• 2020 Mercedes Vision AVTR - A Look Into the Impossible Future

Inspired by the Avatar movie, packed with futuristic technology

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The Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR is a futuristic concept car that explores new design options and technologies, as well as the "vision of designers, engineers, and trend researches for mobility in the distant future." The AVTR name stands for Advanced Vehicle Transformation, but it also represents the company’s collaboration with the team that produced Avatar, a science fiction film directed and produced by James Cameron and released in 2009. While previous Vision concepts from Mercedes-Benz were also futuristic, they still featured technologies and styling cues linked to production cars, while some of the design actually made it on vehicles you can buy in dealerships. The Vision AVTR is an entirely different story as its features and technologies won’t be transferred to production cars in the near future.

What is Avatar?

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Launched in 2009, Avatar is an epic science fiction film directed, written, and produced by James Cameron. Originally scheduled to appear in the late 1990s, the film was delayed by a decade as the necessary technology to film it was not yet available at the time. Praised for its groundbreaking visual effects, the film broke several box office records and became the highest-grossing film at the time. The action is set in the year 2154 on a fictional Earth with depleted natural resources and with humanity mining a valuable mineral on Pandora, a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system. Although poisonous to humans, the moon is inhabited by the Na’vi, a species of blue-skinned humanoids that live in harmony with nature. The Avatars are the Na’vi-human hybrids created to explore Pandora’s biosphere. The movie’s main theme is a battle between the two races, at the end of which humans are expelled from the moon.

Of course, the main influence on this concept car is the Na’vi people and their way of life. Mercedes keeps describing the Vision AVR as a "living creature" and talks about a "symbiosis" and a "holistic fusion" between "human and machine." Yes, it sounds weird if you haven’t seen the film, but you don’t need to do it to realize that Mercedes-Benz wanted to create the most conceptual concept car ever.

Exterior

  • Teardrop-shaped, organic design
  • No doors
  • No B-pillars
  • EQ grille
  • Amazing, almost spherical wheels
  • Thin LED lights
  • Coupe-style roof
  • Unique scales on the roof
  • Big rear diffuser
  • Looks very futuristic
  • Inspired by Avatar movie
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When it comes to design, three words define the Vision AVTR: simple, futuristic, and organic.

Although Mercedes’ speech on how this vehicle is a "living creature" is a bit too poetic, I must admit that the Vision AVTR looks indeed as if it can breathe. Or as if it could morph into a living being any second now.

The overall design is decidedly futuristic, although we can see a front panel (read that "grille") inspired by existing EQ models. But apart from that and the big Mercedes star in the center, nothing reminds me of the current Mercedes-Benz lineup. The headlamps were replaced by a thin LED stripe that extends over the entire width of the front fascia, while the bumper doesn’t feature any kind of vents. The wavey splitter is a nice touch, as is the muscular front hood.

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The organic design continues onto the sides, where the Vision AVTR boasts a classic teardrop design. Although this design has been used by various automakers since the 1930s, the Vision AVTR is indeed sleeker than anything else on the market. Instead of traditional doors, Mercedes design special panels that retract into the body, leaving a massive opening for passengers to enter the cabin.

Mercedes-Benz explains that its designers used the woodsprites, the seeds of the Tree of Souls from Avatar as inspiration for them. It also says that the wheels "embody the intelligence of nature." Is that cheesy enough for you?

In simpler terms, the rims are extremely small and wrapped into large and wide tires. The center caps are literally sunk into the rubber, while the wheels are almost spherical. They look organic by design but the illuminated rim arms add to that effect. In case you’re wondering if this design has an actual purpose, Mercedes says that they enable a small turning circle and that they minimize the contact surface of the tires with the road. All four wheels steer individually, while a special axis layout enables the car to move diagonally.

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The Vision AVTR is a work of art, but there's not much utility in this design

The rear end begins with a cool rear window cover that descends from the roof. The taillights are just a thin stripe extending across the fascia, so they mimic the headlamps, but fascia itself is carved it between the lights and the diffuser. The latter is big and clean, with no vertical fins, but the "tray" above the diffuser features some kind of aero elements. But the most important design feature here is the flaps on the rear area of the roof. Called "bionic flaps," they mimic the scales of reptiles and Mercedes-Benz claims that all 33 of them "can communicate with the driver and through the driver with their outside world through naturally flowing movements in subtle gestures." Whatever that means, I guess, but they make the car look somewhat frightening when activated.

2020 Mercedes Vision AVTR - A Look Into the Impossible Future Exterior
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Overall, I could say that the Vision AVTR is a work of art, but there’s not much utility in this design. Or maybe I’m just not a fan of the Avatar movie and I don’t get it.

Interior

  • Amazingly simple
  • Seats up to 5 people
  • No steering wheel
  • Organic design
  • Multifunction control element on the console
  • Menu projected onto the palm
  • Reacts to your mood
  • Haptic seat feedback
  • 360-degree sound systems
  • Augmented reality for children
  • Eco-friendly upholstery materials
2020 Mercedes Vision AVTR - A Look Into the Impossible Future Interior
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Glimpse inside the Vision AVTR and you'll see a very simple, yet futuristic and organic cabin.

And by simple I mean extremely simple compared to modern production cars. I’d say spartan, but the organic layout with the center console that flows seamlessly into the dashboard prevents me from doing that. As does complex architecture with flowing lines in the seats, the floor, and the pillars. As you’d expect from a modern concept car, there’s no steering wheel. Automakers are pushing toward autonomous drive and futuristic concept cars rarely have an actual steering wheel.

But beyond this simple and clean interior hides a huge amount of futuristic technology. Mercedes says that the steering wheel was replaced by a multifunctional control element in the center console that "allows human and machine to merge." By placing the hand on the control unit, the interior comes to life and the vehicle recognizes the driver by his heartbeat and breathing. It sure reminds me of how Saruman used a magical crystal globe to spy on his enemies in The Lord of the Rings.

