Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

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At the North American Auto Show Detroit, Mercedes-Benz is adding to its reputation as a pioneer and design trendsetter among premium carmakers with the presentation of its Concept Ocean Drive four-door convertible. This study is a one-off creation by Mercedes-Benz which revives the tradition of large luxury convertibles. Not having to work to a design brief or production specifications left the designers free to get on with the job of developing the world’s most comfortable and elegant convertible.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The Concept Ocean Drive is an awe-inspiring jewel on wheels. As a four-door convertible, it belongs in a luxury genre that has almost disappeared from our roads. Like the luxury convertibles of years gone by, this showpiece from Stuttgart features the maximum in elegance, lifestyle sophistication and exclusiveness. To put it another way, it represents automobile culture at its most attractive and desirable.

The one-off special has an all-new body with an almost classic flavour and with clearly defined lines and vibrant two-tone paintwork which are exceptionally charismatic. Although on one level the Concept Ocean Drive displays the restraint of an elite and aristocratic automobile, it is also an open invitation to go on a "top-less" cruise along the world’s finest ocean promenades. Luxurious, exotic materials have been crafted with consummate skill to create a showpiece of unparalleled perfection.

Mercedes-Benz design studies – a stylistic journey into the future

The Concept Ocean Drive isn’t just designed to inspire dreams and fantasies; it also serves a very practical purpose. Because design studies are always a good opportunity for designers to play around with less familiar themes, to see things from new angles and to explore new ideas. Not just a pure design exercise, they are also a way of stimulating a closer dialogue with customers and of trying out new ideas on the general public. This helps the designers get a feel for future styling trends and to develop and implement new design idioms.

The unique luxury convertible design study from Stuttgart turns a "dream car" vision into reality. At the same time it is also an affirmation of the design excellence and values of the Mercedes-Benz brand, including the brand’s traditional basic principles like excellent build and quality, comfort, effortless superiority, value retention and safety. These values have now been joined by three further key messages: passion, fascination and innovation. The Mercedes-Benz design philosophy both perpetuate proven styling themes associated with the brand and at the same time combines them with new and surprising ideas and forms.

Styling conveys effortless superiority and elegance

Apart from the four doors, the outward distinguishing marks of the concept car include a very large and upright radiator grille, LED headlamps and taillights, two-tone paintwork and a striking interplay between taut lines and large, restful surfaces. This lends the one-off special an air of effortless superiority, power, elegance and forward-flowing energy.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The long side-window opening which, typically of a convertible, is not interrupted by a B-pillar or window frames, ensures seamless continuity between the exterior and the interior, even when the top is up. Extensive use of high-value materials –such as finest-quality leather, 3D-effect materials and large bird’s eye maple trim panels (in the interior and even on the soft-top compartment cover) – and many other thoughtfully designed interior details, highlight the luxurious, unique character of this design study.

Top-level engineering

The design study is based on the twelve-cylinder Mercedes-Benz S 600, on account of this model’s long wheelbase. The technical highlights include:

  •  the innovative soft-top mechanism resulting in smooth operation and fast closing times;
  •  the innovative AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, which is featured on all four seats, allowing occupants to enjoy top-down motoring even in the colder months of the year.


Needless to say, the on-board equipment also includes top-level Mercedes-Benz innovations, some of which are unique worldwide – including Brake Assist PLUS, the innovative PRE-SAFE brake system (in combination with radar-based DISTRONIC PLUS) and the PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection system.

The concept

  •  Four-door open-air motoring pleasure and innovative engineering
  •  Intense sensual appeal and exclusive design
  •  Top-class elegance and lifestyle sophistication
  •  More than just an exercise in design

Mercedes-Benz designers frequently have visions of dream cars like the Concept Ocean Drive luxury convertible, but only a few such visions make it beyond the drawing board and get to be presented before a wider audience. This design study is one such exception. In the absence of virtually any constraints in the form of a design brief, production specifications or market demands, the designers were able to get on with the exciting job of building the world’s most comfortable and elegant convertible, in the form of an elaborate one-off special.

