Benz, starting with the arrangement of its meters and gauges. All the controls, such as switches and levers, were not only stylish in their design but also perfectly shaped and ergonomically well positioned, while their use was always intuitive.
Mercedes Gullwing becomes a design icon
Many outstanding Mercedes-Benz models have left their lasting mark on the development of automotive design. Often described as a design icon, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” embodied elegance and class after the Second World War like no other car of its age. Even today, it is still a highly desirable car and was voted “Sports car of the century” by an international jury of automotive experts in 1999.
Designed by Friedrich Geiger, the fascination of the 300 SL at its debut in 1954 lay not only in the gull-wing doors that were dictated by the car’s structural design, but in its appearance as the first Mercedes-Benz road vehicle not to feature a vertical radiator grille. Instead, it sported a horizontal air intake opening with a centrally positioned three-pointed star. This new front end would go on to characterise all subsequent SL sports tourers.
Removable steering wheel to facilitate getting out of the vehicle
As typical of so many sports cars, the restricted design of the 300 SL’s interior represented a snug fit for both driver and passenger. Pure sportiness was the dominant message here, along with a pronounced sense of functionality and some intelligently designed details. One example of this can be seen in the way the steering wheel can be folded upwards. This simple and thus in practice all the more effective constructive device enabled the driver to get in and out of the car with relative speed and ease, despite the large-diameter steering wheel and the high side skirts dictated by the design. The basic principle here, incidentally, was derived from motor racing and is still used there today: in today’s Formula 1 racing cars a removable steering wheel ensures that the driver can very quickly get out of the tight-fitting cockpit.
1959: tail fins as rear markers
The 220, 220 S and 220 SE models introduced in 1959, which became known in popular parlance as “Fintail” models, also set a new benchmark with a design that united function and elegance in peerless style. The tail fins, officially described as rear markers, were both attractive in design and also of practical use when parking. Together with the car’s excellent all-round visibility, they represented an early anticipation of changing customer expectations.
This was not the only detail whereby the “Fintail” followed the designers’ maxim of “Form follows function”: it was an approach that was also consistently applied in the design of the interior. A particular feature was the use of flexible materials on the dashboard, along with partially recessed controls that would yield under pressure, as a way of preventing or minimising injury in the event of an accident. A padded steering wheel boss and an interior mirror that would give way and even come off upon impact were also important examples of the way the interior appointments were designed to reduce injury hazards in accidents.
The interior design thus played a key role in ensuring the safety of the car’s occupants. It complemented the robust structure and crumple zones of the safety body, as exemplified here for the first time in the “Fintail” model, to deliver a comprehensive, integrated safety concept.
The same, but different
Despite the shared formal features that made the various model series instantly recognisable as members of the Mercedes-Benz family of models, they were nonetheless necessarily differentiated by their design, as customers had come to expect. The two-door coupé variant of the 220 SE, for example, launched in the Spring of 1961, displayed design elements all of its own – including doing away with the tail fins of the saloon. The clear lines of this timelessly beautiful coupé came to dominate Mercedes-Benz design in the 1960s and went on to influence the styling of all subsequent series of luxury class and upper medium-size saloons.
The 350 SL sports car launched in 1971, as well as the S-Class of 1972, were influential in defining the ‘look’ of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and made the integral safety concept both visible and tangible. The generously sized headlamps, here more horizontally aligned, were particularly striking, as were the large-format indicator lights, clearly visible from both the front and the sides. The famous grooved tail lights not only set a new design trend but were good at repelling dirt. Another new feature was the grab bar-style door handle. Incorporated sleekly into the bodywork design, this was nonetheless easier to use. It also provided additional safety in the way it prevented the door from unintentionally opening in the event of an accident yet allowed potential rescuers to take hold of it with both hands.
C111 writes design history
Concept and experimental vehicles like the C 111 of 1969 also enabled Mercedes-Benz to write design history. Although this car never went into production, it had a considerable influence on future automotive development. Innovative design is a characteristic feature of Mercedes-Benz, yet the brand always maintains its unique identity – in the case of the C111 amongst other things through its gullwing doors, which would go on to enjoy a further comeback in the SLS AMG of 2009.
There has never therefore been a decision to give precedence to innovation over tradition – the achievement of both is the objective. The following three statements may be seen as a guideline:
– A Mercedes-Benz must always be recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz.
