It may be stating the obvious, but Mercedes-Benz’s global chief of design Gorden Wagener has admitted the company created the new GLE Coupe in direct response to the BMW X6.
However, while the two ‘coupe-SUVs’ are similar in conception, in many design aspects the pair couldn’t be more different. Wagener, unsurprisingly, professes to be no great fan of BMW’s styling beyond the basic proportions its cars share with his.
“We invented many segments, we did not invent SUV coupe, that was the X6,” said Wagener, referring to the polarising BMW X5 spin-off that has sold in surprisingly strong numbers (more than 250,000 units globally) since 2008 and spawned an X4 offshoot.
“We in design will all say it’s a good concept, we liked it, and now of course we do it as well, but we approach it differently, as the inventor of the four-door coupe, we took kind of a CLS shape for the coupe and just put SUV genes on it.”
Wagener pointed to the challenges in making a big bulky SUV ‘sporty’ in design somehow, given the need for a high front end, and even higher tail and lines that hide the exaggerated proportions.
“[Traditionally] we don’t like the wedge shape, and there needs to be a certain weight balance, also aero and stuff… But in the end I think we managed to do a very unique car, a very clean car that is essential for our purity philosophy, it’s quite sexy and sculptured.
“There’s not a lot of stuff on it, you know,” he said, referring to the relatively uncluttered design, before contrasting this with his distaste for BMW’s approach.
“I probably see the niche models from BMW there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ happening, you see creases and lines and stuff, surfaces, cut lines and undercuts along the side and rear. But we do the opposite, completely smooth and clean.
“And I think that it looks more modern to me,” he said, later adding “it’s more difficult to approach things clean, without stuff… it’s way more difficult to take lines off.
“If you like it take a line off, if you still like it, take another line off,” he said.
Expect this approach, one that emphasis curves rather than edges, and simple surfaces rather than complex ones, to filter into all imminent Mercedes-Benz SUVs, from the new GLE (a replacement for the ML) due in April, and the vital compact GLC (replacing the GLK) due later in the year.
“I think it previews our entire SUV line-up. We’re bringing out a lot of SUVs this year, the GLE and GLS, which will benefit from what we did there. And of course there will be a new GLC, which will be a complete paradigm shift from a completely edgy car of my predecessor to something as smooth as you can see out there.
“[They’re] going to be very different from the current models,” he said.
Will we see a ‘coupe’ version of the GLC, a la the BMW X4?
“I mean [hypothetically], GLC would work great as a coupe, the new car will be much much sportier than the current, so it would fit,” Wagener said.