Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The New Mercedes SLS AMG: Design Disappointment

Gone are the days of original car designs. Period. Beg to differ? Only a few concepts have struck a chord with me in the last few years with regard to innovative design versus the recycled, tired ideas that have been done over and over ad nauseum.

Gone are the days of cars like Ferrari F40, the McLaren F1, the Porsche 550 Spyder, the original Mustang, the Miura; cars built by passion and purpose dictating design. Cars that people dreamed up and built to build a car that the world hadn't seen yet, cars immortalized in a poster that would be hung on a little kid's wall for him to dream up his own car of the future. Those dreams have been replaced by cars built by profits and dividends and the fallout from such decisions made by faceless suits inside companies have taken their toll on the current generation of supercars.

We live in a world of a Ford Mustang with a "retro" design - and a Challenger and Camaro, Fiat 500 and MINI Cooper. In other words, a complete lack of creativity or "safe" design for companies to thrive off of the victories of yesterday. What's worse is the most recent victim of this trend: the iconic Mercedes 300SL. The car that, for many, defined Mercedes and ushered them into a world of exquisite taste and money-is-no-object styling and features in a post-World War II era.

The 300SL Gullwing, as it was known for it's upward folding doors, has already fallen victim to the hackneyed retro design of the McLaren-Mercedes SLR - the failed child of two motorsport giants as a car that was too long, too heavy and too boring in it's execution. Now, Mercedes feels that it hasn't done enough to show a lack of creativity on their part so they've recreated the 300SL Gullwing ... again... with the new SLS AMG - a 300SL Gullwing inspiration in terms of exterior and interior. However, in terms of execution, instead of bringing new ideas an innovation to a model, Mercedes has taken the same design and just redrawn the same shape with upgrades for 2010 - this is also a car that serves as an answer to a question that wasn't asked.

These designs bother me, while supercars answer questions never asked in the first place they still make a case for new, innovative, on-the-edge thought on how a car can be designed. But, in this case, that answered a question not asked by the car market with a same, tired answer. By playing it safe with a design for a flagship car, Mercedes has shot itself in the foot in one of its biggest times of need. Playing it safe with supercars rarely works out in a company's favor, supercars are supposed to be radical, outrageous and insanely expensive. Clinical, safe, organized - not words one would associate with a highly sought after car. While this car is fast, I think this is a car that, much like the SLR, will largely be a sales flop after 2-year leases end and everyone moves on to the latest and greatest - leaving Mercedes out a significant chunk of change and heavy on further brand dilution as this car, with no real innovation, doesn't leave much to compel buyers.

(Source: Autoblog)

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