The result is an awe-inspiring jewel on wheels with which Mercedes-Benz is reviving its large four-door convertible tradition –a luxury automobile genre that has almost disappeared from our roads. The last four-door convertibles produced by Mercedes-Benz were built-to-order 300d cabriolet models which left the Stuttgart production lines in 1962. The Concept Ocean Drive model is revisiting and reinterpreting this luxury convertible tradition 45 years down the line in a one-off design study. Like its famous predecessors, the showpiece from Stuttgart features the maximum in elegance, lifestyle sophistication and exclusiveness. To put it another way, it represents automobile culture at its most attractive and desirable.

Clearly defined lines and two-tone paintwork

First and foremost however, the seductive Concept Ocean Drive four-door convertible is an exercise in sensual appeal, based on the technical platform of the Mercedes-Benz S 600 with long wheelbase (3165 millimetres) and twelve-cylinder engine. The one-off special has an all-new body with an almost classic flavour and with clearly defined lines and vibrant two-tone paintwork which are exceptionally charismatic. Although on one level it displays the restraint of an elite and aristocratic automobile, the design study is also an open invitation to go on a "topless", carefree cruise along the world’s finest ocean promenades, in the drowsy warmth of a summer evening. The study combines youthful enthusiasm with genuine passion and healthy self-confidence. This is never marred even when the soft top has to be raised over the four luxurious single seats.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The charm of the Concept Ocean Drive operates only partly on the intellectual level. Certainly the car is equipped with the technical innovations which put Mercedes-Benz models among the leading pioneers in the luxury class – but its "dream car" character is centred more on extrovert self-confidence. The four-door convertible study proudly boasts luxurious and unusual materials and meticulous craftsmanship; its uncompromising perfection makes it a masterpiece whose unique qualities are likely to appeal to those who want, most of all, to rise above the mundane and ordinary.

Design study with space for new ideas

There’s one dream, however, that the new luxury convertible from Stuttgart can’t hope to satisfy, namely that of owning it. Being a design study, it remains firmly "unattainable". That said, however, as a design study it isn’t just designed to inspire dreams and fantasies but also serves a very practical purpose. Because whereas Mercedes-Benz concept or research vehicles are developed to test new vehicle concepts and technologies, design studies are a good opportunity for designers to play around with less familiar topics, to see things from new angles, to explore new ideas and to give fantasies an airing in the real world.

The Concept Ocean Drive is not just a pure design exercise and is more than just a playground for new ideas and perspectives. It is also a way of stimulating a closer dialogue with customers and of trying out new ideas for cars of tomorrow on the general public. This helps the designers get a feel for future styling trends and to develop and implement new design idioms. In the words of Professor Peter Pfeiffer, Mercedes Car Group, Senior Vice President Design: "Our automobile designers have the important task of identifying –and also setting – trends. They must be aware of currents and undercurrents in art, culture and society and must have an intuitive nose – at a very early stage – for what’s coming next. Designers are always working in the future. We can never stand still but must keep thinking further and further ahead."

Design excellence reflects the philosophy of the brand

The Concept Ocean Drive turns a "dream car" vision into reality. At the same time it is also an affirmation of the design excellence and values of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Design has a dual task: on the one hand to produce exciting lines and shapes and on the other to express and visualise the brand identity. This identity is founded on the values of Mercedes-Benz such as excellent build and quality, comfort, effortless superiority, good value retention and safety.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The Mercedes-Benz design philosophy both perpetuates proven styling themes associated with the brand and at the same time combines them with new and surprising ideas and forms. The Concept Ocean Drive is a good example of this. It too reflects the basic design idioms and typical hallmarks of the brand. Needless to say these include the radiator grille, which despite its new treatment is in-stantly recognisable as belonging to a Mercedes. Other characteristic features of the current Mercedes-Benz style include purity and lucidity of form, with a strik-ing interplay between taut lines and large, restful surfaces, and a rejection of excessive ornamentation in favour of enduring appeal. This gives the design study an air of effortless superiority, power, elegance and forward-flowing energy.

