In the spring of 1901, the history of mobility changed radically. At Race Week in Nice a car the likes of which the world had never seen appeared on the starting line: a high-performance car which Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft had developed at the suggestion of the visionary Emil Jellinek. The typical designs of the period were still closely related to motorized carriages. The Mercedes 35 PS, named after Jellinek’s daughter Mercedes, appeared with a completely new vehicle architecture and dominated the competitions in Race Week, which took place on the famous racetrack from Nice to La Turbie, right at the heart of what is now the Mercedes-Benz International Design Center Europe. This design is acknowledged as the first modern car that heralded in a new era in vehicle design. This transformation began nearly 120 years ago, taking the first step away from high motorized carriage based designs to a flat vehicle design with a light high-performance engine installed low in the frame, featuring a honeycomb radiator integrated into the front. The Mercedes 35 PS was a pioneer of success and a role model for all the cars that were to follow. This vehicle layout presented for the first time over a century ago remains to this day the technical basis of all cars.
The sculpture “Vision Mercedes Simplex” recalls this historic event and carries the pioneering spirit and the stylistic character of those days far into the 21st century. Its message—Passion for luxury and innovation is part of the Mercedes-Benz brand DNA. This brand DNA gives Mercedes-Benz the strength to set new standards in mobility over again, yesterday, today and tomorrow. At the same time the sculpture shows that Mercedes-Benz is continuing as a pioneer to drive forward the transformation of the car and mobility.
“Only a brand that is as strong as Mercedes-Benz is capable of the physical symbiosis of history and future. The “Vision Mercedes Simplex” symbolizes the transformation of the brand-specific luxury of Mercedes-Benz”, says Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener.
Two-seater with forward-looking digital luxury
The “Vision Mercedes Simplex” reinterprets the historic Simplex as a two-seater with freestanding wheels, an alternative drive, exciting User Interface and a thrilling design. Its vehicle body with a dominant horizontal alignment sits as a monocoque amid the four large wheels, which form the outer points of the vehicle. The vertical color separation into a white front section with a black rear section follows the historic example. The transparent trims on the wheels reflect lightness and efficiency, as do the aerodynamic surface areas between the front wheels and the vehicle body. The entire sculpture lives from the interplay between clearly and powerfully drawn surfaces and precise technical details.
Exterior design: radiator grille as a symbol of digital transformation
The radiator blends a dominant frame in rose gold – reminiscent of the bronze radiator grille of the historic example – with an opening in the form of a large lens-shaped Black Panel/3D display. This is where the famous “Mercedes” lettering is digitally superimposed, as are animations which provide information on the vehicle status. This detail, too, is a symbol of the transformation of the luxury brand Mercedes-Benz into the digital world.
The decentralized wheel location components unite aesthetics and engineering artistry in a unique way. The omission of a windscreen – as on its historic role model – reinforces the uncompromisingly sporty character and allows a seamless transition from the front-end to the instrument panel. The slim reversing lamps are horizontally integrated into the rear section and separate the upper section from the lower section of the exterior shell, which envelopes the occupants like a protective cocoon.
Exceptional craftsmanship is also evident on the leather bag that rounds off the tail end of the vehicle body and – with a contemporary interpretation – is also themed around the historic vehicle.
Interior design: homage to the history of Mercedes-Benz
The entire interior is an homage to the successful history of Mercedes-Benz and the DNA of the Simplex racing car
– systematically reduced yet emotively appealing. A seamless transition between the exterior, interior and User Experience reflects the holistic approach of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy. This is particularly evident in the flowing, flute-like transition between the hood and instrument panel with its minimal interface, which works via projections. The seamless look continues into the foot well.
The design of the steering column and the switches on the instrument panel were inspired both by motorcycles and nautical design. Luxury is evident in the numerous, jewel-like details with their high-quality finish, for example the clock in the instrument panel, the precision screws and the belt design. Strong contrasts are made between the sensuous sculpture and product-like, refined details in the color scheme – such as the black/white contrast between the front and rear section and the azure blue upholstery.
The fashion world is reflected in the interior with exclusive accessories like the high-quality openers for the storage compartments. The bench seat is inspired by stylish furniture, the hand-made Chesterfield quilting denotes a contemporary interpretation of classically luxurious craftsmanship. The color-and-trim concept, including the azure blue upholstery cover which transitions seamlessly into the foot well, is inspired by the colors of the Côte d’Azur.
UI/UX design: digital luxury
The UI/UX design demonstrates a Mercedes-Benz vision of digital luxury. The driver is only shown precisely the information they actually require in the specific driving situation. The heart of the instrument panel is a physical rose gold colored instrument on which dynamic digital content is projected.
This combination of mechanical beauty with intelligent digital content is described by the Mercedes-Benz designers as “hyper analogue”. The right information is shown on the display at the right time, e.g. the speed, navigation instructions or vehicle information. Other information is displayed on the instrument panel depending on the situation. A star pattern fused with the material of the instrument panel creates a large surface onto which information can be projected for a certain amount of time. Thanks to the simple presentation and the size of the display the driver can take in relevant information and yet still concentrate fully on the road at all times.