Exterior design: Love at first sight

Jan 27, 2017

Every vehicle’s appearance induces an emotional response. Creating desirability is one of the primary tasks of the Mercedes‑Benz design team. Proportions, surfaces and details are the crucial elements for vehicles from Mercedes‑Benz. The overarching design philosophy of Sensual Purity is defined by six guidelines of the Design Code. This unique design philosophy is interpreted and developed accordingly for each model, ensuring that each model series acquires its own distinct character while nevertheless always remaining recognisably Mercedes‑B enz.

The forms and proportions of all vehicles from the Daimler group are defined in the area of exterior design. The products of the core Mercedes‑Benz brand in particular are on the roads throughout the world as the company’s most important ambassadors. From A-Class to Actros: every vehicle sporting the Mercedes star must embody and communicate the brand’s core values of emotion and intelligence in convincing fashion.

“A car must be intelligent and attractive”, says Robert Lesnik, Head of Exterior Design. “All good vehicle designs of the past were lavish and sensual – that is what makes the classic vehicles so sought-after today. The ideal of beauty embodied in these forms is simply attractive”. All designs embrace this heady mix of “hot” and “cool”, form and function, sophisticated and simple.

Lesnik adds: “We strive for exciting, muscular forms, complemented by enlivening contrasts between material, colour and form. Precision and sophisticated high-tech are brought to life by vital lines. Exciting proportions manifest energy and hold everything together. The sensual shaping of a vehicle’s shoulders lends a design added appeal”.

The essence: proportions bring a design to life

“Proportions are the essential component of vehicle design”, Lesnik points out. “And stunning proportions are a Mercedes hallmark. We want everything to be in the right place - particularly when we are striving to achieve the ideal of simplicity. Then we can take away another line here and there. Our direction is towards even greater purity. We invest things with form through surfaces, rather than lines. The surfaces are structured by light. This involves a highly sophisticated approach rich in nuances”. The Head of Exterior Design sums up this course of development in a nutshell: “Creases have had their day”.

Work begins in the conceptual phase with the first proportion studies and finishes with the formal release for production of the fully developed vehicle. This includes all details, as these influence the customer’s overall experience. The principle of Sensual Purity also applies to headlamps, wheels, grilles and different model variants. The challenge is to design something new and surprising which is nevertheless immediately recognisable as being typically Mercedes. The headlamps - the car’s “eyes” - serve as an example here: to lend it a special radiance, the S‑Class Coupé features both the “eyebrow” design of the daytime running lamps and Swarovski crystals in its headlamps. In contrast, the headlamps of the new E‑Class have been designed as a glass sculpture and conjure up a gentle light curtain. In addition to these “hot” emotions, both headlamp designs also fulfil a “cool”, intelligent purpose: they feature a three-dimensional shape and in addition to ensuring good visibility at night the signature appearance of the daytime running lamps also provides for a distinctive Mercedes look in the daytime.

The design philosophy is defined by firmly established principles. All Mercedes‑Benz model series are designed according to these guidelines of the Design Code. Key factors are an awareness of the brand’s unique history combining intelligence and emotion, a new design idiom wedding sensuality with purist clarity and the courage to refuse to accept limitations as given, instead transcending existing boundaries with innovative ideas to realise desirable automotive visions (further information on the Design Code is to be found in the dedicated section).

The design philosophy is subject to ongoing further development. The exclusive sporty E-Class Coupé represents the next step in the ongoing development of the Mercedes‑Benz design idiom in the area of production vehicles. Boasting perfect proportions, it demonstrates a purist design featuring an emphasis on surfaces, reduced lines and sensual forms. Hot and cool at once, the minimalist design idiom represents beauty and elegance while emphasizing the sporty and luxurious personality of this exclusive E-Class variant.

Golden proportions: creases have had their day

The sculpture “Aesthetics A” shows how the design philosophy of Sensual Purity will be manifested in the not too distant future. With this work, the Mercedes‑Benz designers present a vision of a saloon in the compact segment which is stripped down to the essential body. The work is the latest in a series of sculptures from Mercedes‑Benz entitled “Aesthetics”, which to date comprises the “Aesthetics No. 1” (2010), “Aesthetics No. 2”, “Aesthetics 125” (both 2011) and “Aesthetics S” (2012).

“Concept EQ”: exterior design featuring a new electro-look

The study “Concept EQ” (premiered at the 2016 Paris Motor Show) demonstrates how the Mercedes‑Benz design philosophy can shape vehicles of a new generation: The electric car offers a distinctive avant-garde, cutting-edge electro-look. At the same time, the design of the visionary show car, which has been reduced to the essentials, reveals an alluring progressivity.

The monolithic basic form of “Concept EQ” unites the genes of an SUV with the dynamic character of a coupé and a dash of shooting brake at the rear end. The squat, elongated greenhouse gives rise to muscular purist proportions. The new electro-look results from the signature front and rear graphics and a flowing transition from the gleaming black bonnet across the windscreen to the dark-tinted panoramic roof – an exciting contrast to the alubeam silver paintwork.