Distinctive and unexpected styling touches like the slightly downward-sloping line above the rear wheel arch and the new headlamp treatment help to define the special character of the unique Concept Ocean Drive. And the long side-window opening, which is not interrupted by a B-pillar or a window frame, ensures seamless continuity between the exterior and the interior, even when the top is up. Extensive use of high-quality materials – such as very soft leather, 3D-effect materials or large bird’s eye maple trim panels (in the interior and also on the soft top compartment cover – and many other thoughtfully designed interior details highlight the luxurious, unique character of this design study.

 


Technology and features

Design and equipment: Classic lines and meticulous craftsmanship


  •  Elaborate two-tone paintwork
  •  Seductive blend of elegance and power
  •  World’s first soft top with proportional valves
  •  Luxurious bird’s eye maple and soft leather


At first glance the Mercedes-Benz Concept Ocean Drive strongly recalls classic luxury-car designs. This impression rests above all on a large, very upright radiator and the elegant, long and extended lines of the new four-door convertible body. The design study’s creators were not aiming to be avantgarde in their interpretations of Mercedes-Benz design themes. Rather, the idea was that to create a unique showpiece fusing effortless superiority, prestige, elegance, luxury and self-confident enjoyment of pleasure and the good life.

The four-door convertible’s styling is surprising, seductive and in keeping with the Mercedes-Benz styling philosophy, whose watchword is contemporary purity and clarity. Lucid forms and large, restful surfaces are interwoven with taut lines to create a fascinating counterpoint between calmness and power. The resulting impression is of harmony, elegance and all-round quality – particularly when the soft top is down. In this state, the side windows are fully retracted and the interior is completely open, thanks to the typical convertible lack of a B-pillar or side-window frames. The dropped top also shows off the elegant interior with its high-quality materials and many interesting features, while the exterior appears particularly long and extended. When the soft top is raised, the taut curve of the roof-line emphasises the thoroughbred qualities of the vehicle.

Large and dominant radiator

Specially developed for the design study, the radiator is the defining feature of the front end of the luxury convertible. It is based on the familiar saloon radiator grille but scales new dimensions in terms of its surface area. This extremely imposing radiator grille is almost a third larger than that of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. With its four sturdy slats, this one-off design is also much more upright than the radiator grille on any model in the current Mercedes-Benz range and its dominant aura makes it an unmistakable status symbol.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

This impression is buttressed by the strongly V-shaped front end and the long bonnet, which is bounded by a prominent feature line around the edge. This line embraces the radiator grille and merges in an elegant, coupé-like flourish with the sharply raked A-pillar.

LED technology gives distinctive headlamp appearance

All the headlamp functions are provided by LED technology, which also serves as a design medium. Arranged in five banks, 35 high-performance LEDs provide both the dipped and the main beam headlamp functions. Each LED is housed in its own specially constructed sheath, which acts as a kind of directional nozzle for the emerging light. Transparent Plexiglas elements accentuate the divisions between the banks of LEDs, while at their top edge the headlamps incorporate a distinctive three-dimensional lid.

When the dipped or main beams are switched on, they form a C-like light pattern in the outer part of the headlamp, thus creating a distinctive night-time effect. The daytime driving lights/parking lights are LED-based too. These light units are fitted with a cover which creates a uniform light dispersion. The same applies to the direction indicators, which forms a C-shaped border round the edge of the daytime driving lights.

Long and extended silhouette and taut lines

A defining stylistic feature of the Concept Ocean Drive in side view is the flowing shoulder line, which grows "organically" out of the front wheel arches, rises only very slightly and then drops away slightly again towards the rear, before coming to a logical conclusion in the taillights. The windscreen is sharply raked, taking design cues from the dynamic styling of the Mercedes-Benz coupés. When the soft top is raised, the roof line forms a gentle but powerful curve spanning the body, thereby preserving the impression of a long and extended silhouette.

