Design: Effortless style

Sep 12, 2005
  • Design language sets trends for the future
  • Harmonious interplay of lines and surfaces taken to new levels
  • Meticulous attention to craftsmanship and detail in the interior
Creating a new design for the most popular luxury saloon in the world was quite a challenge for the Mercedes designers. They applied their talent, enthusiasm and highly developed sense of style and elegance in developing a fresh and contemporary design for the latest generation of this luxury-class trendsetter. The new model sets bold new trends for the future and is at the same time rooted in the traditions of the oldest automotive brand in the world. It is clear at the very first glance that the new S-Class is a confident, elegant and dynamic vehicle whose high standards of design are an eloquent corroboration of its role as an innovator. The new saloon also incorporates a healthy measure of passion, which gives it charisma and sets it apart.
The designers have pared the styling down to essentials, opting for clearly defined lines and restful surfaces. These features, taken together with the impressive front end with its dynamic V shape and the angular yet at the same time wide and harmoniously styled wheel arches give the new S-Class the appearance of an elegant sculpture and provide a new and modern interpretation of perfection. The styling of the new luxury saloon is consistently progressive, dynamic and emotional and at the same time conveys a strong sense of prestige, presence and timelessness.
To preserve the elegant styling which has always been a keynote of the S-Class, Mercedes-Benz has created a design which is innovative but does not lose sight of the past. For example ever since the earliest times, the typical "face" of a Mer-cedes has been one of the defining stylistic features of this brand. Like earlier models before it, the new S-Class refines and develops the typical front-end styling. For example this part of the vehicle has a considerably more prominent "V"shape than its predecessor, which gives a particularly powerful and confident appearance, but without being in any way aggressive. In this way it communicates the strength of character and high standards of this state-of-the-art vehicle.
The centrepiece and defining feature of the S-Class front end is the radiator grille, which features a wide chrome surround and stresses the traditional elements of Mercedes-Benz radiator grille design. The brightly finished surround and the V-shape give it a very dominant and three-dimensional appearance. This impression is accentuated by the powerful, angular contours which frame the bonnet and the large, precision-sculpted clear-lens headlamps which wrap round a long way into the sides.
The projector-beam headlamps are mounted in cylinders which are designed to resemble the lens of a high-quality camera, thereby accentuating the high-tech character and substance of this vehicle. These headlamps, which in sunlight sparkle like gemstones, also give the new S-Class a distinctive and impressive nighttime appearance. Another aspect of the lighting design – the direction indicators which under their clear lenses precisely continue the powerful curvature of the front wings –again demonstrates the attention to detail which is typical of this luxury saloon. It is features like these which demonstrate that for the Mercedes designers, form and function have equal importance.
Further key features of the front-end styling of the new S-Class are the fog lamps, mounted in chrome housings at the edge of the bumper and reprising the dynamic styling of the headlamps, and a slat in the lower air intake which resembles a small front spoiler. This slat is painted black on the V6 models. On the V8 and V12 models it is body-coloured.
From the front, the A-pillars appear particularly slender. This effect was created by painting the rain channel next to the front windscreen black, so that visually it appears to be part of the glass area. The impression of slenderness is even more pronounced when the optional two-part panoramic sunroof is specified. The panoramic sunroof results in a stylistically continuous glass surface running from the bottom edge of the front windscreen right through to the bottom edge of the rear windscreen.
Powerful, elongated body with rippling muscles
In side view, the new S-Class's sporting genes are even more in evidence. The lines of the body slope upwards from front to rear, conveying a sense of forward-flowing energy at all times, even when the vehicle is stationary. This dynamic impression is reinforced by the extended curvature of the roof, which gives the saloon an elegant, coupé-esque, agile appearance, regardless of its actual size. The arching roof line is so deftly designed that it is able to evoke strength and spaciousness without making the vehicle appear heavy.
This effect is further reinforced by the taut shoulderline which rises in a dynamic sweep from front to rear. Growing organically out of the front wings and continuing along the waistline into the rear, this shoulder line creates a strong sense of stylistic unity. The superior-quality chrome edging around the side window areas and a chrome trim strip above the side sills give further emphasis to the dynamic lines of this Mercedes-Benz saloon.
