Transformer: meet the shape-shifting Mercedes Concept IAA

Bodywork changes shape to make car more efficient

Mercedes Concept IAA has a drag value of just 0.19

WHEN DESIGNING its vision for the car of the future, Mercedes’ stylists and engineers appear to have turned to an unusual source for inspiration – Transformers, the popular cartoon and film franchise featuring robots that can change their appearance.

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Whilst driving, its Concept IAA (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) is able to change the shape of its body to become more streamlined. The car was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show, and its approach means that at low speeds, below 50mph when aerodynamic drag has less of an impact on the car’s fuel efficiency, the Concept IAA has the look of a striking four-door coupé. Once travelling faster, its body extends to reduce the drag to a value of 0.19 – which is 27% more efficient than a Mercedes CLS.

Mercedes Concept IAA has an extendable tail section

Mercedes says that the Concept IAA can also perform its shape-shifting party trick at the touch of a button. However, if you’re parked in a particularly tight spot and one of your children fiddles with said button, it could result in a costly trip to the bodyshop to have the elaborate, extending tail repaired.

At the back of the prototype car, eight small panels extend out of the tail by 390mm, flaps ahead of the wheel-arches move out by 25mm and the wheels themselves are able to change shape to have a flush surface. The approach smooths out the airflow, says Mercedes, and is the result of one million hours of computer simulation.

Mercedes Concept IAA has a plug-in hybrid drivetrain

Beneath the surface, the Concept IAA features a petrol/electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain which is said to give the car the potential to achieve CO2 emissions of just 28g /km when the body is set to its most slippery shape, and 31g/km when the car is in normal operation. At present, Mercedes’ most efficient mid-size plug-in hybrid, the C350 e, emits 49g/km.

Inside the cabin, the driver of the Concept IAA gets a glimpse of things to come from Mercedes. The steering wheel features a pair of buttons with touchscreen-type “Optical Finger Navigation” that control two displays – one for the digital instrument cluster and the other for a touchscreen in the centre console.

Mercedes IAA previews features likely to appear on production Mercedes

Ola Källenius, head of sales and marketing for Mercedes, says that the concept car “shows in a host of details whet our customers can look forward to in future production models.”

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