New A Class Design - New Colours etc

Design: Dynamism right down the line

  • Exterior: groundbreaking one-box design which highlights renewed vigour

  • Three or five doors: two distinct characters with common roots

  • Interior: refined ambience full of inspired touches

  • Digital design: creating by computer

Stuttgart, Jun 29, 2004
Powerful, self-assured, dynamic – the designers at Mercedes-Benz had their sights firmly set on infusing these attributes as they formulated their initial ideas for the new A-Class. Fired by this goal, the young, inspirational design team succeeded in producing a model whose firm contours and taut lines seem to bristle with forwards drive, even when it is at a standstill. At the same time, the A-Class has done a great deal of growing up. Its appearance is much more solid and wide-set, while every last element of playfulness has been eliminated from the design to boldly reveal a new character, full of power and vigour.

Anyone encountering the new A-Class will find that it immediately stirs up two feelings inside them: on the one hand, its sporty, powerful form provokes a desire to take the wheel, while the striking yet delicately balanced lines coupled with the meticulously sculpted bodywork details fuel the onlooker's appreciation of precision crafts-manship. The dynamic charisma and aura of masterful quality blend into a harmonious symbiosis. The design of the new A-Class has thereby succeeded in combining form and function to strike an ideal balance between allure and rationality, or, to put it in a nutshell, to create a car blessed with both emotion and intelligence.

The unmistakable one-box concept has been carefully honed by the designers. The new A-Class features the same steeply rising nose leading into a domed roof and tail-gate that falls away sharply at the rear that characterised the outgoing model. How-ever, the evolutionary process has triggered a growth spurt, with the new A-Class measuring an extra 232 millimetres from nose to tail and an additional 45 millimetres widthways, giving it a much more powerful poise.

This increase in size benefits both the five-door model and the new three-door version, which share the same roof lines, front end and tail. It is only when they are seen side on that the difference between the two becomes strikingly apparent. The coupé-style profile of the three-door variant injects it with an even sportier feel and renewed vigour from almost every perspective, without compromising on styling in any way. The designers intended to create such a distinguishing look right from the start, as they sought to appeal to the young and the young-at-heart.

Front: distinctive face is instantly recognisable

The front end of the new A-Class makes a sporty, powerful impression at first glance, whilst skilfully avoiding any sentiment of aggression. The sweeping lines of the head-lamps enhance the impression of width, whilst their gracefully sculptured form fuses seamlessly into the tidy styling of the front end, providing a perfect example of the design refinements which make the new A-Class the car it is.

The characteristic Mercedes radiator grille rises more steeply than previously, giving it a more dominant feel. The bumpers with integral rub strips at the corners (ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE) provide a powerful finale to the nose, as well as housing front fog lamps with chrome surrounds on either side of the air intake.

Side profile: striking lines denoting forwards drive

The silhouette of the five-door version's body is moulded by a single continuous line which arches in a dynamic curve from front to rear. It starts with the prominently domed form of the bonnet, which flows back directly into the expansive windscreen before sweeping back over the coupé-style domed roof and concluding with the sharp drop at the rear.

The surfaces at the side are divided up by two main lines which also serve to give the car a lower-set appearance: first, the waistline which originates ahead of the mirror triangle then rises up towards the rear to sweep up sharply into the steeply slanted C-pillar in dramatic fashion. Such audacious styling adds a generous portion of visual forwards drive, whilst radiating a sense of sheer dynamism even when stationary. This impression is heightened by the elongated rear window which sweeps into the rear flanks where it meets in a point with the tail lights.

The fact that the colour scheme incorporates the mirror triangle and the B-pillar into the surfaces of the side windows to produce the optical effect of a self-contained sur-face adds a further element of dynamism along the vehicle's length. The new window styling, featuring much more expansive side windows than was previously the case, creates a superior sense of spaciousness, particularly for passengers in the rear. At the same time, drivers reap the benefits of a clearer view to the rear.

A sharply angled swage line, which also rises steeply towards the rear, traces a prominent lateral contour which runs back into the large tail light unit where it ends neatly. This character line also appears to elongate the length, at the same time as underlining the sportiness of the new compact car from Mercedes. The interplay between soft curves and sharp corners produces an intriguing image that catches the eye from every angle.

