As Mercedes-Benz inches closer to its all-electric future, the German carmaker aims to focus not just on building best sellers but also on higher-end luxury vehicles that will hopefully be remembered for generations. Earlier this week, I visited the brand’s Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, CA, where it unveiled its latest sports car study, the Vision One-Eleven, as a glimpse into the marque’s future.
The One-Eleven draws inspiration from the C 111 of the 60s, an experimental vehicle the carmaker built to test the feasibility of a 2.4-liter four-rotor Wankel engine it was working on at the time. Although the C 111 never made it to production, 16 were built in the period, with only 11 examples surviving today. This latest design study follows a similar philosophy, imagining the types of shapes and proportions cars will be able to adapt with the next generation of electric motors and battery packs.
In the case of the One-Eleven, it envisions a vehicle powered by axial-flux motors, each of which is about a third the size of the radial-flux motors the German carmaker employs for its EQ models today. Despite its smaller footprint and significant weight reductions, the YASA-developed axial-flux motor can still deliver similar performance levels. To supply electrons, the Vision also showcases a new battery pack with liquid-cooled cylindrical cells with a unique chemistry currently under development with Mercedes-AMG High-Performance Powertrains, the marque’s F1 engine division.
Since the Vision One-Eleven counts on a next-generation powertrain, it doesn’t need to conform to the design constraints of current-generation internal combustion or battery-powered vehicles. As such, it features an expansive cabin that seats two but offers tremendous space in areas typically dominated by powertrain components.
During my stay at the design studio, the carmaker’s designers and engineers repeatedly mentioned the concept of “iconic luxury.” The carmaker is looking to build a vehicle that won’t just be technically impressive but has multi-generational appeal, such as the 300 SL and the C 111 that inspired it. That’s a significant reason why it features two massive gullwing doors. The carmaker wants to create innovative designs that don’t forget the brand’s heritage.
Although the One-Eleven draws inspiration from the C 111, it doesn’t do so by incorporating retro design elements. The curvy concept is quite futuristic, featuring a prominent line that starts at the tip of its front bumper and seamlessly connects to its pixelated-style tail lights. This allows its front and rear wheel arches to bulge out of the central styling motif, giving them a more prominent look. The Vision is low, with its front splitter, side skirts, and rear diffuser sitting millimeters off the ground.
Its lighting elements are a modern interpretation of the C 111’s twin head and tail lights. However, the carmaker incorporated a pixelated structure so these elements could also shift and display words and symbols.
Inside, the pixelation theme continues with a dashboard featuring the same structure. During the One-Eleven’s unveiling, Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener mentioned that he aimed to deconstruct the modern dashboard we know today as most displays tend to look nearly identical. Thus why Mercedes-Benz created the Hyperscreen. The Vision, on the other hand, takes it a step further with augmented reality glasses. These would allow the interior to come to life and project information onto the road and the environment surrounding the car.
Competitor Audi recently announced that it’s also working on a similar AR system with its Activesphere concept, showcasing that both carmakers see further immersion as the future of their vehicles. Whether that arrives through glasses or a beefed-up heads-up display remains to be seen.
As part of its push to create a future icon, Mercedes-Benz announced it plans to focus on supplementing its current portfolio of vehicles with more limited production ultra-high-end vehicles like a road-going One-Eleven would. As of writing, the carmaker has not announced whether it will build a car inspired by its latest design study. However, given that it incorporates many of the technologies and philosophies the brand aims to implement for the future, it could eventually surface as a future icon.