– It must convey to the customer all the values that are part of being a Mercedes-Benz, and that the customer expects of it.
– Design involves a maximum of innovation within the parameters set by a respect for the traditions of the brand.
Bruno Sacco’s all-encompassing philosophy of design
In the 1970s, Head of Design Bruno Sacco used this as the basis for the very first, all-encompassing philosophy of Mercedes-Benz design. Its first principle stated: a Mercedes-Benz must be intuitively recognisable by members of the general public in any cultural setting, anywhere in the world, as being part of the family. And when a Mercedes-Benz goes on to be further developed in a next generation, the identity of the model series should be maintained. Bruno Sacco coined the term “vertical affinity” for this phenomenon. It became the defining principle of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy and ensured that, even when a new-generation model was launched, its predecessor would not look outdated.
The second supporting pillar of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy is brand identity. This demands that traditional design characteristics should be nurtured, further developed and applied in all model series, one beside the other. This is what Bruno Sacco called “horizontal homogeneity”, and finds its expression for example in the design of radiator grilles, headlamps and tail lights.
Mercedes cultivates long-life design
In essence, this means that design at Mercedes-Benz is always an evolutionary process. Every Mercedes is recognisable as a member of the same family as its predecessors and as those model series with which it is concurrent. This is a principle which has remained incontestable for all subsequent Heads of Design at
Mercedes-Benz. Professor Gorden Wagener, who currently holds responsibility for Design at Mercedes, expressed it in the following terms: “A Mercedes is always recognisable as a Mercedes. And even after 30 years, a Mercedes will not look old. It’s what we call long-life design.” His predecessor, Professor Peter Pfeiffer, added: “A Mercedes-Benz is a mixture of continuity and creativity, of the traditional and the modern. This is what gives Mercedes models their long-term stylistic value and ensures that many of our vehicles go on to become highly desirable classic cars.”
Mercedes S-Class of 1979 becomes a design trendsetter
There are two further stylistic trendsetters that need to be considered in this context: the S-Class of 1979 and the compact class of 1982. Their design blended traditional elements with new forms developed as part of a process of aerodynamic optimisation. Details such as the rising belt line, the integrated bumpers, the narrowing, tapering effect of the rear section and the sharp edges of the boot were the cause of considerable discussion in the early days but soon, and frequently, came to be imitated. It is a design that has remained fresh and timeless right up to the present day. Its successful synthesis of the traditional and the modern means that the S-Class of 1979 is still, even today, considered one of the most beautiful cars in the world.
With the successor to the compact class, which went on the market as the C-Class in 1993, Mercedes-Benz presented its response to the growing desire of its customers for individuality. The C-Class was available in four different design and equipment lines, whereby it was the interior design in particular that provided the expression of the specific character of the chosen model. Alongside a classic version were the lines ESPRIT, offering a fresh and youthful interior design package, SPORT for a determinedly sporty style of driving and ELEGANCE, which offered a superior level of comfort. Over the ensuing years varying design and equipment lines were offered in various model series in an effort to meet a broad range of tastes.
Since 1993: the dream of individualisation becomes reality
Since 1995, the designo programme has taken things a step further, offering Mercedes-Benz customers with particularly discerning tastes and a strong desire for individualisation an additional range to choose from. Any number of combinations are possible, involving unusual paintwork colours, extra-soft leather in exclusive colours and trim elements with a surface finish of fine wood, piano lacquer, stone or perhaps leather. Fine metallic particles in the individual layers of paintwork that make up the exclusive paintwork colour designo varicolor provide a stunning, shimmering play of colour – depending on the intensity of light and the surroundings.
The growing need of its customers to express individuality was behind the fresh challenges faced by the Mercedes-Benz designers in the early 1990s. This was the period that saw Mercedes-Benz enter a new era with its first major strategic project initiative. The passenger car model range, which up until that point had essentially comprised just three model series, was extended to include a broad portfolio of products.
With the SLK, the CLK, the A-Class and the M-Class, the brand entered a whole series of new market segments in quick succession. The company expanded, along with its product portfolio and production figures, while the world of values for the Mercedes-Benz brand became ever more complex. The strategy of horizontal homogeneity came up against its limits for the first time, especially since radically new vehicle concepts went hand in hand with new, stand-alone design ideas. All this led in the early 1990s to the Mercedes-Benz design team defining a new concept for the design of future model series.
