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First Sight: Mercedes-Benz Concept Style Coupe

Wed, 18 Apr 2012 00:00:00 -0700

The third installment of Mercedes-Benz's ‘small' car family will receive its global preview with a close-to-production concept set to debut at the Beijing motor show next week, but Car Design News has gained an early peek of the official images and details.

The Concept Style Coupe heralds the much-vaunted ‘mini-CLS' compact four-door coupe production car (rumored to be dubbed BLS or CLA) that's slated to go on sale in the second half of 2013.

It's based on the same new platform – called MFA for ‘Mercedes Front-wheel drive Architecture' – that has already spawned the new A- and B-Class cars.

The Concept at least, is a much longer proposition than either of those models though, stretching out 278mm further than the B-Class (4,359mm) and 345mm more than the A-Class (4,292mm). 

Indeed, at 4,637mm, it's longer than even the new BMW 3 Series saloon (4,624mm) and the Mercedes C-Class Coupe (4,633mm), considerably wider than both at 1,891mm, plus lower – 1,398mm – than the 3's 1,416mm.

Given the extra length to play with, the Concept Style Coupe's proportions have more room to breathe than the boxy and upright B-Class and the newly squat and hatchy A-Class, and the result is an elegant side profile with a slim DLO and wide C-pillar and a combination of body feature lines that cohere much more effectively than both.

There are three key elements: The first is a sharp but gently dropping line with an concave undercut starting from the front headlights and running through the front door before fading away in the rear door, with a second line starting behind the base of the front wheel that rises gently towards the rear wheel (but without the dramatic ‘kick-up' of the A- and B-Class). Together these two lines frame a pleasingly convex bulge in-between.

The third line is a similarly gentle curve that starts mid-way through the rear door below the beltline and emphasizing the rear wheel arch before following the top of the rear lights and curving downwards to outline the base of the boot lid within the rear bumper section. 

Viewed side-by-side in profile these details seem to reference similar feature lines from the 2011 F125! Concept shown at the Frankfurt motor show (although the latter car is significantly bigger and has quite different proportions overall).

The front face shares much with the Concept A-Class – even down to the unusual pinhead radiator grille kept for the production A, but with another elaborate headlamp design, "reminiscent of the ever wary, almost intimidating eyes of a predatory animal," says the press release. 

In standby mode the main eyes of the front lights shine red suggesting that notional animal is pretty angry (or hung-over), while in ‘on' mode the cluster houses a yellow LED strip that follows the feature line from the lamp's rear edge plus a series of blue-lit piano key-style indicator lights. Like other recent Mercedes light designs (the new SL and A-Class among them) they seem overly fussy.

The interior appears, like the exterior, to be also genuinely close to production (and much less conceptual than the 2011 Concept A-Class say). Now-familiar Mercedes design cues like the wide centre stack with triple jet engine-style circular air vents are present and correct but as a concept touch they light up in different hues according to the temperature of air they emit – blue for cold, red for warm and fluorescent yellow for mid-range (as pictured). 

This fluoro yellow is matched in the piping on the seats and steering wheel and complements the white nubuck leather and dark grey Alcantara on the seats and IP. A carbon fiber strip sits between these two materials on the IP and for the first time Mercedes has used a black anodized finish on its chrome trim and controls. All looks smart and restrained.

An ‘always-on' infotainment system links with the user's mobile phone to access cloud computing and internet-related services and the car is propelled by a 211hp 2.0-litre petrol engine with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. 

But these are but footnotes to a concept that is clearly signaling Mercedes' future production design intentions above all else. Over-complex lights aside, they look like good intentions, and among its new small car family, signal Mercedes' most visually resolved model to date.

By Guy Bird