Is Mercedes the new Peugeot?
AS WITH EVERY car’s life cycle, there comes a time after various facelifts when the whole look needs to be updated – this is to move the game on and not be left stagnant and looking out of date compared to its many rivals.
It’s come to Mercedes turn now, specifically with the CLS, which is basically a 4-door coupe version of the magnificent S class. This, also being one of Mercedes top models means that its new looks will also filter down to other cars in the Mercedes line-up (having taken its looks from the SL), representing what car people like to say ‘the design philosophy’ of the brand.
Now the old CLS was a magnificent looking car. Some describing it a a retro looking ‘banana-boat signifier of a car’. It had good write ups from all the usual car mags and everyone generally loved it.
A recent concept car, previewing the new look for the CLS came out in early 2010, featuring a ‘softer front nose’. I’m not sure what reaction Mercedes got to it, or even if they took any note of it, because this new look was unchanged and in the summer of 2010 the new look CLS was leaked onto the internet just prior to its release.
Now I know car looks are subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me this new car simply looks horrible. It looks very pig like from the front end with its smiling snout. The rear haunches just look daft too, like a pregnant Kangaroo. So there you go – a cross between a gurning frog and a hormonal kangaroo.
Now I’m not alone with this view either. A quick trawl of car forums on Autocar, Top Gear and Evo shows that overall the majority also feel that this is a bad move for Mercedes and that the new look is awful.
This of course doesn’t mean that the car will sell badly – just look at the Porsche Cayenne which is actually Porsche’s most popular model as well as being undeniably ugly (just showing that the attraction of a practical porsche with a lofty driving position can outweigh what it actually looks like). On a side note the Panamera is also a particularly gruesome looking car, and shows that the 911 look cannot be successfully transferred to models in other market segments – but that’s another story..).
Similarly Peugeot have just come out of rehab after years and years of releasing uglier and uglier looking cars featuring their ‘wide mouth’ design philospohy. They became well known for their overall (bad) design looks. Write ups from car hacks weren’t uncommon slating their look – ‘the car looks like a gurning frog on recreational drugs’ etc weren’t too uncommon themes when reviewing their cars. All models throughout their range were afflicted by this design language from the small 107 right up to the larger 407.
Fortunately Peugeot got wise, and as of mid-2010 is moving away from this look – they released the SR1 concept which previews the new look for the brand, to a particularly good reception. It moves their look away from that hideous smiling grill and everyone’s the happier for it.
I believe that with this new look for Mercedes and with their ‘soft nose’ look, that they are in danger of taking over the mantle from Peugeot and plunging to new depths of bad car aesthetics. Especially if they roll this look out over the entire Mercedes range.
Now I’m not in any way against Mercedes. It’s a great manufacturer that sells magnificent cars. I would love to have the SLS AMG as it just oozes class and style (plus who wouldn’t want gullwing doors). This is even though most car mag write-ups say it’s just a bit too inert and emotionless compared to it’s rivals, and when you’re spending £150k that kind of thing does matter.
I just wish that Mercedes would have properly researched this new look before plumping for it, as I’m positive that this new look is and will be generally derided. There’s no going back now though once the wheels of motion start to change their car design philosophy and overall brand looks (too much time and money will have gone into it for a start as well as the egg on face scenario that would happen if they pulled the look).
Mercedes will just have to ride it out and go through a period of becoming the butt of bad car look jokes, just like Peugeot did for many years.