Four-eyes as the new “trademark look” for Mercedes
A first step in this process came with the familiar “four-eyed” look of the 1995 E-Class, with its two pairs of large, slightly elliptical headlamps of varying sizes. The attractive and dynamic appearance of this saloon was matched by similar developments in the image of the Stuttgart automotive brand. That the linking of bold (contemporary) innovation with a design idiom that remained true to the brand could produce a product with a viable long-term future, was proved just two years later by the A-Class. For this completely new-style, compact four-door model with tailgate, the team responsible were able to venture down new paths in terms of its design, which only a brand with the self-assurance of Mercedes-Benz could have followed. The avantgarde nature of the A-Class’s styling reflects the innovative technology inherent in features such as its sandwich-design floor and its intelligent spatial concept. Its fascination lies in details that point to the future, in both stylistic and functional terms.
1998: a new lightweight S-Class
Time and time again the Mercedes-Benz designers would give a new flair to the further development, in design terms, of established vehicle concepts – as they did with the S-Class that was launched in 1998. The design idiom of this top-of-the-range model was at one with its sophisticated technology, and yet at the same time managed to symbolise the new and progressive brand image of Mercedes-Benz. The sporty elegance of its sleek lines gave the almost coupé-like saloon an appealing lightness in appearance.
The design of the interior reflects the flowing lines of the exterior, setting new standards for interior design. An integrated trim line in wood, which is followed through on the doors as well, emphasises the broad double sweep of the dashboard and, at the same time, serves to reinforce a generous sense of space. This is further underlined by the design of the door trim and seats, which exude character, lightness and a sense of luxury.
Fine design detailing: indicators in the exterior mirrors
What is also so typical of design at Mercedes-Benz is the way in which so much attention is invested in even apparently minor details. In the S-Class, for example, the side indicator lights that are required by law were for the first time integrated into the mirror housing. The result was not only a more harmonious appearance, but also an improvement in safety.
Setting trends with new vehicle concepts has always been a central tenet of the Mercedes-Benz philosophy. Another pacemaker in terms of automotive engineering, and further evidence of the visionary power of the brand, was an automotive beauty that took centre stage in 2003: the Vision CLS, which went into series production a year later. An inspirational symbiosis of the elegant design idiom of a coupé and the functionality of a four-door luxury-class saloon, the CLS was the forerunner of a new generation of coupés – in this instance tailor-made for the connoisseurs among automotive enthusiasts.
2003: Mercedes reinvents the coupé
High standards such as these also helped to define the interior design of the CLS. It is a convincing blend of very typical Mercedes-Benz strengths, such as quality, functionality, excellent ergonomics and intuitive controls. At the same time, it has a very special flair all of its own. This comes from, amongst other things, the unusual materials used, such as fine leathers and woods left in their natural condition. The fluid sweep of the dashboard complements the design line of the CLS and is followed through in the transition to the doors and into the rear of the car. This very fluent translation of the exterior styling into the interior results in an extraordinarily harmonious overall impression. The CLS thus represents a further example of the harmony of interior and exterior design that is so typical for the brand.
“This four-door coupé is a car that has tremendous emotive appeal. I’ve never heard a car talked about so much in such emotive terms before”, was how the then design chief, Peter Pfeiffer, described public reaction to the show car presented in 2003. The sharply defined feature line along the sides of the vehicle became the new characteristic feature and was soon identified as the style to follow.
New spirit defines the S-Class of 2005
The CLS marked the beginning of Mercedes-Benz’s second strategic product initiative, which saw the development of a consistent and coherent image for the brand that nonetheless offered ample scope for differentiation. In the autumn of 2005, the S-Class struck a new, distinctive note. Its design idiom was based on the principles of modern purism, as defined by renowned artists, architects and designers as far back as the early 20th century. A conscious focus on the essential, on the original, functional beauty of an object, was at the heart of this new direction in style. “The new spirit” (“L’Esprit nouveau”) was the title of the magazine in which distinguished protagonists of purism, such as the architect and artist Le Corbusier, published their ideas on design.
The S-Class was also the harbinger of a new spirit. Its design concept is based on a pureness of line and a renunciation of excessive embellishment. It is with these lines that the S-Class defines a new, forward-looking style for Mercedes-Benz. Its most distinctive characteristic is the interplay between tautly drawn lines and large, quiescent surfaces, combined in a symbolic blend of calm serenity and power.
