The Mercedes Vision AVTR is a car where science fiction meets automotive ambition and GQ got behind the wheel without leaving home…
AVTR is text-speak for Avatar, but it’s also short for Advanced Vehicle Transformation. This is the name of the six metre-long super-luxe future limo Mercedes debuted at CES in Vegas in January, a bygone era before phrases such as “the new normal”, “lockdown” or Matt Hancock corrupted the vernacular.
The pandemic also explains why rather than a test track somewhere in Germany, I’m now piloting the AVTR from a room in my house 900 miles away. It’s a shame, because Mercedes doesn’t mess around when it comes to creating concept cars, executing them with meticulous attention to detail. This one goes even further, because it convenes the fine minds not just at Merc’s advanced design studio, but also the freethinkers at Lightstorm Entertainment, the production company behind James Cameron’s monster hit Avatar and its upcoming sequels. An unusual collaboration.
On the other hand, given the premise of the film – man occupies the form of tall blue being; enjoys eerily rendered ecological epiphany – not actually being in the same country as the car I’m meant to be test driving while test driving is film-appropriate, as well as being very 2020.
The AVTR itself is more 2120. Of course, it’s fully electric, with a motor on each wheel, producing the equivalent of 479bhp. It has spheres rather than wheels, and these can rotate through 30 degrees, enabling the AVTR to “crab” sideways. As for motive power, well the EV world’s dirty little secret is that batteries use rare earth metals, such as lithium and cobalt, which are both difficult to mine and depleting in supply. So the AVTR uses graphene-based organic cell chemistry to circumvent this dilemma and it’s also 100 per cent recyclable. Mercedes is thus addressing the need for a circular economy in the raw materials sector. Not sexy, but trust me, you’re going to hear a lot more about it pretty soon.
Also incoming is conductive charging, which will replenish the batteries in 15 minutes, with a promised range of around 450 miles. This particular aspect of the future can’t arrive soon enough. The AVTR’s emphasis on efficiency applies equally to energy consumption per computing operation, another hot-button topic and one that’ll be addressed by the arrival of AI in cars. Biometrics are also currently being evaluated by every major OEM and the AVTR plays with the idea of “neuromorphic hardware”, pegging the car to the nervous system of the operator. The car’s energy supply is also boosted by the 33 multidirectional “bionic flaps” on the rear, which act like supercharged solar panels.
GQ spoke to Exterior Design member Alex Dang, who also worked on the car’s remarkable UX (user interface), and interior designer Oliver Schnell. The AVTR is a philosophy as much as it is a car, with an interior and exterior that are effectively interwoven and co-define each other. It also appears that 22nd-century travel favours immersion in the surrounding landscape rather than anything as pedestrian as simply sitting on a motorway and wondering why road works are called road works when no actual work is occurring.
The driver/operator places their hand on a central controller that brings the interior to life and establishes a biometric connection based on his or her breathing. Passengers are also made aware of various natural forces not normally visible to the naked eye, including magnetic fields, bioenergy or ultraviolet light.
Mercedes Benz Vision AVTR interior and highlights
Driving the Mercedes Vision AVTR with no wheels