This Shape-Shifting Mercedes Concept Slices the Air

Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA wows the Frankfurt Motor Show with active aerodynamics.

Before and after takeoff, your airliner is alive with all manner of whirring and groaning, as electric motors and hydraulics shift flaps and other aerodynamic bits from the high-lift, high-drag position for takeoff and landing to low-lift, low-drag configuration for cruising in flight.

Mercedes’ spacey Concept IAA (which refers to the German abbreviation for the Frankfurt show) does the same thing, adjusting its bodywork into a slippery form for highway driving. At 50 mph the silver arrow adds junk in its trunk, extending its booty by 15.3 inches to help the car slip through the air with a reduced wake.

Flaps extend an inch from the bumpers, the wheels move to be flush with their tires and a louver in the front bumper slides back to smooth airflow beneath the car. The total effect is a coefficient of drag of only 0.19, which is an amazing accomplishment for a street-legal car.

The ‘Concept IAA’ applies intelligent innovations to resolve the conflicting aims of functionality and aesthetics and shows that we still have plenty of ideas on how to achieve further improvements in efficiency,” said Thomas Weber, head of research and development for Mercedes-Benz. Indeed, the company applied significant effort to this question, involving a million hours of computer calculations to test 300 variations on the design to refine its details.

That doesn’t mean the engineers forgot that luxury customers expect to coddled inside their cars. The Concept IAA features eight crystal air vents in the dash made by Swarovski. In case occupants somehow overlooked these amazing fixtures, they are also highlighted by red and blue accent lighting. That should provide distraction in the event of any airliner-style whirring as body panels slide into their correct positions during a drive.

Photos by Mercedes-Benz