One hallmark of Mercedes design is a striking use of lines and curves. This is reflected in the four-door convertible design study too. The shoulder line running along the lower window edge gives structure and support, while below this a fea-ture line provides further structuring for the side sections. It runs the full length of the vehicle, from the tip of the headlamps to the tip of the taillights, separating the convex and concave surfaces of the doors and creating a sense of harmony and balance. At the same time it gives the body an extended appearance, creating an effect of dynamism and elegance. The feature line also forms a striking shading line, and adds interesting effects of light and shade.

These features are complemented by the lines which grow out from the understated front and rear wheel arches. Behind the wheel arches they slightly dip away, thus accentuating the air of stylish sleekness and classic elegance. Rounding things off at the lower extremity is a side skirt with central chrome accent line.

Two-tone paintwork with new metallic paints

The feature line on the Concept Ocean Drive also forms the dividing line between the two different shades used in the two-tone paint scheme. The shimmering, coordinated beige/grey shades were specially formulated by the paint specialists at Mercedes-Benz. The upper parts of the vehicle, including the bonnet and the boot lid, are painted in the darker, pearlescent, very distinguished champagne pearl shade. The lower parts are in Alubeam champagne. The special feature of this paint are the metallic flakes which produce an extreme light/dark effect and cause the appearance to vary between either a matt or a high-sheen effect, all depending on the light and on the perspective and distance from which the vehicle is viewed. The sophisticated paintwork concept is further set off by the bronze tinting of the windows.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The two-tone paintwork not only accentuates the high-quality craftsmanship that has gone into the convertible study but also makes the vehicle appear longer and more elegant, while the play of light also reinforces the effect of the side feature lines.

Ingenious: side windows and door handles

When the frameless side windows are closed, they have to meet and form a seal outside the door area. This and the fact that the B-pillar stump makes complete retraction more difficult meant that the engineers had to devise a retraction system with special geometry and a complicated sequence of movements to manage the opening and closing of the windows. When the button is pressed, the window in the front door moves forwards and downwards at an angle. Before the rear side window can disappear completely into the rear door, the mechanism first moves it a few centimetres backwards before tilting it forwards and downwards.

Careful thought has also gone into the design of the door handles, which fit flush with the bodywork in order not to interrupt the styling. Touch sensors cause the handles to extend automatically when someone wishes to open a door.

Multi-spoke wheels

The 21-inch wheels produced specially for the four-door design study add to the impression of superior quality. Their 36 narrow spokes recall the spoked wheels of aristocratic cars of years gone by, though their overall appearance is unmistakably modern. The Concept Ocean Drive rides on large, low-profile tyres, size 275/35 ZR 21.

Distinctive rear view

At the rear, a steep edge separates the boot lid from the main body of the vehicle. The taillights, like the front lighting, are completely LED-based. When the lights are off, a narrow horizontal chrome rib continues to divide the taillight and brake light into C-shaped units reminiscent of the front headlamp design. In both cases the light covers have a homogenous appearance so that the individual LEDs be-hind cannot be distinguished. As on the headlamps, there is a module embedded in the centre of the "C". In this case it comprises the direction indicator and reversing light.

Two large trapezoidal exhaust pipes integrated in the rear bumper are telltale pointers to the presence of a powerful V12 engine underneath the bonnet.

Unique soft-top mechanism

The soft top posed a special challenge, not least due to its remarkable dimensions: with a length of 2182 millimetres, it forms a roof arc of 2220 mm and covers an area of approx. 3.2 square metres.

The soft top is opened and closed by a sophisticated electric retraction mechanism. First of all an electric motor opens the catch on the windscreen frame, then the rear bow unlatches. Finally the roof folds up and the boot lid opens back-wards, together with the parcel shelf, to accommodate it. The retraction mechanism displayed on the concept vehicle is new in this form and makes it possible to dispense with the usual transverse join.

The complex sequence of movements is driven by a variable-power hydraulic system. This system provides the motive power for the opening and closing operations, while control and coordination is for the first time provided by proportional valves which are unique worldwide. Unlike the type of valves previously used, which carried out the various operations consecutively and at uniform speed, the proportional valves use a more intelligent control strategy whereby the different opening and closing phases can take place at different speeds and in parallel. This means that the different movements can be more smoothly and elegantly, not to mention efficiently, choreographed. The six separately controllable proportional valves used in the Mercedes-Benz luxury convertible allow the roof to be opened in the very short time of approximately 20 seconds - an astonishingly quick time for a soft top of this size.

