Not just a new daughter at Mercedes, a whole new family. Indeed, in the words of Stuttgart design chief, Peter Pfeiffer, ‘a new segment of the car world’. We are talking about the Sports Tourer family, newly born and already boasting two models: the R-Class and the B-Class.

The latter, in the words of Stuttgart’s marketing department, represents ‘a new driving concept’, while the R-Class, in the words of Steve Mattin who headed up the Sports Tourer project but has been chief of Volvo design since May 1, ‘gives a very sporty sensation, with dynamic lines and magnificent proportions’; Gordon Wagener, who designed the exterior, goes even further: ‘it’s staggering, inspired, beautiful’.

The B-Class (4.27 metres) is a lot shorter than the R (4.92) and therefore did not present the problem, as Wagener notes, of having to ‘hide the volumes’. It is precisely the different dimensions that explain, within the new Sports Tourer family, the chosen definitions: Compact for the B-Class, Big for the R.

About three hundred people worked on the B-Class starting from the end of 2001. The early sketches pursued two main lines: that of the MPV, along the lines of the A-Class, and the hatchback. The team immediately opted for the hatchback because it gave a greater sense of dynamism. ‘The vertical grille, explains Pfeiffer, blends into the arrow-shaped bonnet, surrounded by the smoothed off lighting clusters and with pronounced lines towards the pillar; then we have the line of the front door which is like that of a coupé, the very soft, refined link between side panels, roof and tail and this distinctive line on the side panel which gives the car a dynamic thrust forward. The big, strong wings stress the dimensions of the wheels which, optionally, can be supplied in 18 inch versions.

Full article in Auto & Design no. 152

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