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New Mercedes Vision One-Eleven Concept Revives ’70s Experimental Design

A sparkle of inspiration from the past helped build a stunning look at the future ahead.

The Mercedes-Benz C111 was a daring concept of the 1970s that looked towards a future that never quite came to pass. That bespoke car served as the inspiration for the new Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven Concept, an avant-garde cover version of one of the company’s most outrageous designs.

The Vision One-Eleven follows on from the C111’s sterling example in multiple ways. The C111 was a testbed for new technologies across the board, from new suspension ideas to diesel and rotary powertrains. In just that vein, the Vision One-Eleven features new groundbreaking axial flux motor technology which the company expects to become mainstream in future EVs.

Developed by specialist motor company YASA, there’s no word on the motor’s exact output figures. However, we’re told it delivers a “motorsport-like power output from a considerably smaller package.” The new motor is said to weigh just one-third as much as current conventional designs for the same power output, while taking up just one-third of the space. It’s paired with a liquid-cooled cylindrical-cell battery pack that relies on cell chemistry inspired by Formula 1.

Visually, the concept does well to follow in the C111’s footsteps. It’s a truly outrageous design, with a huge bubble cockpit and a road-hoovering front air dam. The latter is actually fitted with a display that can convey messages or simply display pixellated digital headlights. The splitter and side skirts look like something off a Time Attack Car, while the front end also features twin air ducts swooping up towards the windscreen just like the C111 itself.

Fundamentally, it wears the burnt orange-and-black color scheme well, with the shade chosen for its extravagance and as a reference to the C111’s own shade. And yes, fear not—Mercedes didn’t forget the gullwing doors, either.

Inside, Mercedes hit classic concept car tropes almost perfectly. Looking like something straight out of The Fifth Element, it features bright white and orange trim and an LED matrix screen for a retro-futuristic throwback. Steering is via a leather-trimmed yoke with enough controls that it looks almost like a luxury version of an F1 steering wheel. The seats themselves are finished in a shiny silver leather to complete the science-fiction aesthetic. The design aimed to offer a lounge-like experience, with an interior that could transform into a racing mode with more upright seating when so desired.

The user interface is all about the retro look and feel. The large pixels of the LED matrix chosen to give displayed information a bold and striking appearance. However, there’s also a high-resolution conventional display located next to the steering wheel for more conventional use.

For the concept’s debut, Mercedes has also developed an augmented reality (AR) demonstration of the concept, too. Sitting in the AR demonstrator with a Magic Leap 2 headset, the driver can experience a digital interface that goes beyond the screen. Instead, the entire physical interior of the car essentially becomes part of the user interface via the headset. It also allows neat practical uses, like augmenting the driver’s view with navigation directions that seamlessly blend with the surrounding environment. Contextual clues can also be displayed around physical interface elements like buttons and switches.

The Vision One-Eleven is one of those outrageous neo-futuristic concepts that lets designers roam free with their creativity. We wouldn’t necessarily expect a single thing from the concept to end up heading into production exactly as it’s seen here. However, the design lessons learned will inform future Mercedes-Benz designs, particularly in the way they leverage new technologies for the better.

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