Design

Catching Up With: Robert Lesnik, Mercedes-Benz Head of Exterior Design

A few questions about the shape of the CLS and AMG GT

We sat down with Robert Lesnik, head of exterior design for Mercedes-Benz. His team is responsible for the shape of the main production car lines as well as the multiple AMG models derived from them. Lesnik quickly assured us that the new third-generation CLS and AMG GT 4-Door are “completely different cars” despite both being based on the same MRA platform component set.

Automobile Magazine: How does the CLS compare to the AMG GT 4-Door?

Robert Lesnik: The CLS is more about style, a more elegant car because the GT is definitely typical AMG. The wheelbase is different, the axles are different, the widths, the lengths, because on the GT you will be able to get the V-8. It’s a very performance-oriented car in its design as well. It is louder in terms of styling. Also it’s much more aggressive, with the 300 SL Panamericana grille from 1952. It’s much bigger and wider and with upright bars; this is our AMG grille. We introduced it on the GT in 2014, and we will have it on even more cars in the future. And the CLS roofline is for a two side-window [daylight opening], and the GT is a three-window DLO for a longer fastback.

AM: The hood domes of the 4-Door are kind of soft …

RL: Yeah. Some have a crease like on the GT, and some are just round, like on the Gullwing from the ’50s. There is no reason now, but … that design element is just so cool. If you take it out, then you are like everybody else. So there are things that are not for technical reasons anymore but for design, for optics.

AM: What are the creases on the back of the 4-Door for?

RL: They’re an AMG identity mark. Every car, we have an AMG version of it. They all have these elements. Some are fakes; some have airflow going through them.

AM: The 4-Door is a hatchback, correct?

RL: For lack of a better term we call it a liftback or hatchback, yeah. Whereas the CLS has a trunklid.

AM: Are there any carryover exterior parts from the GT coupe?

RL: No.

AM: You didn’t even get to keep the grille?

RL: Yes, it looks the same, but in fact it’s not the same piece. … But obviously the look belongs to the entire AMG family.

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