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The Mercedes vision of the future is postmodern while remaining pleasingly old-fashioned. This aerodynamic luxury sedan is a blueprint for the brand’s future EVs.
While automakers revealing futuristic EV concepts tend to prioritize promises of performance over range, Mercedes is reversing that equation with the Vision EQXX. The compact four-door has been unveiled as part of the CES technology show in Las Vegas—although the automaker participated virtually thanks to COVID concerns. The claimed power output is a relatively modest 201 horsepower, but the company promises that the car has been designed to be able to deliver more than 620 miles (1000 km) of real-world driving on a single charge. But that big claim has the typical concept-car squishiness to it, as it isn’t comparable to the range figure of any other EV. It’s not a number from the WLTP test cycle used in Europe nor is it a U.S. EPA range figure, but instead what Mercedes describes as the result of “digital simulations based in real-life traffic conditions.” Whether it might beat the Lucid Air Dream’s impressive 520-mile EPA rating is anyone’s guess.
The EQXX looks production viable—even having the door mirrors that the zanier future-looking concepts increasingly do without—but the car seems to be hinting at next-generation advances rather than offering a solid promise. This concept, the company says, will act as a “technology blueprint for series production.”
Mercedes has only released limited technical details, but it is clear that the EQXX is short and svelte by the brand’s standards. There is no word on overall length, but confirmation of a 110.0-inch wheelbase suggests it will be a little longer than the A-class sedan, which has 107.4 inches between its axles and a shorter rear overhang. We don’t have a width figure, but the head-on view makes it clear that the EQXX is also much narrower than an average Benz, and also that the rear track is two inches narrower than the front, with the ultra-slippery shape responsible for a claimed drag coefficient of just 0.17.
Aerodynamic considerations have clearly dictated much else of the EQXX’s sleek form, especially the long, shallow angle of the falling roofline and the retro droop of the rear fenders, also the way the bodywork tucks in beneath the full-width lighting element at the back above an active, deployable diffuser that motors out at speed. The outline of the trunklid confirms that the Mercedes vision of the future is also a sedan rather than a hatchback or SUV, which is also pleasingly old-fashioned.
The wind-cheating shape plays a large part in Mercedes’s claimed powertrain efficiency, with the official release saying the car can travel six miles on just 1.0 kWh of electrical energy, a figure equivalent to a combustion car capable of 202 mpg (which is close to the efficiency that Mercedes describes as “the golden figure of one liter per 100 kilometers”). The comparison is complicated by the fact that, according to Mercedes, the EQXX’s driveline is 95 percent efficient. That means only 5 percent of the energy put into the battery pack fails to make it to the road. Even the most efficient gasoline engines struggle to do better than 35 percent. This is why the EQXX can put up a big range number without a massive battery pack, Mercedes claiming that EQXX has slightly less than 100 kWh of usable capacity, about as much energy as three gallons of regular unleaded gas, but the car is able to turn much more of this into movement. The company is also very proud of the underfloor battery’s compact size and relatively modest weight, which is 50 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than the 107.8-kWh pack in the EQS.
The pack was developed jointly with AMG’s High Performance Powertrains division in the U.K., which creates Mercedes F1 engines as well as the almost equally exotic powerplant for the long delayed (but nearly here) AMG One. This operates at a high 900 volts and uses what are described as high silicon anodes capable of holding more energy than lesser cells, with a compact design allowing the same housing to accommodate electronic control gear. The battery’s total weight, 1091 pounds, is impressively light given the pack’s capacity, with the car’s claimed overall mass of 3858 pounds being only slightly higher than that of a standard-range Tesla Model 3.
Strangely, there is no official word on the other side of the powertrain beyond apparent confirmation that the EQXX uses a single motor with rear-wheel drive. Mercedes does say that the concept features an underfloor cooling plate for aerodynamic efficiency, active air flaps to channel cooling air, and a heat pump to help heat the cabin. It also features solar panels, although the claimed ability of these to add up to 15 miles of range on a sunny day doesn’t come from directly charging the high-voltage battery but rather by using the energy created to operate the car’s blower fan, lights, infotainment, and other ancillaries.
The EQXX’s cabin is dominated by what seems the inevitable conclusion of modern UI design—an LED screen that runs across the full width of the dashboard, unbroken by vertical seams. This is 47.5 inches wide and offers 8K resolution with a 7680-by-660-pixel display that will require some substantial graphical firepower to operate. It certainly looks crisp in the pictures. The official release also enthuses that “a star-cloud avatar, reminiscent of our namesake, Mercedes Jellinek, is the ethereal guide. Shape-shifting in response to the driver’s needs and taking care of the passengers, she makes the journey into a luxury experience.” But we have absolutely no idea what that means.
Inside, something close to a full set of sustainability boxes is checked off. For instance, there are two types of vegan leather, one made from the root structure of mushrooms and the other derived from cactus fibers in a “bio-based polyurethane matrix.” There are carpets made from bamboo, and there’s trim that incorporates recycled plastics woven into a shimmering fabric. The exterior bodywork is made from what is described as low-CO2 steel made from scrap, with doors made from carbon fiber and glass-reinforced plastics.
The EQXX’s efficient minimalism is strongly reminiscent of another future-looking German prototype: the similarly slippery XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid that Volkswagen put into very limited production in Europe in 2013. The Mercedes’s four seats and four doors make it more practical, and it weighs more than twice as much, but the front end design is strikingly similar. It will be interesting to see how much of the EQXX’s thinking translates into future production models.