At Design Essentials 2019, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the Vision Mercedes Simplex, a concept car that reinterprets the historic simplex as an electric two-seater with freestanding wheels and a digital display in place of the grille. The name Simplex comes from the line of luxury simplex cars that Mercedes produced from 1902 to 1909. At that time, the Simplex had innovatively adopted a modern front-engine, rear-drive layout with a radiator positioned ahead of the engine.
The Vision Mercedes Simplex reinterprets the historic Simplex as a two-seater with freestanding wheels, an alternative drive, exciting user interface, and thrilling design. Its vehicle body with the dominant horizontal alignment sits as a monocoque amid the four large wheels, which form the outer points of the vehicle. The resolutely vertical color separation into a white front section and 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.
The radiator blends a dominant frame in rosé 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 the historic role model – reinforces the uncompromisingly sporty character and allows a seamless transition from the front-end flap to the instrument panel. The slim reversing lamps which are horizontally integrated into the rear section separate the upper section from the lower section of the exterior shell, which envelopes the occupants like a protective cocoon.
Perfect handcraftsmanship is also evident on the leather bag which rounds off the tail end of the vehicle body and – with its contemporary interpretation – is also themed around the historic vehicle.
The entire interior is an homage to the successful history of Mercedes-Benz and the DNA of the Simplex racing car – systematically reduced and nevertheless highly 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 bonnet and instrument panel with its reduced interface which works with projections. The seamless look continues into the footwell.
The design of the steering column and the switches on the instrument panel were inspired both by motorcycles and by 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 handcraftsmanship. The color-and-trim concept, including the azure blue upholstery cover which transitions seamlessly into the footwell, is inspired by the colors of the Côte d’Azur.
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 rosé-gold-colored instrument on which dynamic digital content is projected.
This combination of mechanical beauty and intelligent digital content is described by the Mercedes-Benz designers as “hyper analog”. 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.