Sharply defined, tautly drawn lines that evolve organically out of the surfaces, only to submerge gently back into them, give rise to the creation of concave or convex surfaces and thus to a fluctuating pattern of contrasts. The sleek and yet clearly defined flow of the car’s lines produces a fascinating interplay of light.
The taut lines and powerful wheel arches, almost muscular in design, send strong emotional signals that promise the ultimate in driving enjoyment. The clear V-shape, more pronounced on some models than others, serves to underline the dynamic character of the vehicles. In all this, Mercedes-Benz design manages to avoid unnecessary curlicues and formal eccentricities, allowing instead the pure shapes of the contours to dominate and so convey an impression of calm, clarity and obvious self-assurance.
E-Class swings its hips in the best traditions of the brand
As a very typical way of expressing their unmistakable brand identity, current Mercedes-Benz vehicles often take their stylistic cues from the brand’s past. Such features include the curving “hips” of the current E-Class family, characteristic of the Ponton vehicles of the 1950s; or the fins and side air intakes of the SL, whose basic shape also dates back to the 1950s. These classic elements are, however, always reinterpreted with a fresh and contemporary twist that enables Mercedes-Benz very consciously and consistently to avoid the foibles of ultra-fashionable and often short-lived retro-trends.
The designers at Mercedes-Benz prefer to underline that the models they design have their origins in a company that is steeped in history. This is done by combining familiar, proven stylistic elements of the brand with new ideas, in a way that ensures that the design continues to develop.
Mercedes-Benz these days is committed to a consciously differentiated design idiom. This combines the unifying elements that make a vehicle immediately recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz with an interpretation of the design philosophy specific to each model series, so ensuring that each vehicle type has a character of its own. The SUV models, for instance, look quite different from the saloons, coupés or sports cars. The result is an attractive blend of individual look and unmistakable brand identity.
This principle is also valid as far as the interior design is concerned, and is consistently applied at Mercedes-Benz. Depending on the character of the vehicle, materials, shapes and styling elements are developed and implemented for a specific series or model – individuality and a harmonious overall effect take clear priority over an all-embracing uniformity. The role of interior design, which continues to grow in significance in terms of the overall design task, is now even more important than ever as a way of maintaining the fascination of the beautiful over many years. The interior of a car has come to be seen as a living space, where its owner will spend considerable amounts of time. The need to demonstrate a style-conscious flair inside the car as well therefore continues to grow.
Keeping customers satisfied: fine materials and top quality
Car buyers have become both more demanding and more discerning over the years in this respect. They not only want a wide choice of possible appointments, in the sense of accommodating their personal tastes, but now also set greater store by the use of high-quality materials and precision workmanship. These of course help convey, whilst also making more tangible, values such as aesthetics, comfort and quality as part of the overall visual impression.
With the F 800 Style research vehicle that was introduced in 2010, Mercedes-Benz was able to demonstrate how the brand’s typical design idiom could be reinterpreted and further developed to give an idea of what the luxury saloon of tomorrow might look like. Its exterior appearance is characterised by a long wheelbase, short bodywork overhangs and the elegant sweep of its roof line. Fine wood finishes and plenty of light ensure a high level of comfort. The cockpit and the armrests in the doors, which appear almost as free-floating sculptures, convey an impression of sophisticated lightness. Head of Design Professor Gorden Wagener sums up the stylistic qualities of the F 800 style like this: “The taut arc of the coupé-like roof line, coupled with its balanced proportions, give the car an elegant, sporty appearance that continues the development of the Mercedes-Benz design idiom and serves to emphasise the sculptural character of the vehicle’s design. The result is an attractive, unmistakable and memorable visual appearance.”
The task of the designers is, and always will be, to arouse emotions and keep them stimulated. They work in a creative zone between technology and design with the objective of designing cars that will stand out as much as for their technical qualities as for their emotional intelligence. The designers’ work is a success if customers buy cars not only for purely rational reasons but also with their heart and mind.
For Mercedes-Benz, design has an even greater significance: it is, quite literally, a brand-defining factor. Design helps determine the image of the brand with the three-pointed star, by providing a visual interpretation of attributes such as sportiness, style and the power of innovation, but also of safety, comfort and quality. It is also a very visual way of linking the unique heritage of the brand with its present and its future.
