Mercedes’ Movable Feast

Mercedes-Benz gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.

Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag
Mercedes Concept IAA. Image: gizmag

While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsive technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether.

A study in leading edge aerodynamic thinking, the Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA offers a plausible insight into how forthcoming cars will be shaped. The visual highlight of the concept design is its extendible tail section; the most overt of several movable aerodynamic devices throughout the car, aimed at shredding the drag co-efficient to a mere 0.19cd. Visually Concept IAA develops on themes already explored in this year’s Autonomous Drive concept, but with more emphasis upon exterior style than interior ambience.

Shades of this? Pininfarina's Studio CNR from 1978. Image via ecomodder
Shades of this? Pininfarina’s Studio CNR from 1978. Image: ecomodder

A couple of observations: First –  pure aerodynamics rarely produces conventionally attractive shapes. Concept IAA is conclusively not a pretty car, even if it is a very interesting one. Second: Ever since Pininfarina codified the ideal saloon shape with the 1978 Studio CNR concept, there has been a certain inevitability that we’d find ourselves in this neck of the woods eventually. It seems even more likely now that car design is moving en-masse towards this kind of silhouette as airflow management becomes increasingly the focus for designers. Third: In the pursuit of the lowest drag co-efficient, there clearly wasn’t scope for the kind of pointlessly busy surface entertainment festooning Daimler’s current output, suggesting that while the future may be stark, it may also be a little more restful on the eyes.

Image via jalopnik
Image: jalopnik

A final point. There are suggestions that Concept IAA is a foreshowing of the next generation CLS-Class. I have no idea of the veracity of this claim, but were it to be so, the vaguely banana-shaped profile appears to pay inadvertent homage to the Michael Fink original. Now there’s a genuine surprise.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

12 thoughts on “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”

  1. I was hoping that DTW would pick up on the Concept IAA, as this struck me as one of the more interesting offerings at Frankfurt. Whilst attention is inevitably drawn towards the rear (and what a fulsome rear it is), it is the sheer nakedness of the surfaces that surprises. It puts me in mind of Volvo’s recent concepts and their new XC90. One hopes all this presages the end of the current trend for pointless surface complication which, if it continues on its current trajectory, will soon fill our streets with cars the texture of an elephant’s arse.

    1. +1. I find this concept very encouraging with respect to future M-B models for the same reasons.

  2. Indeed. I often get so obsessed with (justifably!) criticising the appearance of current Mercedes that I sometimes lose sight that they remain an innovative company who admirably try to offer customers what they need as much as what they want. Some MB innovations do seem to be ripe for satire, but many lead the way for others to follow. This is a refreshing reminder.

  3. i like the Concept IAA, the extending tail section reminds me of the afterburner-inspired rear styling of certain American cars from the jet age. It would be nice if it presages a return to simpler surfaces on Mercedes cars. But do the current generation of Benz buyers want visual restraint?

    1. I’ve got a horrible feeling that the answer is no. Perhaps the answer is a custom coachbuilder smoothing out Wagenered W-cars in a world where Rude Mercs have become the default. “Quiet Mercedes, ironing out creases since 2015”

  4. Mark: that’s intriguing as as a sales concept. It goes deeper though. I’d be very interested to see someone recreating the way to ensure such cars ooze distinction the way the 70s cars did. Volvo still manages on some models. Anyone else?

  5. It’s probably Kismet that this year’s IAA is not only the first one in a decade that I cannot visit, but also the one to feature the first genuinely appealing Mercedes concept car in ages.

    Apart from that I remain gobsmacked that this car has been given the nod of approval by the Burberry checked creasemaster. It appears far too tasteful, consistent, subdued and elegant for that. The hint of Aston Rapide and Audi A7 is all but forgiven, considering the convincing case for the underlying technology and the competent aesthetics. It’s almost as though Peter Schreyer isn’t so much preparing for retirement, but moonlighting as the after-hours head of Daimler AG design.

    Next month: Dieter Zetsche cutting off his moustache.

    I need a stiff drink.

  6. Since I saw this car in the press photos, there’s only one thing I can say about it: breathtaking. I love how simple the surfacing is, how both the front and rear fascias are integrated, it’s tastefully minimalistic, but striking at the same time.

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