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Designer reveals Merc X-Class challenges

X factor: Mercedes called on design input from all of its global design studios to pen the X-Class.

Mercedes designer reflects on challenges he faced shaping the X-Class pick-up


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26 Jul 2017


THE designer of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class has admitted there were challenges in reshaping the pick-up from the Nissan Navara it is based on, and ensuring it looks and feels like a premium product.

Mercedes-Benz director of design brands and operation Kai Sieber, who was also responsible for the two wild X-Class concepts revealed in Stockholm last year, told GoAuto that the German brand did not look at other utes for styling ideas or cues.

“We talked between ourselves (about) what was important for us, what do we need,” he said at the reveal of the production-ready X-Class in Cape Town last week. “And I thought from the styling side, on what I need. Not even comparing it with the competition.

“What was very important for us was the stance of the vehicle. So really I wanted to have the wheels out, so I wanted to have the shoulder to get some sex in the section, but also still some more width to get the wheel flares out.”

Mr Sieber said that even the dimensions of the X-Class differ from the Navara donor car, although the wheelbase is 3150mm for both.

Elsewhere, the X-Class is 21mm lower (1819mm), 70mm wider (1920mm) and 85mm longer (5340mm) than the Navara dual cab ST-X.

Mr Sieber said the design team had to work with the existing hard points of the Navara, but added that he pushed for more freedom when he thought it was required.

“If we do a new C-Class, I’ve got to as well (use) the hard points because there is always a platform underneath. So that is not unusual. So of course we have got some hard points coming from our competitors (Nissan) because, of course, we want to use it as an advantage of the scale, for sure.

“We looked at all these points. So I said, ‘No, I need some more freedom there.

I want to have these kind of proportions.’ And then we went for it.”

Mr Sieber admitted that he did not get his way on every element of the X-Class interior design, but said his job was to ensure it represented the premium nature of the Mercedes-Benz brand.

“Of course, I didn’t get my points on every little detail. But for example, my job was to do a premium vehicle. I said, ‘Okay, I need a dashboard that’s completely different material.’ It should right away be recognisable as a Mercedes premium vehicle. I need a whole set of telematic components out of our shelf. As a standard, whenever you approach the car and you touch it, whatever you see, you feel, and you touch is generally Mercedes.”

Mr Sieber said that designing a passenger car or SUV had fewer challenges as Benz already has these body styles in its line-up, but shaping a pick-up threw up some challenges given it was the company’s first attempt at a workhorse ute.

“We started really with research. So even (Volker) Mornhinweg (head of Mercedes-Benz Vans) took me, even as the stylist, to Australia. We went to South America, we did test drives with competitor vehicles.

“I had to sit in customer clinics, so we talked to potential customers. I was sitting with a loud speaker and listening to all the outcomes – what’s it like, how they (customers) live, what are their tastes, and that was usually what we don’t do in a project. We know. So we really listened a lot and learned what these people like.”

Mercedes called on all of its global design studios located in the US, Brazil, Italy, China and India for input into the design of the X-Class, which Mr Sieber described as a “very intense search”.

“We did more scale models than usual. And then we went for it and then it matured. But the creative process took longer than if we did a C-Class.”

Mr Sieber said the team ruled out offering the production X-Class in two distinct looks, despite the concept being shown in two guises – rugged ‘Powerful Adventurer’ and more sedate ‘Stylish Explorer’.

“What we wanted to show with the concept is that there is a really wide range of vehicles for different uses. So we had key customers who really use it just as a work tool. For example, in Brazil, there are customers who almost don’t leave the city so it’s a pure lifestyle vehicle. So we said, ‘Okay, it’s clearly one vehicle line. It’s all one X-Class but we need to show these characteristics’.

“But of course, with accessories, you can play a lot. And if you put different wheels on … of course, you get even much, much closer to the concept as these two (production) examples.”

The X-Class will be offered with a number of accessories, many of which were designed in-house by Benz, including bull bar, side bars, a sports bar, roll covers and a canopy especially for the Australian market.

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