Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR First Look: Like Avatar Movie, It Isn’t Really About Blue People

Concept cars and films go oh so well together, don’t they? The R8-previewing Audi RSQ in I, Robot comes to mind, as does Ironman’s Acura NSX Roadster in The Avengers, or Bond’s stunning Aston Martin DB10 in 2015’s Spectre. Mercedes is taking things a step further with the Vision AVTR which isn’t in a movie but is inextricably linked to the movies, specifically, James Cameron’s Avatar films. You know, the CGI-heavy ones with the blue alien people in them.

The AVTR concept isn’t blue, but it is the product of a relationship between Mercedes and the Avatar Series announced at the keynote presentation at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by the luxury automaker’s honcho, Ola Källenius. (Källenius even called Cameron “Jim” instead of James—pretty cute.) Mercedes hitched its wagon to Cameron’s and, by extension, the box-office-crushing Avatar franchise because the movies touch on themes of sustainability, environmental preservation, and a connection between human and machine—the exact themes designers toyed with when dreaming up the AVTR concept. Mercedes named the concept Vision AVTR, not Vision Avatar, because apparently Cameron owns the word and, we assume, didn’t feel like sharing it. Plus, smashed-up words bereft of nonessential consonants and vowels are so in these days.

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES

Anyway, the concept looks not years into the future, but decades into the future. The word “future” appears a staggering 48 times in the AVTR’s press release, which might seem absurd until you consider just how forward-thinking the car really is. There is no steering wheel. You control the car instead via a Mercedes-branded nub in the center console that resembles the little red rubber joystick on Lenovo’s ThinkPad laptops. Mercedes claims this furthers the AVTR’s theme of natural connection, and that it was inspired by the Avatar movies’ Na’vi people (the blue aliens) and the way they could literally plug into their surroundings using their ponytails.

Källenius even goes so far as to declare the concept car is less of a  machine and more of a living organism in its own right. There are 33 scaley “bionic flaps” on the rear end that react to the environment like hairs standing up on the back of an animal’s neck. They twitched the entire time the car spent on stage at CES. The concave, reclined seats are inspired by the giant leaf hammocks in which the Na’vi people sleep. Even the battery that powers the all-wheel-drive, electric AVTR uses a compostable organic cell chemistry; it delivers over 400 miles of range.

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES

Instead of a traditional dashboard or gauge cluster, in the AVTR, critical information is projected onto a T-shaped surface that extends from the center console to the dash via a projector embedded in the headliner. There’s no recognizable user interface either—stuff is projected onto the driver’s raised hand and manipulated and controlled by gestures. Källenius said that this intuitive gesture control is less like learning sign language (ahem, BMW) and more like communicating with something that knows what you want.

Oh, and don’t think we were going to skip talking about those wheels! They’re semi-spherical omnidirectional rollers—as if Benz would consider mere wheels—with a tiny contact patch to minimize the car’s impact on its surroundings. Those rollers also enable the AVTR to crawl around in odd directions like a crab. It’s pretty wacky.

Mercedes is leaning heavily into the sustainability theme, not just with the materials used in the AVTR (which include vegan Dinamica leather and wood floors from sustainably sourced, fast-growing palm stems), but allegedly with its whole business moving forward. Källenius’s “Ambition 2039” plan for Mercedes-Benz aims to have a fully sustainable, closed-loop, carbon-neutral fleet of vehicles by the end of the next decade, and extend that philosophy all the way down the production line. So, for as ambitious as the AVTR concept may be, the ethos and thinking it represents might be even more so. Can’t hurt, then, to kick it off with a car named after one of the highest-grossing films of all time, huh?

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept 2020 CES

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