For the soft top material, a currently unique high-quality fabric was chosen. Since the warp and weft threads are in lighter and darker shades, an alternating matt/shiny effect is created which picks up on and complements the colour-shifting effects of the paintwork, producing a shimmering effect reminiscent of wood.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The soft top has a 30-millimetre layer of intermediate padding and a light-coloured interior lining which preserves the light and airy interior ambience even when the top is closed. A polished metal strip runs along the edge between the closed top and the body.

Ultimate elegance and refinement in the interior

With the top down, there is a much greater sense of continuity between the exterior and the interior of this luxury convertible when looking at the vehicle from the outside than would be possible with a closed-body vehicle. The colour of the paintwork blends seamlessly with that of the large wood trim parts – in anthracite hinting slightly at beige – which run all the way round the convertible at shoulder line level. The wood trim produces the same colour-shifting effects, altering with the light, as the paintwork. Even the large soft top compartment cover, under which the soft top stows away when lowered, is completely covered in bird’s eye maple, one of the most expensive wood veneers on account of its unusual, though unostentatious, grain pattern. A particularly neat feature: when the soft top is closed, this cover doubles up as the parcel shelf.

Inside the design study, the driver and passengers are surrounded by a wide range of sensually appealing features: when the occupants are seated, their eyes are drawn to attractive, well-proportioned, finely-balanced forms and lines and to light, warm colours, while hands brush further bird’s eye maple trim parts and fingertips linger over soft and supple leather and superior fabrics. This is luxury and comfort in the typical Mercedes-Benz mould.

Finely coordinated colour ambience

Meticulous craftsmanship sets the tone throughout the vehicle. The interior layout is horizontally structured and geared to four people. Below the instrument panel cover and the A-pillars, both of which are trimmed with dark-brown leather to avoid reflections, a large bird’s eye maple wood panel runs right across the instrument panel. It is inclined upwards and also forms the centre console.

Beneath the wood, "ivory" fabric trim whose weave gives it a three-dimensional look and feel, forms a light-coloured contrast in the area of the instrument panel, centre console and doors. The same material also surrounds the sides of the large console between the front seats. It also sets the tone on the specially designed seats, where wide strips of it alternate on the surfaces of the squab and backrest with soft leather in the same light-coloured shade. The fabric sections in the seat are not only unusual in appearance but also provide a high standard of comfort.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

Another surprise offered by the driver’s seat is not revealed until the driver wants to enter the car. At this point the seat automatically glides backwards and down to provide easier access. Once the driver is sitting in the seat, the memory function automatically returns the seat to the programmed optimal setting.

Bird’s eye maple is also used on the sides of the centre console (whose surface is trimmed in light-coloured leather) and the armrests. Those areas where the occupants’ hand will rest are likewise trimmed in a light-coloured leather which is particularly pleasant to the touch.

DVD system and champagne compartment

The folding armrest between the rear-seat backrests in the design study incorporates a cleverly devised mechanism which, when the armrest is folded out, first of all raises the upper wood-trimmed section then, when the leather-upholstered armrest has been extended, lowers the wood flap back down again to close the gap. This rear armrest incorporates a twist/push control with hand rest which the rear-seat passengers can use to operate the high-quality DVD/audio system. The video screens are built into the back of the front head restraints.

Also located between the seats is a champagne compartment housing one bottle and two champagne goblets. Special grips hold the filled goblets securely in place when the car is on the move.

Superior control and operation

Looking at the design study there is very little indication that it is, in fact, based on an S 600 model. The instruments and switches that make up the control and operation system are the only thing the engineers have adopted wholesale from the S-Class – everything else was developed and built specially for the design study. The wood steering wheel for example is again a one-off design. The polished aluminium highlight, with a central Mercedes star in the same material creates an inlaid effect. Also new, and specially designed for this model, is the chronometer in the centre of the instrument panel.