Typical brand styling idioms include a discreet side feature line rising upwards from front to rear and finishing neatly in the upper outer corner of the rear light unit. As well as imparting additional dynamism, this also provides elegant structuring of the side surfaces. This clear demarcation of the side surfaces – the designers chose not to fit side rub strips – results in a fascinating play of light whatever the ambient light conditions.
The eye is also caught by the wide wheel arches, which house 17-inch seven-spoke light-alloy wheels and size 235/55 tyres. The wheel arches are like the toned, rippling muscles of a trained athlete, an effect which is further enhanced by the powerful, elongated body. They make not only the wheels but the body as a whole appear tauter, giving the new S-Class a broad and confident stance from all angles.
The rear – harmonious conclusion of an ambitious design concept
The taut curve of the roof ends in restful side surfaces. Somewhat distinct from the rest of the body, these surfaces flow gently on into the boot lid, ensuring that the rear section forms a harmoniously integrated component of the overall design. The high boot lid meanwhile not only provides well-balanced overall proportions but also meets aerodynamic requirements.
The "V" shape of the boot lid, and the slanting sides of the rear light units, bear the unmistakable signature of Mercedes-Benz design. The horizontal structuring of the rear lights, which together with the general horizontal styling of the rear end emphasises the sense of width, likewise continues a Mercedes-Benz design tradition. However, this heritage has received a new interpretation. For the first time, two body-coloured highlights with thin chrome surrounds separate the red and white areas of the outer lenses, a touch which emphasises the elegance and exclusiveness of this saloon.
For more attentive observers, another typical example of the superior design quality of the new luxury saloon from Mercedes-Benz can be seen in the following feature: the line of the chrome strip at the edge of the boot lid continues though one of the highlights in the rear lights, then describes a line around the rear lights before coming full circle by returning to the bumper – proof once again that perfection is in the detail.
Interior: first-class materials and precision craftsmanship
On entering the vehicle, it is immediately clear that the assured, clearly defined and modern styling and persona of the S-Class exterior has been successfully carried over into the interior. High-quality materials create an elegant and welcoming interior. However, the designers' aim was not only to create a pleasant and luxurious ambience but also to offer high ergonomic standards which support the driver in every way. Examples include design of the controls for easy and reliable operation, a seat design which helps to prevent fatigue and a concentration-enhancing light and colour scheme. In other words, in the new luxury saloon from Mercedes-Benz elegance goes hand in hand with physiological safety.
The first impression is of horizontal lines and surfaces which are both restful and also create a sense of visual depth, thereby giving all occupants a sense of opulent spaciousness and safety.
A single-piece wood trim strip extends right the way across the dashboard and continues into the doors. The curved, three-dimensional design of the trim strip and the sharply defined refractive edge are produced in an elaborate manufacturing process which relies heavily on hand craftsmanship. A special coating technique imparts a brilliant finish which shows off the wood to optimum effect. In the middle of this centrally positioned wood trim strip a metallised surface has been inserted, creating a precise "inlaid" effect. The metallised surface incorporates air outlets and a quadratic analogue clock with elegant dial. This time piece, surrounded by an elegant chrome frame, has the air of a valuable piece of jewellery, and forms an agreeable counterpoint to the high-tech equipment features.
The discreet chrome embellishment on the lower edges of the wood trim parts meets high standards of styling and craftsmanship. Optionally, underneath these chrome features, a discreet all-round downward-directed ambient lighting strip can be fitted, which creates a special lighting ambience inside the new S-Class.
High-class wood trim is also used extensively on the centre front armrests and rear armrests. As well as stressing the luxurious character of the interior, this also enhances its stylistic unity and coherence, since all parts of the interior are visibly part of an integrated design.
In part, the elegant interior appearance is due to perfectly coodinated use of materials. Besides various select woods, other first-class materials include aluminium and leather. One example of the meticulous craftsmanship is the striking quilting seams on the instrument hoods. Wherever they offer the best solution, plastics too are used in the Mercedes-Benz flagship. For example the fine leather grain effect on the dashboard and centre console can only be achieved by applying a high-quality polyurethane moulded skin. This advanced technique is able to adapt to the very tight radii which are indispensable if the best possible impression of quality is to be presented.
