Just a few minutes to go before the vision becomes reality. The man responsible for the design of all Daimler brands and products clutches a black cloth that has so far concealed his latest project from prying eyes. Flashguns flicker, cameras roll and several bloggers have their smartphones trained on it for live streams.
Gorden Wagener has taken up his position in the “Star Lounge,” the Mercedes-Benz base for the spectacular Concours d’Élégance in Pebble Beach, California. Once a year, the famed golf course’s green fairways become the stage for classic gems from the history of motoring. At the world’s most exclusive vintage car event, the spotlight is firmly on rarities from the past. But in the lounge today, the Mercedes-Benz designers are looking ahead with their very own vision of the future. And in the process, they completely steal the show.
The cloth slips off, and now everyone finally beholds what can be achieved when you dare to live your dreams. Within minutes of its unveiling, the new concept car has become the star of the show. While the spectators can only marvel at it, Wagener enjoys the privilege of being able to touch it, too. He gently strokes the car’s wings with his hands. “In our latest study, we took the car’s proportions right to the limit,” says the 48-year-old with a smile.
With its elongated hood, low-slung roof and rearward positioning of the cabin, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 is a statement on wheels, and a mighty lengthy one at that: at 5.7 metres, the coupe is even longer than the current Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
Wagener explains how the Mercedes-Maybach brand aspires to deliver the ultimate in luxury. He outlines his philosophy of sensual purity, and describes how vehicles bearing the three-pointed star should be both “hot” and “cool” – in other words, captivate with extraordinary styling while at the same time serving up plenty of surprising and intelligent innovations.
Elegance and sex appeal
As he speaks, the design chief’s personal way of seeing things certainly becomes apparent. “The radiator grille reminds me of a pinstripe suit,” reveals Wagener. You can tell that the concept car isn’t just another project for him. For all his unflappable professionalism, Wagener admits that when he first set eyes on the full-size model painted in a fiery zircon-red finish, it set his heart racing. “I thought: Wow, this car has a lot of sex appeal!”
The vehicle’s interior was designed in the style of a luxury lounge. A glass trim panel spanning the car’s entire width serves as a display. Drivers, meanwhile, are greeted by circular dials with real needles. “There’s a clear yearning for authentic analogue luxury – as can be seen in the resurgence of vinyl records and classic cameras,” says Wagener. The vehicle can be piloted manually, too. “The concept car does allow you to switch to an autonomous mode, but let’s be honest: This coupe is a vehicle people would surely want to drive themselves on occasion.” Producing a mind-boggling 748 hp, the Vision sprints from zero to 100 km/h in under four seconds, and boasts a range of over 500 kilometres and a rapid charging function providing 100 kilometres’ worth of electrical power in just five minutes. And because the car is propelled by four electric motors, it has all-wheel drive, too.
In a salute to the legendary 300 SL, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 features gullwing doors. With its sleek, aerodynamic shape and touches such as the split rear window, it is also reminiscent of luxurious art deco speedsters such as the 540 K Autobahnkurier, another star of previous Concours d’Élégance events.
“This is not retro design, though,” Wagener clarifies. “Rather, it’s a reinterpretation of classic design principles, blended with new ideas and forward-looking technologies.” The place that provides the backdrop for the most beautiful and luxurious vehicles from motoring’s glorious past is now the setting for a sneak peek at what such a car might look like in tomorrow’s world. Ultimately, though, a show car is nothing more than that. How much of all this will eventually make it into production depends on a host of different factors. “I can quite easily imagine developing new models for Mercedes-Maybach. Or using styling elements from the concept car in future coupes,” Wagener says. When asked whether a decision has perhaps already been taken, the chief of design just smiles – and keeps the answer to himself.