W203 C-Class Design Studies
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C-Class W203 Design Studies
 
24 graphics and photos below optimized for 800x600 screen resolution 499KB
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A design sketch photographed from a computer's workstation monitor.

All graphics and photos by DaimlerChrysler, further preparation for the web by MBEP webmaster.
All texts in "this is text" by DC, all other text by MBEP webmaster.
DC design team members please note that some of the graphics and photos are isolated from other graphics and photos and that some designers autographs were changed in colour and/or size and/or location to fit into the specially prepared graphics for this web page.

MB's new mid-size sedan C-Class W203 already is on the market since two months - so it's high time to show the design studies, isn't it ?  ;-)
The sketches and especially the models show how the new series could have looked like. The very first design work began at least at in June 1994 - that's nearly exactly six years before production started.
Besides the resulting design studies it's particularly interesting that different tools and media are being used in the design process: Paper and pens, on-screen computer graphics, virtual-reality equipment and scale models.

DaimlerChrysler defined its design target as follows:
"Character formation - this was the designers’ brief. They were tasked with giving the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class a dynamic character which both instills affection and from the very first glance leaves no doubt about its pedigree. In short, the resulting sedan had to visually reflect Mercedes-Benz’s new, progressive brand image.
But, in addition to sporty dynamics and youthful attractiveness, the remit also specified embodying the typical elegance of a Mercedes sedan.
The design of the new C-Class is a study in integration. It unites different worlds and spontaneously grabs the attention of people with completely different aspirations and interests. Three design and equipment lines - Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde - simplify the realization of individual wishes in terms of form, colors and materials."
Can the new C-Class meet this definition? You can find my personal opinion at the end of this page.
MBEP webmaster July 2000
 
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It all begins with a sheet of paper and a pen.
 
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The colourization dramatically adds to the 'reality' of the sketches.
 
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Two designs being radically different from all the rest - futuristic and conventional at the same time.
 
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Much more "tame" designs, but already clearly showing variations of the "Updated interpretation of twin-headlamp face" as DaimlerChrysler calls it. Following is the full DC explanation:
"The headlamps are again character-shaping features. While the famous twin-headlamp face of the E-Class in 1995 was the visible signal of a new departure for the Mercedes-Benz brand, the C-Class re-interprets this symbolism, thereby marking the launch of the next stage in Mercedes-Benz’s product offensive.
Although the sedan's four ”eyes” are still identifiable , the design of the new C-Class has seen the oval headlamps merge into harmonious units in line with the basic brief of integration. The hood and fenders pick up this rounded finish and continue it backwards in sweeping curves, forming elegant sheet-steel sculptures. Associations with the human anatomy are inescapable, as the shape of the fenders is reminiscent of the muscles of trained athletes.
Seen through the eyes of the designers, these athletic forms enhance the width of the car's body, giving a powerful appearance particularly when viewed from the front. This effect is reinforced by the bumper which is perfectly integrated in the bodywork with the discreetly molded spoiler edges in the lower section and the front fog lamps, especially as all the components use the same paintwork - in body color - and therefore present a unified whole in color terms too.
The interplay of dynamics and elegance is also seen in the radiator grille and headlamps. The designers have skillfully worked with different rake angles here to draw attention to the new C-Class’s two features: while the slightly raked headlamps are reminiscent of a sports car, the fins and webs of the radiator grille are decidedly more upright. The effect of optically stretching the hood in this way is to give the car power and elegance. This is particularly noticeable in the Elegance and Avantgarde lines where the radiator grille has a high-gloss paint finish and is trimmed with chrome strips."
 
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Of course DC has as much to say about the rear as they had about the front:
"Compact proportions at the tail The tail has been deliberately designed to contrast with the hood of the new Mercedes sedan - at least as far as proportions are concerned. The designers have done this to reinforce the wedge-shaped outline of the body while guiding the eye unfailingly to the car's beating heart.
At the same time, they have ensured a dynamic, compact appearance by means of the short tail. Because, although the new C-Class at around 4.53 meters is ten centimeters longer than the outgoing model, it still remains an agile and maneuverable car with good visibility. And ”short” with regard to the tail design is not to be equated in any way with ”small” because the trunk lid opens to reveal a family-sized luggage space with a capacity of up to 455 liters (measured in accordance with the VDA method).
Like the headlamps, the rear lamps are now also regarded as typical stylistic elements of new Mercedes models with a sporty yet elegant character. The tail lamp covers extend in a wedge shape into the flanks of the body, underlining the car's sporty lines. This overlapping lamp design was first used on a standard-production car in the SLK roadster and then also caught the eye in the S-Class and the top of the range CL coupé - not just because of its striking shape but also as an integrating style element for formally linking the side and tail sections.
You want more? No problem, DC continues:
Body and fenders create a unified whole in terms of both form and color Further similarities with other Mercedes models are seen in the V-shaped cut-out in the tail of the new C-Class, which is also formed by the tail lamps. They ensure the formal integration of the entire rear end – creating the visual links between the fenders, trunk lid and bumper. At the same time, the trapezoidal tail lamp design and the large-format bumper emphasize the width of the sedan, which therefore also makes a particularly powerful impression
from the rear. The bumper merges almost seamlessly into the body and also forms a unified entity in color terms with the elegant metal skirt.
The area in the V-shaped cut-out between the tail lamps is reserved exclusively for the trunk lid which swivels very high to facilitate access to the load compartment. The spoiler edge on the trunk lid is discreet but aerodynamically very effective as it reduces the lift on the rear axle and therefore increases handling safety."
Ok, that should now really be enough from DC about the rear, shouldn't it?
 
