It seems like movie tie-ins are becoming more common for concept cars. First Porsche designed a spaceship for “Star Wars,” and now Mercedes has created a concept car inspired by and named after the “Avatar” film series from James Cameron. It’s called the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR (which stands for Advanced Vehicle Transformation), and Mercedes’ goal is to make it feel much like a creature you become one with, just as the fictional Na’vi do with the creatures on Pandora.
To do this, Mercedes started by creating possibly its curviest, most organic design yet. There’s not a single straight line on the car, except where the cutouts exist for what Mercedes calls “bionic flaps.” They’re little pop-out panels that raise and flex almost like the hairs on an animal. Even the wheels are bulbous and round. There are ambient lights all around the car that react when you approach the car and change to express emotions based on driving style. The cockpit resides in what looks like a big blue bubble.
Inside the bubble, the organic theme continues with rounded, scalloped chairs and ripple-like lines and lighting. The dashboard has no instruments or screens, but it can project images of the surrounding world onto the dash including representations of things we can’t see, such as light on the ultraviolet spectrum. Mercedes also touts the rattan flooring, vegan leatherette and other recyclable materials in the cabin.
The interface is unique. Instead of a steering wheel or the Na’vi’s hair/nervous system connector, the Vision AVTR has a control stick — pad? patch? — in the center console for moving the car. When you place your hand over it, it raises up, and pushing it in the direction you want to go controls the car. The car does have a fully autonomous mode, in which the control surface will drop back into the console. When the control is at half height, the car still drives autonomously, but you can adjust the speed. As for the infotainment system, icons representing functions are projected onto your hand when you raise it up. You then select functions using hand gestures.
Powering the Vision AVTR is an equally fanciful electric system. It features a 110-kWh battery good for an estimated 435 miles. But what’s interesting is that Mercedes says it uses an organic battery chemistry made possible with graphene and it uses no rare earth metals and is compostable. It can even fully charge in just 15 minutes. The battery supplies electricity to four individual electric motors, one for each wheel. Total system output is 469 horsepower, and the individual motors allow for highly-controllable torque vectoring. The car has four-wheel steering, too, and the steering can work in parallel, allowing for a sort of forward drift. It’s mostly just to show off. The onboard computers also are highly efficient, and can be powered off the solar panels embedded in the aforementioned “bionic flaps.”
What are the odds of a production version of the Vision AVTR? About as good as finding unobtainium.