Arousing curiosity. Awakening emotions. Thinking ahead. Turning ideas into something concrete. These are the interesting tasks faced by the designers at the Mercedes Technology Center in Sindelfingen. For them the future is ever-present, and occasionally they allow us a glimpse of “their” future world - in the form of studies, showing us vehicles to come.
The new Vision SLA is just such a piece of the future. No utopian fantasy vehicle, this is a thoroughly realistic and realizable project, capturing the attention with its use of new style elements, new details and new interior materials on a tried and trusted technological basis.
The design study takes up an old theme - the fun of driving a roadster - and projects it into the future. It is the consistent recollection of that simple, unadulterated type of driving which makes up the special charm of this two-seater. Just 3.77 meters long, it is tailored to fit its occupants like a glove and allows them to become one with the technology, the road and nature.
Unfiltered experience, enjoying every kilometer of the way – at Mercedes-Benz, automobiles with these qualities have a tradition dating back over 90 years. But the Vision SLA represents the first time that the qualities of the SL-Roadster have been transferred to the compact car class. The Vision SLA could, in the future, establish itself as the “teenager” among open-top Mercedes sportscars.
The interplay of powerful curves and transparent surfaces
The two-seater fits this image at first glance. Its muscular curves in the front and rear speak youthful simplicity and sporty dynamics. The gaze wanders across an artistically sculptured hood which covers the entire front of the car and rises towards the center of the body, reinforcing the powerful appearance of the roadster. The outer curves of the hood harmoniously enclose the two exterior mirrors, integrating them into the overall look.
The tight lines contrast with the easy surfaces in the central area of the hood, these simultaneously underlining a further essential feature of the sportscar: transparency, openness. Aluminum sheets with a geometric perforation structure allow glimpses of the area beneath hood. The upper attachment points of the spring struts also protrude from here - as a further contribution to the SLA motif “transparent technology”. The perforated aluminum sheets also optimize air flow.
Front section with new identity features
Wing profiles and the striking arrow-shaped front with the central Mercedes star are the main stylistic features of the front section, reinforcing the identity of the roadster. The Vision SLA consciously adopts the formal language of the high-performance sportscar Vision SLR and shows that its style elements also suit sporty Mercedes models of other vehicle classes. The designers have again come up with something very special for the shape of the upper wing profile: they have extended it to the side with two transparent plastic sections which protrude from the outer curves of the hood and conceal LEDs. These function as turn signal lights and illuminate the entire wing ends with their yellow light.
The channeled high and low beams of the xenon headlamps emerge from two of the elliptical apertures in the wing profile. Thanks to compact projection technology they are held in aluminum cylinders which are visible as a result of the perforated metal of the hood. The third opening in each wing profile is for the sidelights.
A further wing profile extends in the lower area of the front section, acting as spoiler to ensure correct air flow in the engine area. To the left and right, oval openings form the lower edge of the hood, guiding cooling air onto the front brake disks when the car is in motion.
Light signals on the trunk lid
In the side view, it is above all the gleaming 19-inch wheels, with their attractive wing design, and the wide doors, whose handles pop out mechanically on touch and spring back flush to the vehicle exterior once you are inside. The typical Mercedes positioning of the turn signal repeats inside the casing of the exterior mirrors has also been implemented by the designers in the roadster Vision. Like the two front turn signal lights, the yellow LEDs certainly catch the attention.
The gentle slope down to the rear is reminiscent in form of the legendary Mercedes-Benz SL roadster which caused a sensation in the fifties. The tail lights, concealed below transparent plastic covers on the rear mudflaps also follow this line. While the light from the red LED tail light is distributed across the entire lower surface by means of a prism system, the turn signal LEDs are situated within a wing profile which “hovers” above the prisms.
Built-in luggage rack with integrated rear spoiler
The glass covering the tail lights represents the outer point of an integrated aluminum luggage rack which also has multifunctional properties. On the one hand the carrier system will hold a specially formed suitcase, and on the other hand the lower cross-strut of the luggage rack serves as rear spoiler and increases the pressure on the rear axle – an important stability feature.
