Friday, January 30, 2009

Design Assessment: 2010 Mercedes-Benz W212 E-Class

Ever since the mid-1990s, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been an especially handsome car. The W210 from the late 1990s employed the usual three box design, but with its broad shoulder line and clean sheetmetal, it sure is a looker, especially in AMG guise with deep-dish five-spoke AMG Monoblock IIs. Much like it was the W211 E-Class, yet with a more curvaceous body and sleeker profile. Far more elegant than the W210, the W211 is a design that will go recognized for years to come. It’s just so well put together that even—dare I say—the Italians couldn’t have done any better. Although a little more conservative when compared to the BMW 5-Series, it remained loyal to Mercedes’ design roots. The same can’t exactly be said however for the W212.

At first glance, yes, the new E-Class does seem rather elegant and there’s no denying it. Mercedes-Benz has always maintained that on their resume under quality attributes, of course without the brash and rankness, and of course the astronomical pricing of a Bentley or Rolls. On top of being elegant it also maintains the typical German Teutonic look, with its high rolling shoulder line, side panel creases, and that bulge at the rear wheel well. But this has probably got to be the ugly bastard child of in the family of redesigned Mercedes-Benzes, most specifically the W221 S-Class, W216 CL, and the W204 C-Class.

The front is where the car looks best as the inherited cues from the S-Class, such as the high rolling shoulder line, roofline, and sloping C-Pillar; and the C-Class with the hood following the shoulder line and stopping at the bottom of the A-Pillar. And of course the front is complimented with the usual large chrome grill, a hood ornament, and four-eyed headlights which are traditional to the E-Class as of the late 1990s E-Class, to be speaking in modern terms.
All looks proper from the front and through the passenger compartment, but from there it goes completely all wrong. It’s almost as if Lexus, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz all had a threesome and Mercedes was the one to end up with the STD of complete and utter blandness in the rear. Those taillights look like something off of a cheap wannabe luxomobile.
The idea behind the E-Class and C-Class was that they were always supposed to look like the big daddy S-Class, except in smaller proportions and while the new W204 C-Class maintains that, it just doesn’t with the E. And what’s with those foglights on the lower front fascia…It’s like the designer came up with a group of unique fixtures to the car—the foglights being the most important to him/her/them—and ran out of places to put them, so impulsively he just plopped them in the place where they should be by generic design tradition. And then the wheels just look way too small for the car, especially with the way the body is shaped.

The interior on the other hand doesn't look as bad as the exterior does. Control layout and ergonomics are once again traditional Mercedes Benz, and the center stack remains to be as vertical as the Berlin Wall. But it some how manages to come across as something from Vauxhall, control layout, and center storage bins and cupholders included. The gauge cluster keeps up with Mercedes' large speedometer with a large—but smaller in comparison to the speedo—clock to the left, and a tachometer to the right with the fuel and temperature gauges at the sides respectively; all back lit in a cool blue and embedded into what looks to be machined aluminum trim. It all looks inspiring with great visibility of the clusters. The steering wheel on the other hand is uglier than a troll, but the AMG Sport Packaged sport steering wheel looks like something from their arch rivals at BMW with a beefy rim, and shaped grips at the 10 and 2 positions.

I of course reserve complete judgment until I see the car in the flesh but just by photos, I can say this is the ugliest E-Class since well, forever. It will probably grow on me in the same way controversial styles such as the BMW 7-Series have. But until then, no props to the Three-Pointed Star.

~Chris Chin

Photos Courtesy: MBUSA