Design review Mercedes CLA concept: ‘Toppers in concert on four wheels’

Niels van Roij only sees glitter

Mercedes-Benz CLA concept design review

At Mercedes, the CLA concept car is intended to herald a new era in class-leading efficiency. Does the exterior design also herald a new era? Car designer Niels van Roij checks whether the youngest star still shines.

To get straight to the point: the Mercedes CLA concept car does not bring any innovative ideas for the brand in terms of design. The exterior design principles are virtually unchanged from what they have been at Mercedes-Benz for the past decade.

Under Gorden Wagener, Mercedes remains strictly part of the glamor industry. There where former chief designer Bruno Sacco, maintained clear principles about the way in which a Mercedes-Benz model should be drawn, based in part on a less-is-more motivation, Wagener’s show business-like approach, with its more-is-more attitude, is diametrically opposed to this.

Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA

One of the carefully innovative, but also weakly executed concepts that Wagener recently developed at Mercedes-Benz DNA added his logos. Not referring to the ever-growing stars on the front or rear, but the endless number of logos that extend over the rest of the car. Probably with the idea that what this approach meant for Louis Vuitton bags should also work for cars… The CLA Concept contains more three-pointed stars than the entire production of the brand.

Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA

CLA full of stars

A truly enormous number of brand emblems can be seen on this concept car, the CLA actually seems to consist of three-pointed stars. Not only in the seriously poorly designed headlights and taillights, but also in the enormous faux grille, the glass roof and wheels suffer from the disease of the metastatic star. To make matters worse, the vast majority of them are also illuminated. A few years ago, the Mercedes star with lamp was still reserved for written-off taxis with rolled back odometers, which drove around in Eastern Europe complete with the wrong wheels and steering wheel covers from the association. Now this tacky Aliexpress luxury is being incorporated into their most visionary models by its own design studios. Unknown.

Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA

CLA stands for showbiz

For all the claims made in Mercedes press releases about this masterpiece of German efficiency, there is nothing about the CLA’s styling that reflects this fact. The exterior design of the CLA concept car is not about conveying technical excellence, but about showbiz. Mercedes-Benz has become a four-wheeled ‘Toppers in Concert’. Apparently, according to Wagener, everything is infinitely better when it’s rolled in glitter. Especially now that the engineering department is actually delivering star-worthy works, the design efforts seem to be deviating further than ever. At Mercedes they have clearly come to the conclusion that glitter equals showing or honoring the rich pedigree.

How Gorden Wagener ruins Mercedes-Benz with each new iteration is as interesting as it is baffling. Watching this bad trip has a similar effect as staring against your better judgment at a morbid accident in a traffic jam.

Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA

The treatment of the three-pointed star as a bling-bling version of the Louis Vuitton logo is yet another fallacy of this brand, which has become a caricature of itself. Especially now that good, serious German technology lies beneath the surface – achievements that really justify pride in this – and communication in the exterior form about it not only justifies it, but requires it.

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