Given how successful Mercedes-Benz has been in selling cars in recent years, and how much of that success has been prescribed to the styling overhaul of recent models, it will perhaps appear strange for me to express surprise at the design of the latest E-Class.
But, for all the designers will walk around the car and highlight clear differences, on first glance the new E-Class strikes me as the middle entrant in a three-strong Russian Doll line up, tailed and topped by the C-Class and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Our European Correspondent Greg Kable describes it thus in his news story on the all-new car, that aims to take on the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF: “It has a clear resemblance to the smaller C-Class and larger S-Class in its exterior design, featuring a swooping roofline and heavily structured surfacing treatment. The visual similarities are part of a broader plan aimed at providing Mercedes’ saloon line-up with a more cohesive appearance than before.”
But is cohesive design what owners really want?
Certainly Audi’s way of doing things suggest they do, but in recent years BMW has edged away from such a policy, preferring to give each class of car its own subtle twists on visual identity.
The logic, I guess, is that a C or E-Class owner might feel flattered to own a car that looks to all intents and purposes like the range-topping S-Class. It’s not how my mind works, but I can imagine it is how many people’s do. It’s living the dream by association, I suppose, if not in reality.
But what, I wonder, will the S-class owner make of having his flagship saloon mistaken for some junior executive model? Why worry, some might say - there’s far more volume in C-Class sales, but I’d counter that the prestige of flagship cars needs to be protected as best they can.
Mercedes is on a roll. It won’t give one jot for my thoughts, and I dare say the immediate sales surge that will follow for the E-Class will justify its strategy.
Personally I’m a little disappointed by the lack of imagination, and I wonder too if there is a long-term price to pay for it, both in the second-hand market and the long-term reputation of the brand.