When it comes to concept cars, Mercedes-Benz is arguably one of the most active carmakers in the industry, rolling out stunning show cars on a regular basis. Recent creations include the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Vision Grand Turismo concept and the self-driving 2015 Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury In Motion, but none were as dramatic as the Concept IAA, which made its public debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Short for Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile (and not Frankfurt’s official IAA, or Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, name), the Concept IAA is Mercedes’ latest effort toward perfecting aerodynamics and improving fuel economy by resolving "the conflicting aims of functionality and aesthetics."

"The Concept IAA continues our series of visionary concept cars," explained Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG. "The symbiosis of alluring forms showcasing intelligent aerodynamics is an expression of our unique Mercedes-Benz design philosophy."

And visionary is right, as the IAA is a self-transforming vehicle that literally changes the shape of its body in order to achieve a very low drag coefficient. Keep reading for the full details.

Updated 09/22/2015: We’ve added a series of new photos we took at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Find them in the "Pictures" tab.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA".

  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA"
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    274
  • 0-60 time:
    5.5 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior
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Described as "a symbiosis of design and aerodynamics," the Concept IAA was developed with extreme aerodynamics in mind. Featuring a teardrop-shaped profile, the study not only reminds me of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS and 2014-2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA four-door coupes, but also of the early days of the automobile, when carmakers and inventors were experimenting with aerodynamics by integrating features such as headlamps and fenders into the bodywork.

With the Concept IAA, Mercedes-Benz managed to lower the drag coefficient to a Cd value of only 0.19, making it one of the most aerodynamic cars in history.

Though it’s definitely not a new concept, achieving a low drag coefficient is as challenging as it ever was, even though some production cars feature a Cd figure that’s as low as 0.22. With the Concept IAA, Mercedes-Benz managed to lower the drag coefficient to a Cd value of only 0.19, making it one of the most aerodynamic cars in history.

This fantastic figure was achieved by not by only designing the concept as a teardrop-shaped vehicle, but also due to the car’s ability to transform into an ultra-sleek automobile thanks to an array of body segments that extend at front and the rear, as well as the "Active Rim" technology that keeps air away from the wheel arches.

Specifically, when it enters the aerodynamic mode, no fewer than eight segments extend at the back of the car, adding over 15 inches to its length, in what looks like a ridiculously long tail. Meanwhile, flaps located in the front bumper extend out nearly an inch, while the rims "alter their cupping from 55 mm (2.1 inches) to zero," which is the equivalent of getting aerodynamic race wheel covers, but without having to place them on the rims yourself.

The transformation that turns the Concept IAA into a real-life transformer takes place automatically at 50 mph (80 km/h) or any time the driver wishes to go into aerodynamic mode. Activating it only requires the push of a button. Is that cool or what?

The styling itself goes back to the 1930s, when Mercedes-Benz was busy developing streamlined cars to break speed records and dominate European race tracks. The front end is a massive grille with four horizontal slats that also incorporate LED strips as headlamps, and a featureless engine hood. Around back, the Concept IAA resembles a 1930s streamlined coupe (the 1933-1938 Type 57 Bugatti Atlantic comes to mind), due to its sloping roof and split windscreen, while the fascia is a collection of horizontal bars with taillights incorporated toward each side. A big rear diffuser and a "Concept IAA" badge round off the design.

Exterior Dimensions

Length 5,040 MM (5,430 MM in aerodynamic mode) (198.42 Inches (213.77 Inches))
Width 1,305 MM (51.37 Inches)
Wheelbase 2,975 MM (117.12 Inches)
Track width front/rear 1710/1770 MM (67.32/69.68 Inches)

Interior

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Interior
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2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Interior
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2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Interior
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While the transforming exterior is a never-before-seen feature in the auto industry, the concept’s interior is pretty much a fancied up version of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class’. Although the door panels and the seats are different, the dashboard retains the limousine’s configuration, but with new colors and blue ambient lights all over the place. Everything is finished in Anthracite Gray and white for a contrasting appearance, complemented by loads of aluminum inserts.

The steering wheel is also new, although certain cues from the S-Class are visible there as well. The novelty here is that the standard buttons have been replaced by touch-based operating functions, a feature that’s likely to become the norm in high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicles by the end of the decade.