The muscular, broad-set styling of the front wings is a further key visual element in this respect. The wheels fill out the whole wheel housings, while the keen edges of the wheel arches both symbolise precision and help to give the new A-Class a lower-slung appearance. CLASSIC models ride on 15-inch wheels with a new wheel trim design, the ELEGANCE equipment line features 15-inch light-alloy wheels in a seven-hole design, while the AVANTGARDE sports 16-inch, five-spoke light-alloy wheels. The list of vehicle options also includes 17-inch and 18-inch wheels in sporty designs. Both the ELEGANCE and the AVANTGARDE equipment lines include rub strips along the sides too.

Three-door model: sleekness topped with youthful charm

Although the outer silhouette is identical, the styling along the sides of the three-door version clearly sets it apart from the five-door model. As well as restructuring the side view, the longer, coupé-style driver's and front passenger doors also presented the design team at Mercedes-Benz with the scope they needed to remodel the entire rear flank. By positioning the C-pillar at more of a slant, it has been possible to give the windows a more elongated, virtually wedge-like shape, lending visual emphasis to the three-door model's lively temperament.

The designers also sculpted the rear wheel arches on this model variant to be that extra bit more muscular and powerful, adding to the overall impression of length.

These stylistic measures give the three-door model version its distinctive flair and make it appear even sleeker and more dynamic than its five-door counterpart. It ra-diates youthful charm combined with a racy streak, whilst still retaining its genuine Mercedes character.

Rear: elegant styling with broad-set look

When moving round to the rear, both the three-door and five-door version start to speak the same design language again. Of particular note here is the way in which the rear and side sections fuse harmoniously into one another, with the rear window sweeping around into the sporty model's flanks. This lends further emphasis to the impression of width and to the new sense of abundant spaciousness. The large tail light units integrate harmoniously into the design courtesy of an elegant join pattern, and succeed in capturing the sense of supreme handcrafted precision.

Interior: high-grade materials plus streamlined ergonomics

A harmonious synthesis is formed by the exterior on the one hand and the interior on the other speaking a perfectly integrated design language. Both revel in quality and precision, whilst striving to achieve a dynamic, yet mature ambience whose looks and feel are befitting of a Mercedes. In order to achieve this goal in the interior, there has been a conscious move away from the playful character of the outgoing model, as growing up is a question of converting function precisely into form. The unmistak-able character that dominates inside the new A-Class stems from the taut, angular lines, combined with the elaborate integration of interior components. The high-grade materials, as well as the perfect ergonomics and the tremendous precision of the build quality all bear witness to the tremendous attention to detail that has been lav-ished on the new model.

The first impression is one of copious spaciousness that arises both from the expansive windows and from the new form and colour concept, which gives the interior a bright and cheerful feel, as well as a definite element of excitement.

The consistent structuring of the lines clearly demarcates the interior of the new A-Class. The lower edge of the wide, single-section dashboard, for instance, is on a level with the waistline, thereby extending this powerful exterior line into the passenger compartment. The use of homogenous materials produces a smooth transition between the dashboard and the doors, ensuring a seamless connection that carefully avoids any hint of an abrupt change in appearance or feel.

Centre console: vertical trim positioning

The brand new concept for the centre console is underpinned by the same taut design language. It rises up out of the dashboard, with the prominent edges being emphasised further down by vertical trim strips, which neatly frame the left and right of the console. These are one of the hallmark features of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The edging strips in the CLASSIC version have a high-quality, gleaming black-plastic finish, while fine myrtle wood is used for the ELEGANCE line and sporty aluminium strips distinguish the AVANTGARDE models.

Instrumentation and controls: sporty, with fine chrome elements

Drivers now take hold of a restyled black, three-spoke steering wheel with multifunction buttons. Their gaze will immediately be attracted by the clearly arranged dashboard with its high-grade spray-on polyurethane finish and discreetly integrated control panels and air vents. The sporty yet elegant instrument cluster incorporates four dial-type gauges housed in individual tubes, with the speedometer and rev counter being flanked by smaller gauges for the coolant temperature and fuel level. The wealth of driver information resources is completed by a central display nestled between the speedometer and rev counter which includes in-vehicle and trip computers. The gen-erously sized display gauges come with black faces and white digits which ensure optimum legibility whilst also instilling a certain sense of dignified elegance. The chrome ring surrounds for the four dials are also in keeping with the high-class billing.

Fine chrome elements add a touch of finesse at numerous points around the interior of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Adorning the adjuster controls for the air vents, the shift lever, the handbrake lever as well as the handles for opening the glove compartment and the doors, they clearly demonstrate just how much painstaking attention to detail was paid by the designers when appointing the A-Class.

