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Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA Storms Frankfurt with Its Morphing Abilities

The Mercedes-Benz stand in Frankfurt had five world premieres, but it's fair to assume everyone's first stop was in front of the new Concept IAA.
Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA 31 photos
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Mercedes-Benz chose to take a break from the usual autonomous driving speech and focused on an entirely new aspect instead. Namely, the company's new concept car is all about aerodynamics and, more to the point, reducing drag to maximize fuel efficiency.

Had Mercedes-Benz chosen a less awe-inspiring looking car as the support for its new technology, we're in no doubt the interest would have been a lot less overwhelming. But they didn't, so here we are, jaws dropped in front of the Concept IAA.

The "IAA" is a clever word play since it stands for the German name of the Frankfurt Motor Show (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung), but also for Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile. And that's a very good description of the new Mercedes-Benz concept, as its pretty body hides some tricks up its sleeve. Or rather up its... never mind.The highlight is at the back
At speeds below 50mph (80 km/h), the Concept IAA is your regular four-door coupe - that is, if you come from the future and are perfectly used to seeing shapes like these. Put it this way: it sat next to the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet at the stand and it made the open-top car look... pedestrian.

Anyway, above 50mph, the Concept IAA suffers some transformations akin to those of the Incredible Hulk, with the shape of its body changing dramatically. The most visually spectacular transformation happens at the rear, where eight segments deploy extending the car's length with up to 390 mm. In the front, the flaps in the bumper extend outwards by 25 mm and rearwards by 200 mm, improving airflow around the front end and the front wheel arches, while the active wheel rims become as flat as flat can be. Finally, the fin in the front bumper retracts by 60 mm to improve flow along the underbody.

The result of all this is a drag coefficient of 0.19. To put that into perspective, the highly fuel-efficient car from Volkswagen, the XL1, has a drag coefficient of 0.189. The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, on the other hand, has 0.26, while the Tesla Model S sits at 0.24.

Other concepty stuff

Apart from a shapeshifting body, the Concept IAA also comes with other features we've seen lately on Mercedes-Benz concepts like the inevitable autonomous driving (we didn't say Mercedes-Benz dropped it, we only said it wasn't the main focus anymore) or the "Mercedes-Benz steering wheel philosophy." What, you never knew that existed?

Basically, Mercedes-Benz is trying to solve the problem regarding how many buttons can be placed on the steering wheel without overwhelming the driver and, at the same time, offering him the possibility to control as many functions as possible without lifting his hands off the wheel. And they think this can be achieved with the help of OFN - Optical Finger Navigation. Stop laughing there at the back, please, and pay attention.

The main idea is placing two touch-sensitive areas on the steering wheel that control the instrument cluster menus. Yeah, it's that easy, but Optical Finger Navigation sounds a lot better.

Obviously, the Concept IAA comes with all the other concept-related stuff, like an unrealistic interior, a teardrop shape that looks great, but could never make it into production despite the two domes above the rear passengers as it would be too impractical, and a production cost that would make this car too expensive for even the most eccentric billionaire.

And precisely why we love concept cars, with the Concept IAA being one of the finest examples we've seen lately. Beautiful, innovative, impossible. Just like any concept should be.

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