The two diffusers in the rear bumpers are both stylistically interesting and aerodynamically significant. They improve aerodynamics and reduce the cd value of the bodywork, which, despite the compact dimensions of the Vision SLA is only 0.36.
The LED brake lights and a neon tube for the reversing light are situated in the rear bumper of the roadster.
Tailor-made interior for the perfect roadster experience
The interior design focuses the message of this automobile: pure driving pleasure – by concentrating on the essentials. Seats, steering wheel, instruments, gearshift lever and a few switches are all the driver needs for the classic, unadulterated roadster experience. Although a few select modern luxury features are, of course, included: car radio, electric windows and power-adjustable exterior mirrors.
The interior is tailored to fit – not a centimeter too much. Exactly the right amount of space for two occupants to feel comfortable: no more, no less. Driver and passenger take their places on ergonomic integral seats made of carbon fiber and are instantly at one with their vehicle – ideal circumstances for the unimpeded pleasure of roadster driving.
A piece of unadulterated nature in the interior
The selection and use of the materials also corresponds to the natural character of the Vision SLA. There are neither carpets nor fabric seat covers. Instead, primed metal surfaces, gleaming aluminum elements, transparent perforated metal structures and unique, dark brown leather dominate the look. The leather is normally used for the manufacture of saddles and is tanned according to traditional methods – exclusively using vegetable matter. It retains its natural look throughout all of the processing, making each piece individual and unique. Like finest cashmere or expensive silk, this natural material also has a very special value and permanently retains its characteristic qualities such as high wear-resistance and excellent climatic properties.
On the instrument panel and the insides of the doors the designers have introduced areas of the saddle leather, which can be up to three millimeters thick, but have not stretched it to fit, deliberately leaving the cut edges visible. Saddler’s seams in light cotton round off these edge areas and form a pleasant color contrast. On the metal of the floor in front of the driver’s and passenger’s seats there are studded mats made of saddle leather, with robust cotton seams, while the integral seats feature a perforated leather cover and sporty throws in the same material.
Perforated metal structures bring transparency to the center console of the Vision SLA and reinforce the lightweight structural effect given by the aluminum knobs for the heating, ventilation and car radio which are situated there. The two round instruments in the cockpit, the ignition lock and the hazard warning lights, also take the form of matt aluminum cylinders which correspond in shape to the casings of the front headlamps. Finally, the material aluminum can also be seen in the striking duct element, which serves as a stable base for the instrument panel and offers space to accommodate the ventilation ducts. These lead to the lateral, cylindrical vents which can be adjusted by means of disks. At the front, aluminum sheet metal with perforated structure joins the instrument panel to the windshield.
With their white needles and green, backlit dials, the cockpit instruments reflect the design of the quality chronometers used at the side of the track in days gone by to record acceleration and top speeds. A genuine chronometer is also provided as part of the interior equipment of the Vision SLA: the clock is situated in a further aluminum cylinder on the center console and can be removed along with its saddle-leather wristband.
Aluminum as link between design and technology
The occupants in the Vision SLA will not just see the natural, sporty character of the roadster and experience it in terms of the technology it offers; they will be able to feel it too. In the material concept of the open-top two-seater, touch plays a very special role: points of frequent contact are covered with high-quality saddle leather: the steering wheel, the seats, the arm rests in the door panels and the floor.
Matt aluminum with finely knurled structure which is pleasant to the touch forms the link between design and technology. All control elements which require a turning movement are made from this material: the grip area of the combi lever on the steering wheel, the regulators for the heating and ventilation, the light switch and the knob for the car radio. Other interior elements with which there is normally little contact are primed with a new type of metallic paint which leaves a deliberate rough surface – a further reminder of the thoroughbred sportscars of the past.
The color of this metallic paint matches to the highly reflective exterior paint finish of the Vision SLA: “cool silver”.