Automotive

Mercedes Concept IAA shape-shifts for improved aerodynamics

The Concept IAA morphs when in motion to achieve a Cd of 0.19
The Concept IAA morphs when in motion to achieve a Cd of 0.19
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The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving
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The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving
In Design mode, the Concept IAA looks like a fancy four-seat coupe
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In Design mode, the Concept IAA looks like a fancy four-seat coupe
Without its tail section extended, the Concept IAA emits just 31 g/km of CO2
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Without its tail section extended, the Concept IAA emits just 31 g/km of CO2
The car's cabin is full of the usual concept car ideas
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The car's cabin is full of the usual concept car ideas
With its tail section extended, the Concept IAA is 390 mm longer
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With its tail section extended, the Concept IAA is 390 mm longer
On the move, the wheels flatten out for better aerodynamics
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On the move, the wheels flatten out for better aerodynamics
Up front, there's more than just a hint of the F 015 concept
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Up front, there's more than just a hint of the F 015 concept
The Concept IAA morphs when in motion to achieve a Cd of 0.19
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The Concept IAA morphs when in motion to achieve a Cd of 0.19
The interior of the Concept IAA
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The interior of the Concept IAA
Driver controls have been designed to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road
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Driver controls have been designed to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road
It might be functional, but the Concept IAA's aerodynamics also make it very pretty
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It might be functional, but the Concept IAA's aerodynamics also make it very pretty
As well as the extending tail section, the Concept IAA's wheels and front bumper alter at speed
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As well as the extending tail section, the Concept IAA's wheels and front bumper alter at speed
The car's sloping rear end is reminiscent of the tail on the CLA or CLS Coupe
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The car's sloping rear end is reminiscent of the tail on the CLA or CLS Coupe
As well as offering up high-tech aerodynamics, the IAA previews car-to-car networking ahead of next year's E-Class
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As well as offering up high-tech aerodynamics, the IAA previews car-to-car networking ahead of next year's E-Class
The front bumper extends forwards and backwards at speed
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The front bumper extends forwards and backwards at speed
The Concept IAA's fuel economy figures are good, but would be better if the car had been tested at higher speeds
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The Concept IAA's fuel economy figures are good, but would be better if the car had been tested at higher speeds
The Concept IAA on display at its launch in Frankfurt
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The Concept IAA on display at its launch in Frankfurt
It's long and low like a classic luxury car, but the Concept IAA is hiding a high-tech set of aero tweaks
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It's long and low like a classic luxury car, but the Concept IAA is hiding a high-tech set of aero tweaks
The body-color tint on the windows comes from the F015
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The body-color tint on the windows comes from the F015
Mercedes hasn't identified where the tech from the IAA will debut, but expect to see more active aerodynamic elements on its cars in future
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Mercedes hasn't identified where the tech from the IAA will debut, but expect to see more active aerodynamic elements on its cars in future
The IAA is finished in the same silver as the F015 from earlier this year
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The IAA is finished in the same silver as the F015 from earlier this year
The low, wide grille and neat headlamps give hints as to the styling direction Mercedes will take in the future
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The low, wide grille and neat headlamps give hints as to the styling direction Mercedes will take in the future
The dish on the car's wheels is style-oriented, and closes up when the rest of the active aerodynamics kick in
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The dish on the car's wheels is style-oriented, and closes up when the rest of the active aerodynamics kick in
The pointed wheel arches feature front and back
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The pointed wheel arches feature front and back
The Concept IAA stands for Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile
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The Concept IAA stands for Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile
The Concept IAA debuts in Frankfurt
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The Concept IAA debuts in Frankfurt
The Concept IAA debuts in Frankfurt
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The Concept IAA debuts in Frankfurt
As well as the extending tail section, the Concept IAA's wheels and front bumper alter at speed
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As well as the extending tail section, the Concept IAA's wheels and front bumper alter at speed
The dish on the car's wheels is style-oriented, and closes up when the rest of the active aerodynamics kick in
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The dish on the car's wheels is style-oriented, and closes up when the rest of the active aerodynamics kick in
Up front, there's more than just a hint of the F 015 concept
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Up front, there's more than just a hint of the F 015 concept
The Concept IAA debuts in Frankfurt
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The Concept IAA debuts in Frankfurt
The car's sloping rear end is reminiscent of the tail on the CLA or CLS Coupe
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The car's sloping rear end is reminiscent of the tail on the CLA or CLS Coupe
On the move, the wheels flatten out for better aerodynamics
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On the move, the wheels flatten out for better aerodynamics
Pointed wheel arches feature front and back
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Pointed wheel arches feature front and back
With its tail section extended, the Concept IAA is 390 mm longer
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With its tail section extended, the Concept IAA is 390 mm longer
The Concept IAA morphs when in motion to achieve a Cd of 0.19
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The Concept IAA morphs when in motion to achieve a Cd of 0.19
The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving
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The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving
Driver controls have been designed to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road
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Driver controls have been designed to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road
A look inside the Concept IAA
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A look inside the Concept IAA

As emissions standards get tougher, manufacturers are being forced to think outside the box in the quest for better fuel economy. One of the obvious areas to focus on is aerodynamics, where small tweaks can lead to big fuel savings. Shape-shifting designs represent one of the more radical approaches in this area, and Mercedes has taken this to another level with its Concept IAA (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile), which changes shape at higher speeds to cut through the air more efficiently.

