Mercedes-Benz unveiled the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, the stunning coupe you see above, at a private event in California on Thursday. It's a concept car that will be exhibited at this weekend's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, one of the world's most important classic-car shows.
A giant throwback coupe with a high-tech surprise: It's electric
So, what is it? For starters, it's a huge coupe, at nearly 19 feet long. (The "6" in its name is for its length, almost six meters.) It's grand and sleek and opulent and imposing and it has huge amounts of what car designers call "curb presence." It's a throwback to the grand days of hand-built cars for the very rich. But it packs a 21st-century surprise: This old-school coupe is an electric car.
It's powered by four electric motors, giving it all-wheel drive and a rated 738 horsepower. Mercedes claims a 0-100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) time of "less than 4 seconds," not quite in Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ:TSLA) "Ludicrous" league but more than fast enough to be thrilling. (And let's be fair: This thing is probably a lot heavier than a Model S.) The concept has an 80 kilowatt-hour battery that Mercedes said would give it an EPA-rated range of over 200 miles.
It also shows off a new quick-charging system that uses DC charging based on the CCS standard, but up to 350 kilowatts. Mercedes said that it can add around 100 kilometers (62 miles) of range in just five minutes. It also has wireless recharging capability built in.
Inside, it's a similar blend of old-school opulence and futuristic technology. A pair of what Mercedes calls "hyperanalogue" gauges sits in front of the driver, while other displays and controls are integrated into the glass trim panels that surround the passengers. Chesterfield-like seats (there are only two) and a wooden floor provide the classic contrast.
The coupe is badged as a Mercedes-Maybach, the Mercedes-Benz sub-brand that parent Daimler (OTC:DDAI.F) hopes to use to challenge Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors in the super-profitable super-luxury market.
The big question: Will Mercedes build it?
Probably not. Mercedes describes it with words like "vision" and "study": It's clearly meant to explore ideas, not to go into production as is. But some of its features are things that Mercedes plans to incorporate into its production cars.
Most importantly, the car's electric drivetrain is being developed for mass production, Mercedes said. The configuration and power output are hints as to what we can expect in the high-end versions of Mercedes' upcoming electric luxury models (there are reportedly four in development, two sedans and two SUVs), though the quick-charge feature might be further off. And some of its interior features may be incorporated into Mercedes production models in the near future.
Mercedes is thinking about how luxury cars will be relevant in a self-driving future
The car itself, though, is meant primarily to show where the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand might be going as the automotive world evolves. It's an important question that all luxury-car makers are pondering. Not long ago, BMW (OTC:BAMXF) presented a vision of what a self-driving Rolls-Royce might look like in the future. The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 is another take on that future, one that notably (unlike the Rolls) has a steering wheel.
It's a stark and deliberate contrast to the self-driving people movers that are increasingly being proposed as our automotive future. There might well be a place for something like this coupe in that future: In a world in which ordinary folks are getting around in self-driving Ubers, Mercedes might find wealthy customers willing to pay for the distinctive appeal to arriving in a huge opulent luxury coupe instead.
Think of this concept car as one view of what that future might look like.