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SUV, not utility, inspires Mercedes X-Class design

Style class: The X-Class has taken design cues from Mercedes’ SUV line-up and does not preview future Benz light-commercial vehicle design.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class follows SUV, not light-commercial vehicle, design philosophy


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27 Oct 2016


THE man responsible for designing the near-production Mercedes-Benz X-Class utility concepts unveiled this week drew inspiration from the German prestige brand’s range of SUVs rather than its light-commercial vans.

Speaking with GoAuto at the world premiere in Sweden, Mercedes-Benz director of design brands and operation Kai Sieber denied the one-tonne ute concepts previewed the look of future Mercedes-Benz Vans models.

He also acknowledged there were challenges in designing a new body around a borrowed chassis – the X-Class is based on the current Nissan Navara – and hit back at criticism that Mercedes’ latest design direction has meant some models, such as the C-Class and E-Class, look too similar and could be difficult for consumers to differentiate.

“We have never been as successful as we are right now,” he said.

“Looking back when (Mercedes design chief) Gorden Wagener took over, we had some hard-edged cars and some really soft and sculptural cars and I think it was very, very important to roll out his design philosophy of ‘central purity’ really consistently through the range.

“Now that everybody has learned that it is the new face of Mercedes-Benz we can carefully … slightly divide the cars a little bit from each other, but that was a very deliberate decision to really roll out the design philosophy in a very consistent way.”

With X-Class, Mr Sieber pointed to the company’s range of SUVs as a key influence for the front-end design of the utility.

“When we do styling we don’t think in business units but we think in segments,” he said.

“Also if you recognise even small treatments in the grille, it is much more our SUV look. What you recognise are some details or treatments of the GLA and GLC, GLC Coupe. That’s definitely what we looked at – our SUV front faces and not any of the vans.”

Previewing the production model that reaches international markets next year ahead of an Australian launch in 2018, the Concept X-Class was wheeled out in two forms in Stockholm – the lavish ‘Stylish Explorer’ with clean lines and a futuristic tail-end treatment, and the rugged ‘Powerful Adventurer’ with a higher ride height and obligatory off-road bits such as winch hooks.

Mr Sieber admitted there were challenges in working off the borrowed NP300 Navara chassis, which also forms the basis for the forthcoming Renault Alaskan – likewise due for release in Australia in 2018.

4 center imageLeft: Mercedes-Benz director of design brands and operation Kai Sieber.

“I think in the strategic (planning) phase it was (a challenge), because we were asking for a lot of metal parts and stuff which adds cost to the project, but since it was a priority from the very beginning, we had a pretty easy gain,” he said.

“If you look closely, we even changed some of the proportions so the cabin itself is slightly different in dimensions. What is also very important for us is stance. We really made a wide track.”

When asked why Mercedes produced two concepts even though there will be just one production version, Mr Sieber said it was to highlight the dual characteristics of a modern pick-up.

“For me it is beauty and the beast. The beast is basically a must. A pick-up must be tough, it must be off-roady, it must be all-terrain, it must be a tough guy,” he said.

“But it must, as well, be a stylish explorer, therefore I think to express this, we can do a really tough pick-up but … we think we will influence the segment more by getting this Mercedes refinement into it and a less tough ride.

“That is what we think we will add to the segment.”

While the concepts were packed with luxurious features and a fit and finish more akin to a Mercedes passenger car, Mr Sieber said the materials in the production version will be durable given the nature of the vehicle.

However, high-end versions of the X-Class will naturally be fitted with premium features.

“I think what we show you here is in an exaggerated way. We won’t give you a white Nappa leather interior. You have to go to a tuner who might do it for you but what you already can see is that we think kind of in the (model) lines like a passenger car,” he said.

“There is more of a base, cleanable fabric, but there is also a high-end (version) with leather, with stitching, with that kind of craftsmanship you expect from Mercedes-Benz.”

He added that buyers will be able to trick out their X-Class with a suite of accessories that could include “roo bars, hard tops, canopies and so on”.

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