Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mercedes-Benz; Ocean Drive

The Ocean Drive’s timeless presence begins with its face. The V-shaped grille is 30 percent larger than that on the current S-Class, standing upright à la the Rolls-Royce Phantom’s. Double C–shaped headlights not only echo Chanel’s streamlined aesthetic, they nearly replicate the French couturier’s logo. LED technology, also used in the taillights, makes this design possible and consumes less energy than other lighting alternatives. Even the door handles are unobtrusively flush with the body; they pop out electronically, activated by the touch of a finger.

In profile, the Ocean Drive’s strong character lines—long at the front, short at the rear—reference the sweeping fenders of 1930s-era Mercedes limousines without being cartoonish. "We took this element from the past and treated it in a modern way," Wagener says. A full-length chrome strip delineates the bronze and gold in the two-tone paint scheme that is another nod to Mercedes-Benz history. "It’s a very subtle contrast," he says, noting that nuanced variation in color continues into the cabin with the muted hue of the bird’s-eye maple wood. "We also combined the leather with fabric—something our designers picked up in Milano. You see it in the latest handbags, which we transferred into car design."

With a 128-inch wheelbase—20 inches longer than the Bentley Continental GTC’s and about 5 inches longer than the Bentley Arnage’s—the Ocean Drive provides ample legroom for four adult passengers. From within, the vehicle appears to be as wide as it is long, and, like the old 300 cabriolets, it does not lend itself to slalom driving. The front and rear corners drop away from the driver’s perspective, making wide berths a necessity.

While comparisons between the Ocean Drive and the Bentley Continental GTC are inevitable, Wagener claims such assessments are misguided. "The sedan is a totally different pair of shoes," he says. Indeed, the Continental GTC is the approximate size of the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, so an open two-door CL would be more of a direct competitor to the Bentley than the four-door Ocean Drive might be. Still, the cars’ similarities—from their broad proportions to subtle details such as the wood trim that surrounds the hard tonneau cover of the Ocean Drive’s canvas roof—are apparent. Like the GTC, the Ocean Drive is endowed with a 12-cylinder engine and copious torque.

The Ocean Drive also exhibits Mercedes’ state-of-the-art electronics. Most of the vehicle’s functional systems—including the Comand screen with GPS navigation, and the digital audio controls—derive from the S-Class sedan. The car’s rear seats may be the best in the house, with abundant legroom and access to a DVD entertainment system. To ensure that cold air does not bother passengers or driver when the top is down, the Ocean Drive is equipped with the Airscarf system from the SLK roadster, which circulates warm air throughout the cabin.

Read the entire article in the Robb Report.

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