By on September 7, 2018

The one and only styling refresh bestowed on Tesla’s Model S involved the removal of its phony grille, with CEO Elon Musk claiming the blacked-out nose had done its duty in luring — and lulling — nervous customers. The subsequent Model X went without, and the Model 3 looks like that masked disfigured girl in Eyes Without a Face.

Mercedes-Benz isn’t on the same page. Perhaps believing that Tesla buyers tolerate the lack of grille only because the vehicles are Teslas, the German automaker has vowed to pretend there’s an internal combustion engine and radiator behind the face of each of its electric vehicles.

The brand’s 2020 EQC, unveiled earlier this week, looks a lot like the model from which it derives its platform: the GLC crossover. Sure, there’s dimensional differences and a different take on the front facia, but the two vehicles remain outwardly similar. That’s no accident.

Speaking to Autocar, M-B sales and marketing chief Jorg Heinermann said, “We have deliberately decided to take a step-by-step approach here.” The old electric B-Class notwithstanding, M-B’s foray into electric vehicles is a recent endeavor, and the first order of business is not scaring off potential or returning customers with a jarring EV. The EQC’s conservative exterior will give way to more radical designs, Heinermann said.

The automaker’s interior designer, Hartmut Sinkwitz, added, “[The EQC] is the starting point for the electric family. We felt this is the right amount of revolution to start with for this car. You will see more with other EQ models.”

As mentioned, one thing that won’t change when these wilder models roll out (M-B plans 10 EQ-badged battery-electric vehicles by 2022) is the grille. While concealed coolant lines can keep a battery pack and electric motor from overheating, grilles needn’t serve a mechanical function.

Basically, said exterior designer Robert Lesnik, Mercedes-Benz customers are used to a grille, they like having a grille, and they don’t want to part with a grille.

Without one, “the car would be faceless,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if there needs to be an air intake or not. We believe that every EQ car needs a certain shape in the front. There are many other car companies that are experimenting [without a grille], because they don’t have 130 years of history. That’s not what we’re going to do.”

[Image: Daimler AG]

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20 Comments on “They Don’t Need One, but Mercedes-Benz Promises Grilles on All Future Electrics...”

  • avatar

    With all the phony vents, scoops and exhaust pipes on cars now what difference does it make? It’s actually the only thing I don’t like about the looks of this car

  • avatar

    If it was body color it would be full of nicks and bugs. But no, I don’t have a solution.

  • avatar

    1995 Chrysler Sebring Coupe.

    If you need a reminder:

    “…because they don’t have 130 years of history”

    Could Mr. Jorg point out the grille on this one?

  • avatar

    Grilles look good.

  • avatar

    Grilles are important so that the car does not look too different from the norm. The Franklin air cooled and Doble steam powered cars of the past had non-functioning radiator/grills also.

  • avatar

    I think that Studebaker pulled off the grille-less luxury look quite nicely with the Avanti. (Looking through old images. The 53 Studabaker Comander Starliner sort of reminds me of the Tesla Model S).

  • avatar

    Is the front of a car a bad place, either functionally or materially, to put an auxiliary charger that can be made to mimic a grille?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    So… Mercedes is saying their EV buyers will only buy it because it *looks* like a Mercedes, or because it *is* a Mercedes. Isn’t that what all brand-loving buyers do, whether it’s Tesla, BMW, or (yuk) Lexus?

    Ironically, they’re proving how hard it is for the Old Guard to transition to EVs, while Tesla just does whatever it wants. Full commitment will be risky, but grilles are the least of the risks.

    We’ve looked at this issue before, and one of my favorite grille-less looks was the 91 Passat. Given a century of car designs that required grilles, it’s hard to figure out how to make the nose of a grille-less car look decent. Arguing aerodynamic advantages only goes so far.

  • avatar

    They could build in fake shift points and exhaust sounds also.

  • avatar

    I would suggest them to put fake ICE engine under the hood so customer don’t freak out when try to check engine oil.

    Regarding having grill – it is advantage since you can make BBQ. You cannot do that with electric car.

  • avatar

    The VW Beetle and Chevy Corvair were grill-less, so the concept is nothing new. Car buyers operate on emotion, why not appeal to their biases and loyalties with some trim pieces on the front of the EV?

  • avatar

    Grills are only necessary on vehicles that are highly inefficient at converting chemical energy into kinetic motion….

    • 0 avatar

      They aren’t even necessary then. All you need is a slot under the bumper. Which EVs also need unless you want no battery cooling or air conditioning.

      Grilles on pretty much every car are purely ornamental at this point.

  • avatar

    Dumb. The stupid fake grille-looking thing on the original Model S always annoyed me to no end. Uniqueness is a selling point, for God’s sake. Embrace your grille-lessness.

    • 0 avatar

      And yet after they took it away it looks even worse. The right way to do it is like the front of sundry mid-engine cars (hood sloping right to the top of the bumper, but then you lose frunkspace and potentially pedestrian impact protection.

      Just no good way to do it, so might as well go with what everyone expects to be there so it doesn’t look weird.

  • avatar

    Three point star on so called “grill” is too SMALL. They should make it BIG or even BIGGER so people know that it is not a Hyundai. I am impressed though how good MB designers are – so progressive and so transparent at same time!

  • avatar

    Why? Because we have a century of expecting to see the “mouth” on the “face” of a car.

    I’m surprised that some enterprising small manufacturer hasn’t designed and sold false grilles to liven up the guppy fronts of the Tesla range…

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