With its teardrop shape and sleek styling, the Concept IAA – which, appropriately enough, debuted at IAA in Frankfurt – doesn't look all that different to the autonomous F 015 concept unveiled earlier this year – it's only once the car gets going that Mercedes' latest concept sets itself apart.

The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving
The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving

When the car hits 80 km/h (50 mph), a series of shape-changing alterations take place; eight segments built into the rear of the car extend the tail section by up to 390 mm (15 inches) for a more streamlined profile, while flaps in the front bumper extend by 25 mm (0.98 inches) forwards and 20 mm (0.79 inches) towards the rear of the car, improving airflow around the front wheel arches.

Beyond the front and rear bumpers, the rims go from having a 55 mm (2.17 inch) dish to completely flat, and the louver built into the front bumper moves backwards by 60 mm (2.37 in). So, what does that all mean? Basically, by moving these different parts, Mercedes is able to bring the drag coefficient down from 0.25 to just 0.19. To put that in perspective, Mercedes' own CLA Coupe only manages a drag coefficient of 0.23, as does the bigger Audi A4 with its flat underbody and carefully shaped suspension components.

The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving
The Mercedes Concept IAA changes its shape depending on how fast the car is moving

Mercedes hasn't quoted fuel economy numbers for the Concept IAA, but with its aero add-ons extended the company says the car emits 3 g/km less CO2 and is able to eke an extra 4 km (2.49 mi) of all-electric range out of its hybrid powertrain.

It's also worth keeping in mind that the benefits of the vehicle's shape-shifting aerodynamics are more dramatic at highway speeds than they are in the low-speed, urban areas that receive a two-thirds weighting in the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) emissions testing.

As well as offering up a high-tech take on aerodynamics, the Concept IAA previews some of the tech that will feature on next year's E-Class, including a Car-to-X networking system that allows cars to wirelessly warn each other about accidents or potential hazards further along the road.

A look inside the Concept IAA
A look inside the Concept IAA

From the front, the Concept IAA's nose looks like an elongated version of the face on the F015, with horizontal louvers and integrated headlights, while the elongated profile and sharp rear end are exaggerated with the rear-aero section extended. Inside, the concept follows the design line of the S-Class and S-Class Coupé, with the addition of Optical Finger Navigation touchpads on the steering wheel to allow drivers to scroll through menus on the instrument binnacle.

Source: Daimler

7 comments
Bob Stuart
Why not say that it shape-shifts for worse aerodynamics and more artistic values at low speed? I can't even spot the bumper that moves both fore and aft, let alone imagine how building it is Intelligent, except as a way to distract rich folks from the planetary disaster with another bauble, to trigger some trickle down.
ikarus342000
More and more of this new cars are out of reach of the average Joe like me and 90 % of the others. Oh yes greetings from TATRA 86 (anno 1935). This car was ahead of his time and now Mercedes is imitating the shape. For a lot less money a car in this direction would cost a lot less without the shape shifting thing.
Beaugrand_RTMC
I don't see the need for shape-shifting. It simply adds expense and complexity and weight. Just design a low-drag body and be done with it. I don't have a problem with everyone driving what appear to be Manufacturers GT prototypes ("Le Mans" style).
Stephen N Russell
produce this, rent this Love the extending rear section but cant one do so without added weight. Produce this Benz.
physics314
These movable features do make sense: The extra 40cm in the back would be an impediment in city driving and parking, but a great feature at speed. The extension-added weight would be there either way, for the most part. Similar with the front bumper lowering at high speed: highways are much flatter and smoother than city streets, curb inclines etc., so not as much clearance is typically needed at speed as is in city driving. A step in the right direction, IMO.
Mac McDougal
Amen ikarus and Bob! Well said. A real-world example: My 2000 Honda Insight has a cross-sectional drag coefficient of 0.25: still, 15 years later, the lowest of any mainstream production automobile. Price new? USD 20,000. Any guesses on what the "shape-shifting" Mercedes would cost, were it ever to see the light of day? I'm with you on the motivation Bob. For God's sake, give us something to keep our minds off the agonies of mindless mega-consumption.
Don Duncan
Does .19 drag require moving parts, high cost, exotic design? Aptera got down to .15 without all that. Ok, maybe not without the "exotic design" but once I focused on the fuel savings I could easily accept the strange design. Style quickly becomes acceptable if it is dictated by function, as it should be.
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