Mercedes W124

Moving forwards a template

The sedan is the original car design template. It is ‘car’ in its purest essence, and in a way invisible because of it; it is the most normative type of car design. Over time it has evolved, but rarely has there ever been a design that so unequivocally moved forward the sedan template as the 1984 (W124) Mercedes Benz E-class. It was an incremental step, but back in the day, the W124 was also a marked step on from from its predecessor W123 and all other European large sedans such as the Ford Granada, BMW 5-series, Peugeot 604 and Opel Senator.   

The progression of the template was primarily proportional: the design had a gently rising body ending in high-tailed trunk, a short front overhang, and subtle plan shape that made this elegant car even more sophisticated. These were all small advances, unlike the many similar bigger steps forward that the NSU Ro80 took years before, but that meant that the design widely acceptable which in turn made it more influential. Taut sheer surface volumes, and exemplary resolution further elevated its new normal-ness to a high water-mark in car design; it shone so brightly every design team working on a large sedan at the time took heed — and this, along with resultant huge sales that made this new sedan template visually dominate European street-scapes (unlike the NSU), made the 1984 E-class such a influential design. 

The Mercedes W124 gently but firmly re-set the sedan template, perhaps more so than any other single design had done until then, and certainly more so than any has since.