The seat covers likewise meet the highest standards. In addition to high-quality fabrics there is a choice of two different leather upholsteries. The leather upholstery is relatively loose-fitting, which creates a ruffled effect and immediately creates a comfortable and inviting appearance – a pleasant visual impression which is confirmed by touching the soft surface of the new PASSION leather.
If the customer opts for Exclusive Passion leather, the fine nappa leather is used throughout the cockpit area. Using this material it has for the first time been possible to produce an invisible passenger airbag tear seam. A special tear line on the underside of the leather ensures that the airbag deploys correctly in a serious collision.
Two large colour displays in the centre of the dashboard
Both technically and stylistically, the newly developed control and display system used in the new S-Class is in keeping with the refined and assured character of this luxury saloon, combining first-class materials and elegant ambience with clarity of appearance and outstanding practicality. Two eight-inch colour displays are positioned at the centre of the dashboard. One serves as a speedometer as well as displaying many other types of information which need to be sited directly in the driver's line of vision. The second display, located to the side of the first and near to the centre of the vehicle, serves as the screen for the further improved control and display system COMAND.
These displays and controls too received attention from the Mercedes designers. The technical term for this branch of styling is "user interface design". Together with the engineers, the designers found new ways to present the large array of important information and programming functions as elegantly and unambiguously as possible. The result is intuitive operation and enhanced driver wellbeing.
On the first display, the analogue animated speedometer is tastefully surrounded by an unobtrusive grey circle. If the driver accesses information which will be shown in the central area of this display, the speedometer needle is dimmed for unimpaired visibility. The driver controls the relevant functions by gentle thumb pressure on two circular five-way buttons on the further improved multifunction steering wheel.
Moving on to the COMAND display, here the designers have created a new, simple and clearly structured menu system featuring large, clearly legible characters. Modern colours and clear, photorealistic graphics make accessing the menus a visual delight. Thus in the new S-Class, Mercedes-Benz has implemented a highly advanced control and display system in which elegance and cleverly thought-out functionality are neatly dovetailed.
Elegantly contrasting silver and black
Consistent, high-class styling is a hallmark of the switches and controls, too. All switches, buttons and rotary controls are of aluminium or, like the air outlets, are metallised with a finely ribbed surface. They form an elegant contrast with black-painted, glossy surfaces with internally illuminated symbols.
In addition to their decidedly elegant appearance, the switches and controls are also outstanding from the functional point of view. This is apparent every time they are operated. All the controls have a clearly defined pressure point which is also signalled by a discreet audible click. In this way every single control embodies the feel, sound and attention to detail which the customer expects of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Colours and materials: exclusive leather and select woods
As well as providing high standards of comfort, the seats in the new S-Class are also designed to provide effective support if an energetic driving style is adopted. The seats are loosely upholstered, which accentuates the soft feel of the new leather materials used in the S-Class. The high-quality PASSION aniline leather upholstery, also available in "Exclusive PASSION" version, was specially developed for the new S-Class and even in the luxury class sets new standards. The key to its natural appearance, its softness and its pleasant feel is that only the finest raw material has been used.
When matching the interior colour scheme and ambience of their Mercedes-Benz S-Class to their own personal tastes, customers can now resort to an even wider range of possibilities than with the previous model. The dashboard can be black at the top and lighter underneath, or can be offered in four other interior colours in a graduated range of tones which produce interesting colour effects.
In addition to the various types of leather and five interior colours, three different types of wood trim are also available, including for the first time a matt version. This opens up further possibilities for combining materials and colours to suit a wide range of personal tastes. The base-version black interior with fabric upholstery is combined with polished "calyptus" wood. Optionally, light burr walnut (silk matt) and dark brown burr walnut (high-gloss) are also available. To make the decision easier, the Mercedes-Benz designers have come up with three ready-compiled colour scheme "recommendations" to cater for different sty-listic requirements:
  • All-black interior for vehicles used as a luxury business saloon
  • Classically elegant light-coloured, grey or beige interior in a graduated range of tones
  • Interior in two contrasting colours – black/basalt grey or black/sand beige/black – for a particularly sporty feel and added individuality.