Mercedes-Benz has used the biennial Frankfurt motor show to premiere the electrified Vision EQS concept car, an obvious riposte to the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S.
The company says this highly symbolic concept not only previews some of the design, drivetrain and manufacturing decisions that shape its next generation of products, but at a philosophical level offers “an outlook on future large electric luxury saloons by the brand”.
The show car blends slinky coupe-like proportions with cutting-edge exterior lighting and a minimalist screen-laden interior with shades of a speedboat. But let us start with the ‘go’ before dissecting the ‘show’.
Power units at each axle cooperate through the car’s central control, giving fully variable all-wheel-drive. These drive units make a combined 350kW of power and 760Nm of torque, and run off a battery unit in the floor with a capacity of 100kWh.
It’s clear that hypercar performance takes a back seat to luxury, given the claimed zero to 100km/h sprint time is 4.5 seconds (hardly slow, but well below the flagship Model S’s 2.6 seconds and Taycan’s 2.8 seconds).
Mercedes also cites a WLTP-certified driving range of 700km between charges, and the ability charge to 80 per cent capacity from zip in under 20 minutes on a 350kW rapid charger.
The outputs and charging capabilities of the electric drivetrain are interesting since this concept premieres a “completely new, fully-variable battery-electric drive platform”.
The bits below the body are designed to be largely modular, usable on a cross-model basis. In other words the chassis can be stretched and the batteries and motors tailored. Plus, the lithium-ion battery comes from the Daimler subsidiary Accumotive.
On the design front, the lean-and-mean silhouette is a model of simplicity, stripped of excessive character lines and reliant on proportions. The bonnet, boot and pillars blend with the dark-tinted windows and contrast with the silver lower body section.
The black-panel grille contains a light matrix with 188 circuit boards controlling five blue LEDs apiece, thus 940 LEDs arrayed so as to give the illusion of depth existing on a flat surface. Naturally this spectacular show surrounds the central three-pointed star badge.
Each headlight contains four ‘holographic headlight lens modules’, each sporting 500 LEDs “creating an almost unlimited number of display possibilities”. The rear lights are 229 individual LEDs integrated into the body, shaped like three-pointed stars.
One of the most interesting things about the interior is the way it wraps around occupants. The curved dash-top blends into the doors, as does the rear parcel shelf in symmetrical fashion. It’s as though you’re sitting in a Riva speedboat.
It also “gives an outlook on the interior of future luxury saloons by the brand”. A betting person might suggest there’s a hint or two of the next S-Class flagship in this.
White microfibre trim somehow made from old bottles, maple wood grown in Germany to reduce truck emissions, artificial leather designed to be as soft as nappa hide, and a textile lining the roof made from plastic ocean waste, all feature inside.
The colour themes and cream and rose gold, while blue lighting signatures throughout the cabin are on-brand.
Infotainment is a new iteration of the familiar voice- and touch-controlled MBUX already used in the company's latest models. The floating centre tablet is minimalist, and augmented by touchscreens on each front door to control seat and window functions etcetera.
You’ll also notice the presence of a steering wheel, unlike some pie-in-the-sky concept cars that envision level 5 driverless vehicle autonomy.
“The Vision EQS also makes a clear statement for the continuation of driver-controlled vehicles. To this end the show car shows the bandwidth of the platform with its clear focus on the driver,” the company’s rather flowery statement reads.
“Mercedes-Benz will also be in a position to fulfil the desire for individual mobility and thrilling handling characteristics in the future. At the same time the Vision EQS show car supports the driver with highly-automated driving at Level 3, e.g. on longer motorway journeys."
“Thanks to the modular sensor systems, the level of autonomy can be extended up to fully-automated driving in the future.”
Another thing Mercedes is keen to talk about is the brand’s sustainability as a whole, with the current long-term aim to offer a CO2-neutral fleet in 20 years time.
To that end, expect production versions of this car and others like it to use battery cells made in CO2-neutral fashion, in factories powered by renewables (such as MB’s new Factory 56 in Sindelfingen), and to be around 85 per cent recyclable at life’s end.
It’s also focusing on making the charging network all it can be.
“In some regions, and depending on how it is generated, electric power is a very significant source of CO2 over the life cycle of an electric car. Accordingly Mercedes-Benz seeks to encourage customers to charge their cars with ‘green’ energy,” it acknowledges, pointing to a function within its owner app that guides you to such stations.
It’s also worth pointing out the Ionity joint-venture between arch-rivals BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and the Volkswagen group with Audi and Porsche, which will offer 400 rapid-charging parks across Europe by 2020.
In Australia, Mercedes-Benz is gearing to launch its first electric model, the EQC crossover, and will also launch plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the A-Class, C-Class, E-Class and GLC by April next year.
The EQS, given the S in its name, is also an unashamed preview of what to expect from the next-generation S-Class.
“Our customers expect the S-Class to be on the vanguard of automotive industry. Thus it’s the symbolic representation of our purpose, our deeper meaning, our raison d’être. The reason we get up in the morning," said Ola Kallenius, head of Mercedes-Benz cars and chairman of the Daimler board.
"This is what a full size saloon might look like in the future. “
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