In 1974 Bruno Sacco took over as Head of the Design Development department at Mercedes-Benz, where in addition to developing current projects he also put together long-term plans for the decades ahead. In 1978 his department caught the world unawares with a third C 111 project, a diesel record-breaking car that was aerodynamically inspired and featured sharp body lines. In no previous brand design project had technical innovation and design creativity been so powerfully combined. Numerous design elements later found their way into new pro-duction models of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its precise edges and clean lines that ran parallel to the so-called flow line also heavily influenced the design of the future Mercedes-Benz 190.
The “small Mercedes” opened a new and successful chapter for the Mercedes-Benz brand in late 1982. Until then the brand had been responsible solely for cars in the upper segments; now it served up the so-called compact class as a completely new vehicle category positioned beneath the established Mercedes-Benz sedans. The new four-door was designed to appeal to customers able to afford a car bearing the three-pointed star for the first time. Its attractions were not status-oriented style elements from the luxury segment, but functional features. Discussion focused on its moderate wedge shape with clean edges, distinctive C pillars and high, rounded trunk lid – features that later found many imitators. Attention was even drawn to the small crease in the roof area, which fulfilled an aerodynamic function.
A second masterpiece to receive critical acclaim in the new era was the Mercedes-Benz SL of 1989 (R 129 series). Once again a new design, it embodied the dynamics of the roadster with perfect proportions and sporting details. The elongated, dipping engine hood, the A pillars as a stylistic continuation of the front wheel arches, the muscular short hardtop and the aerodynamic, gently flowing sidewalls collectively amounted to a controlled bundle of energy with looks that would keep youthful for years.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class shaped the brand values of innovation, safety, comfort and status orientation like no other model series before it. The S-Class from the W 140 series of 1991 waved goodbye to traditional decorative elements, its clearly grouped, unfussy surfaces not only radiating contemporaneousness but also superiority and reliability. Diagonally split rear lights underlined its innovative character, as did the new design of radiator grille. For the first time this had been integrated into the engine hood and completely encased in metal. The three-pointed star was no longer attached to the chrome trim, but sat instead on the engine hood. The S-Class had been transformed from successful business sedan to powerfully elegant trendsetter destined for the luxury market.