Mercedes-Benz A-Class: design story

Mercedes-Benz A-Class: design story

An extensive image gallery and the official design story of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, including comments and interviews with designers Mark Fetherston and Jan Kaul.

Below we report selected information from the official documents released by Mercedes-Benz as well as a new video. You can also check the extensive gallery and the recent Q&A video featuring exterior designer Mark Fetherston.


Mercedes-Benz A-Class - Design Sketch Mercedes-Benz A-Class - Design Sketch

Standing as much as 18 centimeters lower on the street than the preceding model, the new A-Class communicates design and dynamism and features a radical form language, first presented with the Concept A-Class, and consistently implemented in the series production car.

Mercedes-Benz A-ClassThe appearance of the new A-Class reflects this new Mercedes-Benz design strategy. The result is a two-box design with a distinct character of its own, a sportily emotive exterior and a high-quality feel to the interior.

“Translating the new dynamic style of Mercedes-Benz into the compact class was a challenge that was great fun to tackle”, explains Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz.

“No other car in this segment is as pro-gressive as the A-Class. Absolutely typical for Mercedes is the sculptural shape of the A-Class.

“The character lines, in particular on its sides, lend the A-Class structure and terseness. The new dynamic style is perceptible at first glance in the interior as well.”

Exterior Design

Mercedes-Benz A-Class Defined edges and tautly drawn surfaces mark out the exterior design of the new A-Class. The constant interplay between concave and convex surfaces creates a characteristic play of light, particularly along the sides of the car, which contributes to its unique appearance.

Typical features of the long, sporty front are its pronounced V-shape, the separate headlamps, the radiator grille with central Mercedes star and double slats to either side of the star, as well as the additional air intakes on the sides.

The “dropping line” apparent in the side profile dissipates towards the vehicle’s front end. The design of the headlamps, together with the configuration of the light functions within them, is a key element of the design concept.

Mercedes-Benz A-ClassThe light modules and LEDs behind the headlamp cover glass have been arranged in such a way as to create the characteristic “flare effect” for the daytime running lamps and indicators.

The so-called “flare” is made up of the feature line within the headlamp, the LED modules for the daytime running lamps and the bulb sets for the indicators. This signature effect gives the car its energetic look and so helps to define a new, youthful face for Mercedes.

The perfect interplay of dynamic design and excellent aerodynamics is nowhere more apparent than in the roof, with its smooth surfaces and taut, arcing curve.

The silhouette reveals smooth, flowing lines finishing in a flat edge. The roof spoiler, which conveniently hides all the aerials, provides an extra sporty touch and gives structure to the roof assembly. The beltline rises to the rear to form a pronounced wedge-shape. The side view is distinguished by sensuously moulded sculptural side panels and crisp lines.

The front structural edge, above the wing, falls in what is known as a “dropping line” in a gentle arc towards the rear. The powerfully-shaped shoulder muscles above the rear axle serve to emphasize the car’s coupé-like character.

Mercedes-Benz A-ClassA further line sweeps up from just in front of the rear wheel arch, then gently fades away. All these lines give depth and dynamism to the car’s profile. Dynamic side sill panels provide a final finishing touch towards the bottom of the car, enhancing the appearance of elegant light-footedness.

The broad emphasis of the tail end is revealed in an interplay of convex-concave surfaces and edges.

The tail lights continue the line of the muscular shoulders back towards the rear, while their horizontal orientation emphasizes the car’s breadth. The light functions are provided by fibre-optic cables and LED modules.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Here, too, the interaction between design and aerodynamics is very clear: the surface finish of the tail lights is not only an interesting design feature, but also improves the airflow around the vehicle thanks to defined airflow break-away edges in the rear section.

Interior Design

Mercedes-Benz A-Class - Interior Design Sketch The starting point for the interior design was the interior sculpture Mercedes-Benz Aesthetics No. 2 presented at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2011 and which directed attention to the new Mercedes-Benz design language in the vehicle interior, too.

The first concrete implementation of this was shown in April 2011 with the Concept A-Class created in the Advanced Design Studio of Como, in northern Italy.

“The inspiration from aircraft design is continued in the A-Class”, explains designer Jan Kaul.

“The instrument panel is clearly divided into an upper part inspired on a wing profile and a muscular lower section. This creates the impression that the upper section is supported by a muscle.”

Mercedes-Benz A-Class - Interior Design SketchThe process used for the production of the muscle allows diverse soft sur-face textures. It is thus possible to create different surface appearances with an attractive play of lights thanks to three-dimensional structures embedded in foil.

“The interior of the A-Class represents a big step forward in terms of quality – both in the materials used and in the consistency of the design” says Kaul.

Both objectives have been achieved with the help of a specific design idiom and through the various combination options possible with the high-quality materials selected. All trim elements have been given an electroplated finish, resulting in real metal surfaces with “cool touch” effect. The work has been executed with considerable care and attention to detail, so that they appear to have been moulded in one piece.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class Interior Mercedes-Benz A-Class Interior

The instrument panel incorporates five round vents. “Like brilliant jewels they underscore the superior quality of the vehicle interior”, explains Kaul.

Mercedes-Benz designer Jan KaulThe outer rings of the round vents have a high-quality electroplated finish. The airflow direction is governed by an insert that is reminiscent of an aircraft turbine and reveals a meticulous attention to detail.

