Design: Cast from a single mould

Sep 11, 2007
  • Effortless superiority, sportiness and functionality as design cues
  • Estate rear end merges perfectly into the new Mercedes style
  • Radiator grille an identifying feature of model lines
  • Two-tone interior colour scheme right through to load compartment
Designing an estate car calls for more skill and creativity on the part of the design team than virtually any other task. Simply because they have to find a way of reconciling seemingly contradictory requirements. Functionality and aesthetic appeal, utility value and agility, versatility and style - they all have to be harmonised with one another to offer customers exactly what they are looking for from a sophisticated vehicle of this ilk: a powerful and, above all, independent character.
Not only does the new C-Class Estate fully live up to this expectation, it also succeeds in clearly expressing the core trademark qualities of the new Mercedes design idiom: effortless superiority, refinement and power. This is achieved by a design concept that follows the principles of modern purism and revolves around the dialogue between tautly drawn lines and large, tranquil surfaces. By deliberately dispensing with all visual detours or superfluous embellishments in this way, the majestic power of the new Mercedes models that stems from the exceptional technology within can be experienced visually too.
This boldly expressive style is all the more obvious when viewed from the side. It also becomes quite clear that Saloon and Estate were developed and styled simultaneously and that this is the reason why the two body variants speak a common design language. The estate rear was an integral component of the overall design concept from the very beginning; not only does it emerge from the existing flow of lines, it maintains the same flow throughout. Take the shoulder line, for instance: it emanates organically from the front wing before following the beltline back to the vehicle's tail, forming an important visual reference point that suggests power and solidity.
This broad, muscular "shoulder" supporting the side windows, roof pillars and roof also appears to form the foundation for the restyled D-pillar. Taking the shoulder line as its base, the D-pillar extends the line's sweeping momentum upwards to the point where it meets the arching line of the roof. This creates an overall impression of flawless uniformity and harmony - an Estate that looks to have been cast from a single mould.
In contrast to its predecessor, the D-pillar - and therefore the Estate's rear end as a whole - is angled far more steeply. By styling the rear in this way the designers fulfilled the "functionality" portion of their remit, as it gives the new Estate considerably more load capacity.
Feature line: interplay between light and shadow
The so-called feature line is every bit as characteristic of the Mercedes design idiom. It emerges from the front wheel arch and runs below the shoulder line, rising towards the rear to add an air of sporting elegance to the vehicle's appearance. At the same time, this typical Mercedes styling feature forms a boundary between the convex and concave door surfaces, thereby creating an fascinating interplay between light and shadow. Body-coloured door handles blend into the side aspect, ensuring that the eye is drawn to the key design elements.
Silhouette: elongated with rippling "muscles"
The long, uninterrupted silhouette of the side windows - enclosed by the beltline trim strip below and the standard chrome drip rail moulding running along their circumference - combines with the black pillar panelling to give the body as a whole an elongated and most elegant appearance. However, the Estate's sporty attributes are by no means neglected either. This is ensured by the new proportions of the body, which measures 55 millimetres longer than the preceding model, as well as the wider track, large wheel arches and the wings with their distinctive, body-hugging styling that causes them to arch tightly over the wheels like the toned muscles of a high-performance athlete.
17-inch wheels - which are standard equipment on the C 320 CDI and C 350 six-cylinder models as well as for the AVANTGARDE line and the AMG sports package - fill the wheel arches and emphasise the powerful, athletic look even further.
The attractively styled tail light clusters form focal points in every sense. They serve as visual links between the side and rear-end design, guiding the observer's gaze to the tail's striking breadth - an impression which is further amplified by the tailgate's wide handle strip and the prominent bumper with its slightly convex edges, and which is an unmistakable symbol of power.
Front section: sports car radiator grille for AVANTGARDE
Just like on the Saloon, the front section of the Estate has the most prominent role to play in terms of typifying the various equipment versions. Never before has Mercedes-Benz distinguished the different lines and, by so doing, expressed their specific qualities quite so clearly:
  • On the CLASSIC and ELEGANCE models, the three-dimensionally formed saloon-style radiator grille symbolises attributes such as solidity and comfort – but also a touch of luxury. Here, superiority and style go hand in hand. The lower air intake is given substance by three black louvres.