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"Process: computer design
The Mercedes designers made consistent use of new, forward-looking technologies for the first time in the design process for the new C-Class. Although drawing pads and crayons are still very popular tools for sketching new shapes, designers are reaching ever more frequently for their mouse and electronic graphics tablet. Computers are revolutionizing the car design process. They enable many variants of a model to be tested, to be changed with minimum input and the results to be compared very quickly with the specifications of the design brief. And all this without having built a model, bent a sheet of metal or molded a dashboard. In other words, computers multiply the creative opportunities while saving time and money.
Even the first, draft computer designs of the new C-Class, which were still two-dimensional, very quickly revealed whether the stylistic proposals were compatible with the dimensional concept which had been specified at an early stage. This basic data is stored in the computer's electronic memory as what is called a proportional model and serves as a reliable reference for the designers at every design stage to enable them to match their visions to reality. Are the angles of rake of the windshield and A-pillar correct? Is the hood high enough to accommodate all the engine versions? The computer answers such questions at the click of a mouse.

Journey to the third dimension
However, the effect of the various draft designs which appeared on the computer screen in accordance with these specifications could only really be assessed once the third dimension was added. The designers created this spatial effect by defining the surfaces of their draft designs using programs specially developed for automotive design. The computer had to perform complex calculations until it finally set a fascinating process in train: hundreds of surfaces formed on the monitor within seconds to create a complete sedan which could now be rotated at will on the screen and viewed from any angle. The computer data for the draft design at this stage occupied some 20 Megabytes - though this figure was later exceeded many times over once even more details had been incorporated.
The ”Power Wall” took the process one stage further. This operates on the same principle, but projects a life-size 1:1 scale image with a realistic impression of depth and in even greater detail."
 
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On the left-hand side is an interesting sketch, showing similarities to the 'Coca-Cola' bottle car design style of the early 1970`s, with an upward curve above the rear wheel.
The right-hand side sketch is very close to the final car, only things like the wheels and the door sills are a bit different - for the final car see the photo row directly below.
 
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For comparison here are a 1:4 scale clay model and a photo of the final car side-by-side.
DaimlerChrysler themselves say about the design of the car's flanks:
"Pronounced wedge-shaped body and powerful shoulders
Seen from the side too, the dynamic character of the new C-Class is the dominant first impression. This is ensured primarily by the pronounced wedge-shaped body which is particularly defined by the curve along the waistline. The conscious emphasis on what is generally known as the waistline actually calls to mind the broad shoulders of a well-built athlete, topped by the side windows, roof pillars and roof. This line runs continuously from the front to the rear end, giving form to the power of the body - particularly at the rear where the striking C-pillars meet it and jointly define the form of the rear end."
 
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Clay models with applied paint folios showing the flow of light - giving a much more realistic impression than the pure clay model can.
 
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The left-hand sketch showing a very prominent position of the central display, weak point of the positioning of the "Comand" systems in all actual production MB's is that they are positioned too low.
 
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The sketch on the left clearly shows conventional round instruments, unlike with the final car, which can be seen on the projection in the 'cave' on the right hand side.
"The ”Cave” is the name given by the stylists to the room where a computer generates draft design images which are so realistic and three-dimensional that you feel you could get straight into the car. It is an acronym for ”Computer Aided Virtual Environment” and opens the door to another reality for car designers: virtual reality (VR). Four powerful projectors, termed ”beamers” by the experts, generate the virtual car. Each projects a specially calculated image onto one of the four projection surfaces in the ”Cave”: the floor, the rear wall and the two side walls. Each measures three meters by three meters, which adds up to a total projection area of 36 square meters. The projection initially seems two-dimensional to the viewer, but putting on 3D glasses creates the fascinating spatial image."
 
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So at the end with the photo above in mind which shows some more W203 1:1 scale models aside other MB models the question to be answered is: Did DC succeed in reaching its design target defined as "a dynamic character" and the "visual reflection of Mercedes-Benz’s new, progressive brand image" ?
Yes - on the one hand: The car is dynamic and it shows many similarities to the second-newest MB sedan, the bigger S-Class which definitely embodies MB`s new brand image.
But the answer also is "no", because on the other hand the design is very traditional, not featuring any leading new details: A chance has been missed to get ahead of the competition in terms of design.

All graphics and photos above by DaimlerChrysler, further preparation for the web by MBEP webmaster.
All texts in "this is text" by DC, all other text by MBEP webmaster.


Those who are interested in design studies of the current S- or E-Class please click below:
a99f4518760sm.jpg W220 S-Class Design Studies
w210stu4s.jpg W210 E-Class Design Studies

Last revised technically: Sept. 11th 2000...Visits since July 8th 2000. [Sign Guestbook]
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