 

Engineering

Innovations from the Mercedes-Benz flagship models


  •  380 kW/517 hp twin-turbo 12-cylinder engine
  •  PRE-SAFE brake system and PRE-SAFE occupant protection system

With the Concept Ocean Drive, Mercedes-Benz set out to create not only an excit-ing showpiece but also a fully driveable vehicle. In keeping with the project’s ambitious goals, the engineers’ choice of base vehicle fell on the S 600 top-of-the-line S-Class model, with long wheelbase and twelve-cylinder engine.

First of all they stripped the Mercedes-Benz flagship of its entire bodywork, with only a brief stump at the base of the B-pillar remaining. What remained of the floor assembly they fitted with concealed cross-bracing and reinforcements to ensure the required torsional stiffness – despite the lack of a fixed roof structure.

The large dimensions of the long-version C-Class floor assembly (3165 mm wheelbase) provided the foundations for an interior space concept that offers all passengers first-class standards of comfort. Even the opulent rear footwells were retained. The only dimensional alteration was that the new carbon convertible bodywork has slightly shorter rear doors to make room for the soft top mechanism.

Twin-turbo engine develops impressive power

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

The bonnet of the Concept Ocean Drive shelters a top-of-the-line V12 Mercedes-Benz power plant, which for this vehicle has acquired a new, elaborately designed cowling emblazoned with a stylised "V" emblem. A lot of attention has been lavished on various other – normally concealed – features in the engine compartment. For example the covers of the windscreen washer reservoir and other fluid containers are opened by means of chromed catches, with simulated perforations adding a particularly stylish touch. The exhaust manifolds protruding from the cowling are wrapped in stainless steel mesh.

The twin-turbo engine develops maximum power of 380 kW/517 hp and maximum torque of 830 Newton metres and provides supreme and effortless power. It is partnered by the tried-and trusted, smooth-action 5-speed automatic transmission.

Air scarf on all four seats

One of the technical highlights of the Concept Ocean Drive has been adopted – in fourfold form – from the SLK-Class. The innovative AIRSC RSC ARF neck-level heating system, which made its debut in the sports car model, warms the head, throat and neck like an invisible scarf. This allows occupants in all four seats of the Concept Ocean Drive model to keep the top down as much as possible, even during the cold season.

Innovations from the flagship models

Needless to say, the Mercedes-Benz showcar incorporates the same technical innovations which have made the flagship Mercedes models benchmarks in the passenger car industry. They include important new developments like Brake Assist PLUS, the innovative PRE-SAFE® brake system (in combination with radar-based DISTRONIC PLUS) and the PRE-SAFE® anticipatory occupant protection system.

The radar sensors of the Brake Assist PLUS (BAS PLUS) system monitor traffic in front and warn the driver if the following distance is too short or if the vehicle is closing up too quickly on the preceding vehicle. If a risk of collision is detected, BAS PLUS calculates with split-second speed the required amount of brake boost, then delivers it the moment the brake is applied, even if the driver doesn’t step on the pedal hard enough. Supplementing this system the PRE-SAFE® brake system, which is unique worldwide, goes a stage further than Brake Assist PLUS by automatically braking the vehicle with approximately 40 percent of maximum braking force if an acute risk of accident is detected. The result is a significant reduction in the number of nose-to-tail collisions and in the risk of injury to vehicle occupants.

Mercedes-Benz design study: Concept Ocean Drive

Also on board is the DISTRONIC PLUS radar-based proximity control system which maintains the desired following distance from traffic in front. In stop-go traffic the system automatically brakes the vehicle to a standstill if necessary, then – at a command from the driver – accelerates back to the pre-specified speed as soon as the traffic starts moving again.

COMAND controller and one-touch buttons

The developers equipped the design study with the further enhanced control and display system as used in the S-Class, which ensures that frequently used functions can be accessed quickly and conveniently. Depending on their personal preferences, drivers can operate features like the radio, TV receiver, CD/DVD changer, telephone or navigation system either by means of conventional switches, by means of buttons on the multifunction steering wheel or by using the enhanced COMAND system.


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