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Mercedes-Benz unveiled a new show car today at Monterey Car Week in Pebble Beach, California. This annual event, which runs from August 18 to 26 this year, attracts automotive fans from all over the world. The Mercedes-Benz show car, a single-seat Vision EQ Silver Arrow, is an homage, both inside and out, to the world-famous record-breaking W 125 model from 1937.
I don’t know how you feel about the streamlined racing cars of the 1930s, but when I was a kid (I was born in 1971) I was always fascinated by them. Even though they were almost half a century old by that time, to me they seemed timeless. I had no doubt whatsoever that they were qualified to participate in the races of matchbox cars that my friends and I staged on our fantasy racecourses in my favorite sandbox. I always included them in the starting field, which consisted of racing cars and record-breaking automobiles that had made their debuts over many decades.
Of course the Silver Arrows always had to be in the lineup. However, one model was obviously missing in my collection: the record-breaking Mercedes-Benz W 125 from the late 1930s. The model’s 12 cylinders and 5577 cc engine, combined with additional carburetors, raised the compressor engine’s performance to 736 hp at a torque of 5800 rpm. Let me repeat that once again, slowly and calmly: seven hundred thirty-six horsepower!
If you’ve ever had the good fortune to see this car in living color, and especially to hear it, you can at least begin to understand my passion for this miracle of technology. When I attended the Formula 1 Grand Prix 1995 in Hockenheim, I was able to hear the sound of the somewhat more civilized version of this monster.
The engine of that era’s version of the W 125 Silver Arrow produced only just under 600 hp at its rear wheels, but it generated a wall of sound that you could already hear as it accelerated around the eastern curve that back then was still part of the old Grand Prix racecourse. My stomach shuddered, goose bumps formed all over my whole body, and when this classic car rounded the bend into the motordrome I wept tears of joy.
The legendary race car driver Rudolf Caracciola set a still-unbroken record with the reengineered version of this engine, installed in a body that had adopted key concepts from the development departments of the Heinkel and Messerschmitt aircraft companies. Well…almost unbroken! The average speed of 432.7 km/h that Caracciola reached on Highway 5 between Frankfurt and Darmstadt remained the world-record speed on public roads until November 2017. That’s something you need to stop and think about… Caracciola’s speed remained the benchmark for 80 years. Fantastic!
“With its historic Silver Arrows, Mercedes-Benz was already a pioneer in terms of speed more than 80 years ago — thanks to its streamlined design, among other things.” Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG.
The W 125 inspired the designers of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow
Now that we’ve pulled ourselves together after all that emotion, let’s let bygones be bygones and turn the wheel of history forward 81 years. Let’s look at Pebble Beach, California. In the past two years, the Monterey Car Week showcased gorgeous concept cars such as the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 and the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet. This year it hosted the premiere of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow, thus paying homage to the automotive designers of the 1930s.
Before I go into detail about the special features and specifications of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow, I’d first like to tell you something about what it has in common with the record-breaking W 125 model of 1937. What strikes me at first glance is the round outline and door section of the cockpit glazing, which is inspired by a teardrop. The car’s interior also successfully bridges tradition and modernity.
Our designers call it “progressive luxury,” but basically it’s a combination of the timeless aesthetics of its role model and a vision of the future.
As soon as the driver’s cabin is tipped forward, it reveals an unusually wide interior that is characterized by contrasts. The brown saddle leather of the seat and the steering wheel perfectly matches the brushed aluminum parts of the interior and the floor, which consists of massive walnut panels with darker softwood pinstripes.
It immediately brings to mind the car’s connection with the historic cars of the Silver Arrow era, and all I can do is to take a deep breath and say, Wow! That’s what it has to look like!
But if you want to create a bridge between tradition and modernity, you also have to come up with concepts for the future. And this is exactly where our colleagues are once again showing us the shape of things to come.
A 3D panoramic display shows the lane for inductive charging
EQ — for me, that means always having your eyes on the future. It means demonstrating what is, or might be, technologically feasible, and it means simply thinking “out of the box” once in a while. Once again, the Vision EQ Silver Arrow is a perfect example of this vision. Among other things, this is demonstrated by an impressive 3D panoramic display in the cockpit that can even show the driver the lane on the roadway in which inductive charging as possible (and now I’ve revealed the secret of the car’s drive system).
But that’s not all. With the help of artificial intelligence, it’s also possible to participate in a virtual race against historic or current Silver Arrow racing cars. For this purpose, a virtual racecourse is superimposed on the real racecourse shown on the panoramic display, and the driver sees his competitor as a “ghost” driving in front of him or behind him. The Virtual Race Coach assistance function helps him become a better driver by giving him directions during the race. That sets my inner geek’s pulse racing to new levels.
In addition, there’s a touchscreen in the steering wheel. This is where the driver can select programs such as Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, all of which have different driving characteristics. Here you can also configure the settings of the sound system. Among other things, the selection includes the sound of the current Formula 1 Silver Arrow and that of a Mercedes Benz AMG V8 engine.
750 electrical hp and a range of over 400 kilometers
In terms of pure performance technology, the Vision EQ Silver Arrow beats its role model by 14 hp. Instead of a combustion engine, it is powered by an electric motor with a flat 80 kWh battery that is installed in the underbody and gives the car a theoretical range of 400 kilometers according to the WLTP standard. I’d say that’s a pretty good drive system. To make sure the fuel cells are always optimally cooled, ventilation slots along the sides provide a perfect supply of fresh air.
A love of detail
I don’t know how you feel about it, but I love small details like that — and yes, I would really take out a magnifying glass and a toothbrush in order to clean every last corner of this car. With the Vision EQ Silver Arrow I’d have a lot of small details to clean, because the open multi-spoke wheels are probably the Holy Grail of all the people who like to spend their Saturdays at their favorite carwash.
Apart from the non-rotating hubcaps and the partially shielded wheels, each of the wheels has 168 spokes and is made of lightweight aluminum and painted in rose gold.
In order to have especially strong traction and correspondingly rapid acceleration, the Vision EQ Silver Arrow has slick tires with a format of 255/25 R 24 (front) and 305/25 R 26 (rear). The star pattern on the tread, which was designed together with Mercedes’ tire partner Pirelli, testifies to a love of detail.
The rear diffuser is reminiscent of motor racing. In addition, two extendable rear spoilers function as an air brake that increases the air resistance when the driver wants to slow down.
Back to the future!
I don’t know of a better way to describe the concept of this show car than to quote the title of this classic film from the 1980s. Tradition and modernity are not incompatible. On the contrary, they enhance each other. The Vision EQ Silver Arrow is a perfect example of that — and it’s yet another demonstration of what our design team can put on the road.
Yes, I stand by my convictions… Pebble Beach is an absolute highlight in my calendar, above all because I’m an ardent fan of timeless design — all the more if the design comes from the desk of our Chief Designer. I think Gorden Wagener’s team has proved that once again!