After much anticipation, heightened by a couple dozen driving gloves sent to influencers, the world was treated this week to its first look at what might be Virgil Abloh’s most ambitious collaboration to date: a full-scale Geländewagen created with Mercedes-Benz.
We were also treated to the additional pleasure of speaking with Abloh himself and Mercedes Chief Creative Director Gorden Wagener about the design of the world’s newest collab car, one inspired in part by the (highly relatable) experience of pulling up to the Malibu location of Nobu.
As with many Abloh projects, there’s a lot of homages at play in the design of this new car. To start, its hyper-stylized, NASA-meets-Wes-Anderson features clearly take some kind of page from his creative ally artist Tom Sachs. Furthermore, the truck’s exed-out headlights make a distinct wink to the artist (and part-time Dior logo designer) KAWS. Could the faded patina of the truck also be a nod to Daniel Arsham? Hard to tell in photographs.
But there’s one point of comparison that, while very unintentional, is impossible to unsee: the fact that the truck’s low suspension and rounded body kit makes its silhouette look a lot like a Kia Soul.
For those who are not experts on subcompact SUVs, the Kia Soul is a model debuted by the Korean manufacturer Kia Motors in 2008. And while it is not the Kia made famous by Blake Griffin dunking over it in the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest (that was an Optima), it is indeed the Kia that rose to infamy through a much-maligned commercial featuring “gangsta” hamsters driving the car and dancing to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”
Let’s be fair: due to its sheer size, no one is going to confuse Abloh’s G-Wagon with a Soul — not even if you left your contacts at home. But the still-not-unseeable comparison points to some absurdities we should probably be asking ourselves about. In the hyper-functional world of German auto design, why do car manufacturers need fashion designers to make window dressings for their classic models? (Let’s not leave Aimé Leon Dore’s 964 Porsche Carrera 4 out of this!) Is what we’re seeing here the cross-branding version of a mid-life crisis victim needing to have younger and cooler friends? Or do we have something even more tragic on our hands here, like the Ford Explorer’s Eddie Bauer Edition? Or, is what we’re seeing our generation’s version of the timeless BMW artist-edition cars by the likes of Frank Stella and Andy Warhol? And most importantly of all: Will people actually pull up to Nobu in this G-Wagon?
Instead of answering, we’ll leave you with our rodent friends