Functionality: a host of practical touches

The design concept clearly demarks the transmission tunnel trim from the centre console. In its standard specification, the new A-Class comes with a flat transmission tunnel trim with no armrest, with customers also able to opt for a raised version featuring an integral armrest. The add-on tunnel unit includes a practical drawer compartment which can also accommodate a mobile phone.

Carefully coordinated fabric designs were specially developed for the upholstered surfaces of the interior door panels, whose pleasantly simple styling helps to heighten the overall high-quality impression made by the interior. The bottom edge of the doors is lined with top-grade plastic with an attractive matt surface which is extremely resistant to scratching. Door sill panels with aluminium inserts provide a clean, crisp finish along the bottom edges of the interior. The seats were also specially developed for the new A-Class and conform with the same characteristic Mercedes design philosophy that runs throughout the vehicle, resulting in the seats' taut contours and excellent levels of comfort.

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Colours: new colour charts

Mercedes-Benz has devised a new individual colour chart to herald the arrival of the new A-Class. It comprises a total of eleven shades, including eight metallic finishes. The new range of colour options also reflects the sense of dynamic maturity that characterises the new A-Class, adding to the high-class looks and feel. Finishes such as atoll blue, dune beige and comet grey correspond to current favourites, but the range also includes a fresh saturn red option. The table below shows a summary:

 

  Non-metallic
  jupiter red night black glacier white
CLASSIC
black X X X
orient beige O X O
black/multicolour X X X
ELEGANCE
black X X X
orient beige O X O
alpaca grey X X X
AVANTGARDE

black

X X X
Optional leather appointments
black X X X
orient beige O X O
alpaca grey X X X

X recommended;
O possible

  Metallic
  saturn
red
atoll
blue
mangrove
green
dune
beige
comet
grey
polar
silver
tropical
black
spring
blue
CLASSIC
black X X X X X X X X
orient
beige
X X X X O   X  
black/
multicolour
X X X X X X X X
ELEGANCE
black X X X X X X X X
orient
beige
X X

X

X O   X  
alpaca
grey
X X X   X X X O
AVANTGARDE
black X X X X X X X X
Optional leather appointments
black X X X X X X X X
orient
beige

X

X X X O   X  
alpaca
grey
X X X   X X X O

X recommended;
O possible

 

 

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Design evolution: the computer takes centre stage

During the development of the sensational new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which will soon be brightening up our roads, the Mercedes-Benz design team adopted a state-of-the-art approach, with the computer functioning as a key design tool from start to finish. The only time that the design process followed traditional practices in any way was in its infant phase, when the designers used free-hand sketches to explore the full scope of possibilities presented to them by the task at hand. However, even at this early stage, some stylists did without paper, preferring instead to sketch directly on the monitor using a graphics tablet.

By so doing, they chose the approach which was eventually used for all of the draft designs which were initially selected: their lines and curves were converted into a dataset which enabled the design concept to be illustrated in three-dimensional form. In the CAD Pool, the designers were then able to harness the powers of digital technology to the full: any alterations were transferred to large wall monitors where they were able to make any necessary refinements instantly, using drawing strokes or by taping over.

By adopting this method, it was possible to produce variants which already tallied with the engineering and dimensional specifications to a high degree with tremendous precision and far quicker than ever before. The selection was narrowed down to nine designs which were then all subject to a critical examination on the "Powerwall". High-performance systems with colossal computational power are able to project the models onto the Powerwall, which measures the width and height of one room, ena-bling the designers to scrutinise and analyse them from every conceivable angle.

The intensive work carried out at the Powerwall was finally rewarded by a highly accurate appraisal of the different designs. The team never intended, however, to make final decisions based on computer-generated models alone. After whittling down the number of designs from nine to just six, the modelling specialists took over and turned the computerised versions into a solid clay version with tactile qualities. This meant that the designers were now able to put the final touches to the contours of the wings and to the headlamp transition lines.

From these six models, the design chief together with the Board of Management short listed three which were produced in a life-size 1 : 1 format. Each and every modification which was made at this stage was transferred directly into the dataset by the digitalisation specialists, to both keep the data constantly up to date, and to make the definitive dataset available to other specialist departments, such as body-work design, for comparison purposes. As a result of this method, it was possible to attain both compelling bodystyling as well as an advanced degree of product maturity at a very early stage.

Again and again, the selected draft designs were projected onto the Powerwall where they assumed the lead roles in scenes based closely on everyday life, such as driving in traffic or parking alongside other models of car. After all, the design of the new A-Class should still single it out as being thrilling and full of self-assurance when its owners are going about their day-to-day business.

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