This too has an electroplated finish in silver-chrome. The free-standing display screen features a black piano-lacquer-look front panel and a flush-fitting silver frame.

The instrument cluster comprises two large round instruments, each with a small dial set within it. When at rest, the dial needles stand at 6 o’clock.

The pointer inlays are in white, although with the sportier design and equipment lines such as Urban and AMG Sport they are in red. The dials on the sporty equipment lines and packages are colored silver with a chequered flag effect. The 3-spoke steering wheel comes with 12 function buttons and an electroplated bezel.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class InteriorThe center dome and console, as well as the positioning of the various elements such as the head unit, lower control panel, air conditioning operating unit, stowage compartments, rotary push-button and armrest, reflect the findings of the ergonomics experts at Mercedes-Benz.

An extensive range of seat coverings, in terms of material (e.g. leather, fabric, Artico/fabric), color combination and also geometry, provides scope for a broad range of individualization options. Sports seats with integrated head restraints are available, for example, as an optional extra with all design and equipment lines.

The sporty nature of the seats is emphasized by the opening between the upper edge of the seat backrest and the head restraint.

On the back of the front seats this opening is edged with a frame in silver chrome and, in conjunction with the Light and Sight package, can also feature ambient lighting.

Designer Jan Kaul sums up: “If you were to take a seat in the A-Class with your eyes closed – you would never think, upon opening your eyes, that you were sitting in a compact-class vehicle.”

Interview with Mark Fetherston

Mercedes-Benz designer Mark FetherstonMark Fetherston (35) earned his graduate degree in Transport Design at Coventry University in 1999. Since then he has worked at Mercedes-Benz, most recently on the design of the SLS AMG super sports car.

Did you have to overcome particularly great resistance in the company in order to implement series production of the expressive, emotional design of the new A-Class, which does break with some preconcepts towards the brand?

To be quite honest – at first I wouldn’t have imagined that at Mercedes we would dare to build such a car.

But the Board gave us wide-ranging freedom in respect of the design of the A-Class. Indeed, they even encouraged us to be more progressive.

If you are so clearly breaking new ground – what is it that makes this new A-Class a true Mercedes, then?

Mercedes-Benz A-ClassThe sculptural quality of the A-Class’s form is typically Mercedes. This traditionally distinguishes Mercedes-Benz from other brands.

We made the A-Class sculpture in clay by hand – you can’t do this on the computer. Look for instance at the muscular shape of the shoulder above the rear axle.

The character lines, in particular on the vehicle sides lend this sculpture structure and terseness.

The Dropping Line is an elegant link to the Mercedes heritage, the high side sill line provides dynamism. The A-Class is a clear statement of the dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand.

Most recently you designed the modern SLS AMG gullwing. What is more difficult to design – a supersports car or a compact-class Mercedes?

In terms of dynamics, a super sports car is easier to design – because its proportions are intrinsically dynamic. But that is precisely why the challenge of implementing the sporty dynamics of Mercedes-Benz in the compact class was such fun.

And apart from the SLS super sports car, what else served as inspiration in the first design phase?

Mercedes-Benz designer Mark FetherstonNature itself is a very important source of inspiration; take for instance the way the wind sculpts sand into sand dunes – magnificent. One can also observe beautiful shapes in winter landscapes. I love aircraft, too.

One of the greatest designs of all times is the Concorde – sheer aerodynamics. And even though it may seem a bit like a cliché – when you see the A-Class from the front, you can be reminded of a wild cat, a lion or a cheetah. Aggressive and sleek.

We thought of another likeness when we saw the A-Class for the first time: in the compact-car segment, the new A-Class is like the face in the crowd…

(Laughs) Yes, no other car is so progressive in this vehicle class. The A-Class puts an end to boredom in this segment.

(Source: Mercedes-Benz)

Image Gallery

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class: design story - Image 27

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Leave a Comment

  1. 27/4/2012

    Totally don’t like it, can’t see the point behind it besides it somehow reminds me of the 1-series from BMW specially when you look at it from the side view and the 3/4 front with kinda long hood with being little bit uplifted.
    And about the so called “dropping line”….well check the 1-series from BMW you will notice almost the same line but way more soft not this sharp line from Mercedes.isn’t it! and also you can track it all the way long to the top end of the car.

  2. Francesco Di Giuseppe

    This is not a Mercedes.
    They are trying to somehow steal market shares from BMW and they ended to steal the entire 1-Series feeling.
    Then, they mixed the first gen. CLS day light opening (which is the only real Mercedes heritage line I see) with the pointless hard edges of the side, the least Mercedes feature of all.
    The rear end is a complete mess, beginning from the vents on the side of the bumper and ending with the anti-creative tail lights: actually the overall rear feels like it belongs to a Citroen somehow.
    What this “designer” should learn is that not every brand can be dynamic, muscular and active: they are trying to be someone else rather than being themselves, and this new A-Class is totally a non-Mercedes.
    Changing could be good, but only if it is linked to innovation: I don’t see anything innovative in this design.
    Copying, that’s what it is.

  3. RAL

    I agree Bassam, with the fact that it has resemblance wiz the 1 series BMW, but since Merc was utterly out of the track in this segment, whatever they could offer is a total goal. In fact, I like it. Its always good news having merc fighting face to face against bmw and audi. So lets welcome them back

  4. CX

    The new BMW 1-series is ugly as hell! Mercedes shows how to properly design such a car. I would choose an A-class over a 1-series anytime…


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