Milestones of Mercedes-Benz design
With his patented “motor car for gas engine operation”, Carl Benz introduces the world’s very first car. The design of the three-wheeled vehicle, inspired by a bicycle, is an expression of puristic engineering skill.
The Mercedes 35 hp establishes an independent design for the motor car and is seen as the first car of the modern age. Its honeycomb radiator, integrated organically into the design, becomes a brand-defining feature.
The Daimler Motor Company in Untertürkheim sets up its own bodywork department.
The famous “Lightning Benz” racing and record-breaking car is the first vehicle in which the design was clearly influenced by aerodynamic considerations.
A significant advance in automotive design: a curved panel beneath the windscreen, described as a cowl or torpedo, links the chassis and engine compartment to the body proper and passenger compartment to create a single, organic unit. The new smooth side walls and a continuous belt line give the car its harmonious appearance.
In parallel to its development of the honeycomb radiator, the Daimler Motor Company developed a second characteristic radiator shape – the pointed radiator, used above all for the sporty and more powerful models in the range.
The DMG plant in Sindelfingen begins production of Mercedes vehicle bodies.
Hermann Ahrens takes over as Head of Special Vehicle Production at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant.
With its elegant, flowing body lines, designed by Hermann Ahrens, the 500 K, along with its 1936 successor, the 540 K, marks a high point in Mercedes-Benz design – especially in its Special Roadster version, an absolute dream car of the 1930s. The coupé variant established the coupé tradition for Mercedes-Benz that continues to this day.
The Ponton-shape integral body construction of the 180 model brings classic Mercedes-Benz design into the modern age. The wings and headlamps are completely integrated into the main body section, which also incorporates the engine compartment and the rear luggage compartment. Out of this emerges in harmonious style a passenger compartment with what was, for the time, a broad expanse of glass.
The birth of the legendary 300 SL, with its gullwing doors, unusual new proportions and a new, flat design for the Mercedes-Benz radiator grille, which would go on to become a characteristic feature of the front-end design of all SL sports cars. This super sports car represents the non plus ultra of automotive design of this era.
The vertical headlamps with integrated indicator lights that were introduced with the 300 SL become a representative stylistic device, going on to typify the front-end design of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars through to the early 1970s.
The Mercedes-Benz 220, 220 S and 220 SE six-cylinder saloons appear with relatively restrained tail fins, officially designated as rear markers. The “Fintail Mercedes” is also the first vehicle in the world to feature a rigid passenger compartment and energy-absorbing crumple zone, so opening a new chapter in safety engineering.
The two-door coupé variant of the 220 SE includes clear design elements of its own, among them its renunciation of the saloon’s tail fins. The clear lines of this timelessly beautiful coupé dominate Mercedes-Benz design throughout the 1960s.
The appearance of the 230 SL with its unusual new proportions and styling – and the unmistakable “pagoda roof”, a removable hardtop whose special shape not only makes it look good but also enhances the rigidity of the car’s structure and thus its safety.
The Mercedes-Benz 600, with its clear geometric lines, brings new impetus to the segment for exclusive and luxurious prestige vehicles.
The new sports car model 350 SL, together with the S-Class launched in 1972, are clear and tangible embodiments of the integral safety concept, and go on to influence the appearance of all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Important design elements here are the generously sized and horizontally aligned headlamps, indicator lights that can be clearly seen from both the front and the side, grooved tail lights and the grab bar-style door handles.
Bruno Sacco takes over responsibility for the styling department from Friedrich Geiger, so becoming Head of Design for Mercedes-Benz.
The design of the new S-Class blends traditional elements with new forms developed as part of a process of aerodynamic optimisation. Characteristic of this style are the rising belt line, the integrated bumpers and the narrowing, tapering effect of the rear section.
Mercedes-Benz launches the compact class with the models 190 and 190 E. The design of the new compact model series, the first in a line leading to today’s C-Class, follows faithfully the path first taken by the S-Class. The tail end is clearly differentiated from the somewhat lower belt line of the bodywork – in a look that was initially the subject of some controversial public discussion but later came to be seen as timeless and a lasting stylistic influence.