  • As for the AVANTGARDE line, the large, centrally positioned Mercedes star and the three deepened, chrome-trimmed slats immediately attract attention. These are typical design features of sporty Mercedes models which, in this case, leave no doubt as to the character of the AVANTGARDE model. Other telltale features include the black-painted, sports-car-like perforated grille covering the lower air intake, as well as the chrome surrounds around the fog lamps and in the lower section of the bumper covering.
Like the radiator grille, the headlamps of the Estate convey a message that is in line with the hallmark qualities of the new C-Class, namely precision. The projection-beam headlamps are shrouded in coloured, translucent cylinders which are reminiscent of top-quality camera lenses, underlining the models' high-tech character. The clear-lens design affords a view of the lighting technology within and accentuates the sparkling effect of the headlamps in strong sunlight. If the C‑Class is equipped with bi-xenon headlamps, the translucent areas of the cylinders are even larger than with halogen headlamps, producing a characteristic appearance even at nighttime. Just as elegant are the flat, upper headlamp covers with their fine chrome strips which follow the contour of the bonnet to the front, right up to the light boundary of the lenses. This styling finesse and painstaking attention to detail on the part of the designers results in a harmonious overall blend of form and function.
Dashboard: harmonious interface between exterior and interior
The interior styling takes its lead from and, indeed, fuses with the exterior's design idiom. The V-shape of the front section provides just one example of this: it is traced backwards by a crisp line running up the centre of the bonnet, before the dashboard picks up the flow and maintains it all the way to the centre console. Once again, therefore, the principle of monolithic design is very much in evidence.
With the dynamically tapered centre console and the horizontally-split dashboard, the Mercedes designers have produced a stark contrast which divides up the cockpit. Everything has a light and tidy feel.
When it came to appointing the cockpit, Mercedes designers drew their inspiration from sporty role models and included round, clearly laid-out dials such as may be found in roadsters or coupés. Silver-coloured bezels, black faces, white markings and glowing orange needles perfectly combine form with function for a high-quality feel plus easy legibility. The special character of the AVANTGARDE model variant is accentuated by a metallic-look backplate.
Door trim: marking a framework with form and colour
The door trim is also in keeping with the "design cast from a single mould" principle. It continues the horizontal, two-part division of the dashboard, thereby forming a framework for an interior in which the occupants feel even more secure. Depending on the chosen appointments, this feel-good effect is reinforced by the two-tone colour scheme of the interior, with the darker, contrasting colour continued from the upper section of the dashboard to the door linings extending as a feature right into the Estate's load compartment.
In this way, the entire rear compartment has been incorporated into the Estate's colour concept for the first time. On CLASSIC and ELEGANCE models, both the carpet in the load compartment and the side trim match the customer's selected appointments colour. And folding down the rear seats produces an expansive load floor lined in soft velour carpet all of the same colour, because the backs of the rear seats are carpeted too.
Depending on the line, the interior trim is either of aluminium (AVANTGARDE), fine wood (ELEGANCE) or has an elegant piano-lacquer look (CLASSIC). For an individual colour scheme, the warm tone-in-tone combination of savanna beige/cashmere beige is available for the ELEGANCE line, while more striking colour highlights can be created if leather upholstery is specified for AVANTGARDE models. Apart from black, Mercedes-Benz also offers the following smart colour combinations: reef grey, black/cognac brown and black/sahara beige.
EASY-PACK: form meets function
The Mercedes designers' proverbial attention to detail manifests itself in more than just the new controls and displays. The elements of the EASY-PACK system likewise bear their signature. The components of the novel new load compartment package - which allows owners to subdivide the load space as they please and secure loads firmly in place - are a perfect illustration of this. A telescopic bar, retractable belt and load-securing rings all form part of this optional extra, which goes under the name of the EASY-PACK load-securing kit. The design team took meticulous care not only in forming the parts themselves, but also in developing the high-class surface material which is so pleasant to the touch. Yet another example of how fine form and flawless function can form a perfect match.