2020 Mercedes Vision AVTR - A Look Into the Impossible Future Interior
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Lift your hand from this area and a menu is projected onto the palm of the hand. Yup, you read that correct. This menu will enable you to choose from different functions and explore various features through the curved display that replaces the traditional dashboard.

The vehicle itself reacts to your mood and vitality by offering different driving options.

In comfort mode, the vehicle is autonomous, so you won’t have to worry about a thing. But you can opt for the control unit to be driven up to half, so that you can change the speed of the car. If you want full control of the vehicle, the control unit pop out so you can use it to steer.

The organic design of the driver’s seat is inspired by the leaf hammocks in Home Tree shown in the Avatar film. Between the two front seats there’s a bespoke child seat. The headrest of this seat extends so far forward that it develops into the headrest of the front seats.

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All seats react to the surroundings around the vehicle through haptic feedback. Each seat has eight exciters that vibrate so you can experience the outer environment. I’m not sure how this feature will create a connection to the surroundings, but it’s nice to have vibrating seats anyway. This feature is backed by a 360-degree sound system that enables the sound source to be precisely localized as in the wild. Simply put, you’ll be able to tell if the river you just drove by was on the left or right side of the vehicle without looking out the window.

The vehicle also detects when a family is on board and adapts its functions for this scenario. When this happens, the front seats are connected to the rear seat via the Child Connect function, which includes monitors through which you can check your children in the back. The pulse of the front passengers is displayed through a lighting pattern on the back seats, which is supposed to give children "a sense of connectedness and security" in the rear seats.

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Mercedes-Benz also created a so-called Magic Pool app. Using child-friendly augmented reality, it’s integrated into the backrests of the front seats and displays learning-oriented games, including informative and age-appropriately presentations of the interesting points along the route, such as mountains, rivers, or sights.

But tech and design aren’t the only departments that help the Vision AVTR stand out.

This concept car is also packed with green and sustainable materials.

The seats, for instance, are wrapped in vegan Dinamica leather. Mercedes claims that this is the only microfiber that guarantees environmental sustainability throughout the entire production cycle. The floor is decorated with an innovative wood called Karuun, made from a raw material that grows very fast and is harvested by hand in Indonesia. It’s probably similar to Paulownia as far growing and harvesting go.

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The back shells of the seats and the headliner feature a color-changing fabric inspired by the sea. Depending on the light, this fabric changes its color from dark blue to light blue. The remaining surfaces are made from microfiber obtain from recycled material made from old clothing, flags, and PET plastic bottles. The Crystal White surfaces, also from Dinamica microfiber, are printed with an abstract leaf graphic design with a subtle gradient.

Drivetrain

  • Four electric motors
  • More than 476 horsepower
  • No word on torque
  • Disappointing output
  • AWD with torque vectoring
  • Batteries are recyclable
  • Charges in 15 minutes
  • Range of more than 435 miles
2020 Mercedes Vision AVTR - A Look Into the Impossible Future Exterior
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The Vision AVTR is obviously all-electric. But the drivetrain is rather futuristic, not only because it features a motor for each wheel, but also because Mercedes didn’t release actual figures for it. I’m pretty sure the AVTR doesn’t even have a drivetrain, but let’s have a look at what Mercedes claims it mounted under the shell.

The AVTR supposedly features four high-performance electric motors mounted near each wheel.

The combined power of these motors exceeds 350 kW, which converts to around 476 horsepower.

That’s 74 horsepower more than the production Mercedes-Benz EQC, so it’s a bit disappointing for such a futuristic concept car. But the fact that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t claim an insane output figure makes me think that the four-motor drivetrain isn’t just science-fiction, but something Mercedes engineers are actually working on for future models. But with Tesla being able to squeeze more than 700 horses from a two-motor layout, I have bigger expectations from a four-motor configurations. Not this time, it seems.

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As you might have already guessed, the Vision AVTR is an all-wheel-drive machine. Not only that, but it features an innovative AWD system with torque vectoring for proper power transfer and increased stability at all speeds.

But the really big news here is the revolutionary battery technology with graphene-based organic cells that are completely free of rare metals. This makes the batteries compostable and completely recyclable. What’s more, this battery technology is almost completely independent of fossil resources, something that automakers have been struggling to achieve for decades now.

*** Mercedes claims an electric range of at least 435 miles ***

But wait, there’s more. On top of being eco-friendly, this battery also recharges really fast. Mercedes says that it can be charged up in less than 15 minutes. More good news comes from the efficiency department, as the 110-kWh stack enables an electric range of more than 700 km (435 miles), a benchmark for the segment. That’s at least 60 miles more than the most efficient Tesla model available as of January 2020.

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Will the drivetrain and the battery make it into production soon? The four-motor layout is definitely on its way to production models, but the battery will probably take a bit longer to materialize into something feasible.

Conclusion

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The Vision AVTR is impressive in just about every department. The organic design is really cool and pays a great tribute to the early teardrop automotive designs. The interior is pleasantly simple and the amount of technology that Mercedes stuffed in there is downright amazing. Of course, some of it is purely theoretical right now, but I have to give it to Mercedes for conceiving an advanced interior that keeps passengers connected all the time. The drivetrain is yet another important aspect here. While the electric drivetrain is actually based on existing technology, the battery signals the beginning of a new era with components you can recycle, amazingly quick charging times, and impressive range. Only a fraction of these features will actually make it into a production model, the Vision AVRT is one of the coolest concept cars Mercedes built in recent years.

  • Leave it
    • Just a concept
    • Some details are cheesy
    • You need to be a fan of the Avatar movie to get it
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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