Drivetrain

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior
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Motivating the Concept IAA is a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that combines a gasoline engine and at least one electric motor. Mercedes didn’t offer any details about the internal combustion unit or the electric motor(s), but it did say the combo delivers 279 horsepower and propels the car to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. Judging by the power output, the concept probably borrows the drivetrain from the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-In Hybrid, which consists of a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, an electric motor powered by a 6.2-kWh battery pack, and a 7G-Tronic transmission.

This study manages an all-electric range of 41 miles (66 km) and emits 28 grams of CO2 per km when in aerodynamic mode, and runs for 38.5 miles (62 km) and emits 31 grams of CO2 per km when in design mode. As for fuel economy, the Germans said the advantage of the aerodynamic mode "is not revealed as clearly in this test as in real-life driving," given urban driving is "accorded a two-thirds weighting in the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC)." For reference, the C350 Plug-In Hybrid returns 112 mpg combined.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type petrol-electric hybrid system
Output 279 HP
Top Speed 250 km/h (155 mph)
CO2 emissions 28 g/km (most efficient mode)
All-electric range 66 km (41 miles)

Conclusion

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior
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Big auto shows are always packed with concept cars, some more spectacular than the others, and the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show was no exception. But even though this year’s even had quite a few studies to drool over, including the Porsche Mission E and the 2016 Bugatti Vision Grand Turismo, the Concept IAA is by far the most impressive of them all, especially when it comes to its transforming exterior. Mercedes had rolled out numerous concepts in the past decade, but none were as wild as the IAA. The fact that we won’t see it in showrooms doesn’t even matter. What matters here is that Mercedes is once again ahead of everyone else and that its approach with the Project IAA goes beyond an efficient drivetrain and a fancy interior.

  • Leave it
    • EV range is far from impressive
    • No production plans

Press Release

The Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) is two cars in one: an aerodynamics world champion with a Cd value of 0.19 and a four-door coupé embodying irresistible design. The study, which is celebrating its world premiere at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, switches automatically from design mode to aerodynamic mode when the vehicle reaches a speed of 80 km/h, whereby numerous aerodynamics measures alter the shape of the vehicle. Inside, the "Concept IAA" continues the design line of the S-Class and S-Class Coupé, offers new touch-based functions and provides an idea of what the interior of a business saloon might look like in the near future.

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Interior
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At the touch of a button, or automatically on reaching a speed of 80 km/h, the Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) performs a fascinating transformation in which the captivatingly beautiful four-door coupé turns into an aerodynamics world champion: eight segments extend at the rear, increasing its length by up to 390 millimetres; front flaps in the front bumper extend by 25 mm to the front and 20 mm to the rear, improving the air flow around the front end and the front wheel arches; the Active Rims alter their cupping from 55 mm to zero; and the louvre in the front bumper moves 60 mm to the rear, improving the underbody air flow.

"Fascinating and technically sophisticated cars form the core of Mercedes-Benz. The ’Concept IAA’ applies intelligent innovations to resolve the conflicting aims of functionality and aesthetics and shows that we still have plenty of ideas on how to achieve further improvements in efficiency," says Prof. Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Daimler Board of Management responsible for Group Research and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

Equally, the "Concept IAA" exemplifies the fundamental technological changes which are taking place in the automobile industry. The primary driving force behind this process of change is digitisation – commonly referred to in a business context as "Industry 4.0". For Mercedes-Benz, a continuous digital process chain from research and development through production to marketing and sales, logistics and the service area is already becoming reality.

The design and aerodynamic shaping of the "Concept IAA" would not have been possible without the systematic digital networking of different specialist departments. The designers have employed the latest algorithmic design methods to handle the complex geometric design. The individually adapted software enables dynamic design in three-dimensional space. This dynamic modelling makes it possible to display and model different states simultaneously. The resultant highly complex geometries were turned into reality with the aid of innovative production technologies (rapid prototyping).

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Interior
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The world-beating aerodynamics were developed in parallel with the aid of numeric flow simulation. In around one million CPU hours, the aerodynamics experts from Mercedes-Benz simulated the flow characteristics, calculating some 300 variants. This roughly corresponds to the scope of work involved in developing a production model.

The "Concept IAA" also offers a look into the future in areas which are not apparent at first glance. The study features Car-to-X technology, for example, which enables the study to communicate with other vehicles or other sources of information. This represents a major advance in helping to avoid accidents, as obstacles or events which are not visible to the vehicle itself can be detected - the "Concept IAA" is able to look around the corner, as it were. With this and its interior and operating concept, the "Concept IAA" also offers a foretaste of the business saloon of the near future.

