During a special preview, the German premium brand spilled the beans about its future plans for the exclusive end of the market.
This official sketch depicts Mercedes-Benz’ upcoming Ultimate Performance concept car, which we believe is likely to be unveiled to the public, early in 2019 in some form.
In addition to the release of this sketch, the Germans invited a selection of journalists to Daimler AG’s new Advanced Future Research Studio in Stuttgart Stammheim, where some of the brand’s stylists were at hand to explain what this newest concept car is all about.
Never knowingly outgrilled
Daimler AG Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener, sent a video message to the present members of the press corps, excusing himself for his non-attendance by explaining that his undivided creativity was regrettably needed in California.
This leads quite a few correspondents to immediately leave the presentation in frustration, but the rest are welcomed by Dick van Kok, recently appointed Executive Vice Chief Designer in charge of Creation at Daimler AG. Rumour has it van Kok may have taken on the unofficial role of heir apparent within the creative realm upon which Gorden Wagener keeps such a tight reign.
What becomes obvious early on is that van Kok is a man of confidence: “We are and will remain the leaders. The hunter, rather than the one being hunted, even though we actually are being hunted by our competitors. It’s just that we don’t care that much!”
When it comes to other German premium brands’ mimicking the Swabians’ stylistic ethos, the Dutchman quickly responds with a cocksure grin that quickly becomes his trademark: “We were first. Sensual Purity® was how it all started. Others are trying to copy it, and we take that as a compliment. But we own sensuality – and purity. It truly is that simple.”
When pressed for a brand he takes more seriously than others, van Kok mentions the work of a fellow Dutchman, a few hundred kilometres farther east. “We do keep an eye on what BMW are doing. Precision & Poetry clearly has potential. But where they are right now, we were years ago. We’re working on Sensual Purity® v3.0 as we speak. We’ve moved on.”
A virtual concept – for the time being
Coming back to the main reason for this invitation, a three-dimensional computer generated image of the Mercedes-Benz Ultimate Performance is projected onto the presentation hall’s screen – which may end up the only way in which this concept car is ever shown to the public. “We might be beyond motor shows. We might be beyond physical concept cars. And as we want to keep our edge, we’re still pondering if we should build this or not. For the time being, it’s the industry’s most photo realistic prototype.”
Although it may not physically exist, van Kok insists Ultimate Performance is a functioning concept car in every way. “As you can see, we built upon the basis of the Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury, which we’d brought to Auto China 2018, to great acclaim. Now we wanted to further explore the concept of a USUV.”
According to Mercedes-Benz, the Ultimate Performance does no less than to establish a new category of motor car, the Ultra Sports Utility Vehicle (USUV). Combining the qualities of a utility vehicle with those of a saloon and a sports car’s, the USUV supposedly marks a paradigm shift.
“In the long run, we believe up to a third of our entire production could consist of USUVs of different specification. We’re thinking big!”, van Kok explains before continuing: “Look at that front: When we started the creative process, it was high on our list of priorities that we won’t ever be outgrilled again. So this is not just a front grille – it’s a grille front!”
Apart from the prominent grille, the Dutch designer wants to draw attention to the fact that Ultimate Luxury was influenced by the animal kingdom: “The menace of a shark, the might of an elephant, the stance of a tiger – it’s all in there!” He then goes on to point out the three bars of laser headlights as being like “a tiger’s claws”, whereas the 25-inch-wheels fitted to the concept make it clear that Ultimate Performance could “literally crush everything with its sheer power”.
Respecting one’s heritage
However, less abstract influences can also be detected. “Come on, we’re Mercedes-f*cking-Benz! We’re the world’s oldest car maker, so obviously we respect our heritage! Those indicators at the corners above the grille, in traditional orange – that’s our nod to the classic G-Wagen. Other brands would kill to have such an icon to pay homage to!”
Clearly, Dick van Kok relished the opportunity to work on this 5,2 metres long, V12 hybrid powered virtual concept car. Similarly, he’s bullish about its influence not just on future Mercedes product, but the premium sector in general.
“We’ve been successful in the past, but with great success comes hunger for even greater success – it’s human nature. With Ultimate Luxury, Ultimate Performance and the USUV in general, we want to define what luxury means in the 20th century. Ultimate Performance defines the now!”
After an intriguing 90 minutes in the company of the feisty Dick van Kok and the Mercedes-Benz Ultimate Performance, one thing has become abundantly clear: The future, as envisaged at Stuttgart Sindelfingen and now Stammheim, is not for the faint-hearted.
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