The tail end of the mid-series W 124 range model reveals an almost V-shaped,
diagonally cut boot opening. This means that despite the high spoiler lip, dictated by the aerodynamics, the boot sill could be kept low. This V-shaped design is followed through in the tail lights and goes on to become a feature in other model series and later generations.
With the new S-Class, Mercedes-Benz presents a new interpretation of the radiator grille that is so much a characteristic feature of the brand. The grille here is integrated into the bonnet.
As part of the first major strategic product initiative, a design study for the Mercedes-Benz coupé causes something of a stir at the Geneva Motor Show. Seen here for the first time, its four elliptical headlamps represent a completely new interpretation of the Mercedes ‘face’.
The C-Class, the successor of the compact class, is the first Mercedes-Benz car to be launched in four different design and equipment lines, whereby the interior design in particular is used to define the specific character of the version chosen.
The new E-Class is the first series-production model to display the epoch-making four-eyed look. The new front-end design was also adapted for further model series.
The designo programme offers Mercedes-Benz customers with exceptionally discerning tastes a very wide range of possibilities to choose from and combine, with unusual paintwork colours, extra-soft leather in exclusive colours and trim elements in surface finishes such as fine woods, piano lacquer, stone and leather.
The Mercedes-Benz strategic product initiative brings with it the introduction of a whole range of new model series such as the SLK, the CLK, the A-Class and the M-Class. Mercedes-Benz Design finds innovative styling solutions for all of these fundamentally new vehicle concepts.
With its extended, coupé-like silhouette, the new S-Class symbolises the new and progressive brand image of Mercedes-Benz. The interior design also sets new standards in the way it complements so perfectly the sporty and elegant exterior styling. It exudes character, a sense of lightness and luxury. Characteristic design features include the side indicator lights which, for the first time, are here transposed into the mirror housings.
Professor Peter Pfeiffer succeeds Bruno Sacco as Design Director.
The Vision CLS attracts considerable international attention at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. The concept of a four-door coupé that offers a high level of comfort for four occupants is met from the start with an enthusiastic reception. The “Autonis” design prize and the title of “Most attractive design study 2003” serve to underline this innovative vehicle’s potential to fascinate.
The CLS goes into series production without any major changes as part of the second major strategic product initiative. With a very special character all of its own, that blends typical coupé elegance with solid functionality, it soon wins over new groups of buyers. Design characteristics such as the feature line along its sides, the new-style headlamps and the downward sweep of the rear end provide new accents. The sympathetic interpretation of the exterior styling in the interior makes the CLS a particularly fine example of the harmony between interior and exterior design that is typical of the brand.
With the second phase of the strategic product initiative comes a new and extended design language. The relationship between the various model series is clearly recognisable, and yet each displays its own, very characteristic design.
The almost puristic lines of the S-Class sets new design trends. With its clear, precisely defined contours and quiescent surfaces, it embodies the new style of design in a very distinctive way.
The C-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz saloon to show two quite distinct faces: the ELEGANCE version displays the classic grille with the Mercedes star standing proud on the bonnet, while the AVANTGARDE version features a grille with a star integrated into its centre in a contemporary interpretation of the air intake introduced in the 300 SL of 1954.
Professor Gorden Wagener takes over as Head of Mercedes-Benz Design.
With the GLK, Mercedes-Benz brings a breath of fresh air into the compact premium SUV segment. Its boxy outline pays homage to the G-Class, the brand’s classic off-roader.
The E-Class reveals a new, avant-garde design which, in the way its rear wings curve, represents a contemporary interpretation of a characteristic design element of the “Ponton Mercedes” of the 1950s.
The distinctive design of the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG super sports car conveys spontaneous fascination: with its long bonnet, low and well set-back passenger compartment and short rear end with retractable rear spoiler. The gullwing doors are reminiscent of the legendary 300 SL sports car, as is the broad radiator grille with its central Mercedes star along with the wing-shaped cross-fin and the fins on the bonnet and sides of the vehicle.
The F 800 Style research vehicle, with which the Mercedes-Benz designers display their latest interpretation and the continuing development of the brand’s design idiom, gives an idea of what the top-of-the-range saloon of tomorrow might look like. Its long wheelbase, short bodywork overhangs and elegantly sleek roof line combine to give the car a stylishly sporty appearance. In the interior, the fine wood finishes and overall sense of brightness convey an impression of lightness and modernity.
Source: Daimler AG