Exterior design: sensual purity and innovative aerodynamics

With its dynamic basic shape ("drop shape"), elegantly purist overall design and aerodynamic innovations, the four-door "Concept IAA" Coupé Saloon is a symbiosis of design and aerodynamics. The vehicle interprets classic sports car proportions in a modern vein: the long bonnet flows aerodynamically into the compact, set-back greenhouse, whose roof slopes down elegantly towards the rear, ending in an airflow break-away edge.

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior
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The vehicle’s elegant side view combines a purist, long basic volume with highly pronounced wheel arches. The sporty, minimalist front of the show car boasts a striking "shark nose" profile. Like the front, the show car’s rear end also presents a clear-cut and purist appearance. As on the front grille, horizontal louvres lend structure to the shape of the rear end. An illuminated ring running around the rear end adds the finishing touch to the high-tech appearance.

"The ’Concept IAA’ continues our series of visionary concept cars," explains Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG. "The symbiosis of alluring forms showcasing intelligent aerodynamics is an expression of our unique Mercedes-Benz design philosophy."

The interior: touch-based operating philosophy

The interior of the "Concept IAA" combines stylish sportiness with modern luxury. The interior continues the design line of the S-Class and S-Class Coupé while providing an idea of what the interior of a business saloon might look like in the near future. The choice of colours and materials conjures up extrovert contrasts between anthracite and white as well as between aluminium and cut glass. Elegantly curved forms, flowing lines, carefully chosen high-quality materials and the touch-based operating philosophy provide for a high level of functionality.

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Interior
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The two-spoke steering wheel is a progressive further development of the Mercedes-Benz steering wheel philosophy. The open structure of its horizontal spokes is highly intricate in design, as a manifestation of intelligent and elegant lightweight construction. The steering wheel also incorporates touch-based operating functions, offering great functionality in the most compact dimensions as a study in perfect ergonomics: OFN (Optical Finger Navigation) buttons, embedded in the clusters in a similar hovering manner as the touchpad in the centre console, enable the driver to scroll through the instrument cluster menus. The OFN button on the left controls the left-hand display, while the button on the right controls the right-hand display. In this way, the "hands on the wheel, eyes on the road" operating philosophy which has been applied by Mercedes-Benz for many years now is implemented in a manner which is at once brilliantly simple and uncompromising.

"Captivatingly sporty lines, fascinating technical solutions: the ’Concept IAA’ symbolises the emotional core of Mercedes-Benz: The best or nothing. And it shows in a host of details what our customers can look forward to in future production models," says Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales, summing up the visionary concept.

The "Concept IAA" is 5040 millimetres long (5430 mm in aerodynamic mode), 1995 mm wide and 1305 mm high. Its wheelbase measures 2975 mm, and the front/rear track widths are 1710 and 1770 mm respectively. The concept car is powered by a petrol/electric plug-in hybrid drive with a total output of 205 kW (279 hp). This provides it with a top speed of 250 km/h (electronically limited). CO2 emissions and electric range depend on the mode in which the vehicle is tested: in aerodynamic mode the "Concept IAA" manages an all-electric range of 66 kilometres and emits 28 g CO2 per km. In design mode the range stands at 62 km and CO2 emissions at 31 g per km. As urban driving is accorded a two-thirds weighting in the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), the advantage of aerodynamic mode is not revealed as clearly in this test as in real-life driving. Real-life fuel savings are all the greater, however – in keeping with Mercedes-Benz’s customer-oriented "Real Life Efficiency" philosophy.

2015 Mercedes-Benz "Concept IAA" High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The "Concept IAA" show car forms part of a long line of aerodynamically perfected vehicles from Mercedes-Benz. With a dimensional concept that makes it suitable for everyday use, this four-seater attains a Cd value of 0.19, assuring it of a place in the gallery of record-breaking and racing vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz W 25 record-breaker of the 1936 season.

At present the models from Mercedes-Benz occupy the top position for aerodynamics in practically every vehicle segment. In 2013 the Mercedes-Benz CLA attained a Cd figure of 0.22 – marking a new all-time low both within the Mercedes-Benz model portfolio and amongst all series production cars.

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