Scarcely visible body panel joins, concealed windscreen wipers, cameras instead of exterior mirrors and an absence of conventional door handles emphasise the stretched, dynamic silhouette, lending the SUV a seamless appearance while reducing its air resistance. An intentionally reduced side view, broad shoulders and large 21-inch light-alloy wheels make for a dynamic presence even before the vehicle moves off. Such dynamism is set to be unleashed in the near future.

Design for commercial vehicles: as important as for passenger cars

The principles of the design philosophy also apply to the commercial vehicles from Mercedes‑Benz. Kai Sieber, Head of Design Brands & Operations, is responsible for commercial vehicle design: “For Mercedes‑Benz especially, the core brand values must also be communicated convincingly by the design of commercial vehicles. While their essential character may differ to that of passenger cars, our large vehicles are also required to embody intelligent solutions and the means to delight customers”.

The designers at Daimler AG are also responsible for designing the commercial vehicles - spanning the European Mercedes‑Benz range, vehicles marketed under the same brand name in Brazil, Freightliner and Western Star in the USA, Mitsubishi-Fuso in Japan, Bharat-Benz in India and Evobus. A global approach is crucial here, as the designers are required to generate synergies. While each brand needs its own identity, individual components must be interchangeable.

Thinking in modules represents the greatest challenge for the global commercial vehicles network, in order to generate synergies while at the same time accommodating specific market requirements. The Atego which is produced in Germany looks different to the model built in Brazil, for example. The ambit for the designers in Sindelfingen does not end with the Mercedes‑Benz Actros, Atego, Antos, Arocs, Unimog, Zetros and Econic models, however, but extends beyond this to the next generation, taking in the Future Truck 2025, the Urban eTruck, the Vision Van and the Future Bus.

Urban eTruck: a realistic design study

The Urban eTruck design study is extremely innovative and both attractive and intelligent. Far from being fanciful in character, the futuristic-looking cab is based on the cab of the standard Mercedes‑Benz Antos distribution truck. The cab’s forms are gentle and flowing, extremely minimalist and succinct – with no visible joints to spoil the seamless appearance. The Urban eTruck embodies the Mercedes‑Benz design philosophy of Sensual Purity and the polarity between “hot” and “cool” produces the contrasting character which is a hallmark of Mercedes‑Benz design.

The Future Truck 2025: surprisingly different

The Future Truck 2025 demonstrates how surprising and sophisticated truck design can be. The designers decided to “hide” its face while at the same time giving it a rounder and friendlier design. Only after starting up the engine does the radiator grille become visible in a gentle white light. This switches to a peaceful blue, pulsating light when the truck is moving in automated mode. The sparsity of lines featuring in the design lends these lines a special importance. The windscreen features an “eyebrow” whose appearance gives the front a certain trustworthy air. In defining the proportions for the front of the vehicle, the designers drew their inspiration from the Fibonacci arc – the Italian mathematician from the 13th century attempted to translate the golden proportions of nature into geometric forms.

Vision Van: revolutionary van study

The Daimler designers are also responsible for van design. The V-Class occupies a special position here as an MPV within the passenger car range. The V-Class is not only intelligent but also highly emotional, by virtue of its design. The V-Class’s counterpart in the commercial vehicle range is the Vito. While embodying a different character, the Vito’s exterior features a clear and sensual front and rear design. It is the interior which fundamentally distinguishes the V-Class from the Vito: modern luxury for the V-Class and modern purity for the Vito.

The company’s Vision Van is a revolutionary van study for the urban environment. The fascinating overall composition of emotion and intelligence provides a further example of accomplished application of the Sensual Purity design idiom. With sensual surfaces and perfect proportions in contrast to very clear forms, the design underscores the vehicle’s function as a platform of an intelligently networked delivery vehicle of the future. The highly complex technology is embodied in absolutely minimalist design on both the exterior and interior, making it extremely user-friendly without detracting from the vehicle’s aesthetic appeal in any way.

smart design: “One and a half box" design as an evolutionary development

The company’s smallest model series, smart, also falls within the remit of the Daimler AG designers, again under the direction of Kai Sieber. The design of the smart fortwo, smart fortwo cabrio and smart forfour is clear, purist and very progressive, thus reflecting what smart stands for: FUN.ctional design. This brand is shaped by the two poles of emotionality and rationality. The current smart features the so-called “one and a half box” design, an evolutionary development of the vehicle’s profile.

The most distinctive smart hallmark is the tridion cell, which lends the vehicles a sculptural volume while also representing a unique graphic feature which is recognisable from afar. The predominant characteristic aspect here is the use of contrasting colours for the tridion cell and the bodypanels/body. The special features further include the profile with the ultra-short overhangs, the clear lines and forms and the further refined “ friendly face”, with the hallmark smart grille as a defining feature.

Mercedes-AMG GT
Future Truck 2025
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé; 2016; exterior: designo hyacinth red metallic, AVANTGARDE
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé; 2016; exterior: designo hyacinth red metallic, AVANTGARDE
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé; 2016; exterior: designo hyacinth red metallic, AVANTGARDE; model series C238
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé; 2016; exterior: designo hyacinth red metallic, AVANTGARDE
Generation EQ, exterior
Generation EQ, exterior, inductive charging platform
Generation EQ, exterior, 21-inch wheels
Generation EQ, exterior, studio, dark-tinted panoramic roof