The impending invasion of autonomous vehicles threatens to demote you from the pilot of a machine synonymous with independence to mere cargo in a commodity pod devoid of all spirit. Whatever the truth of this potential nightmare, Mercedes-Benz has pinched itself into waking reality with the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet.
The swooping concept car, unveiled last weekend at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, rejects all notions of practicality. It measures nearly 18.7 feet long and 6.9 feet wide, yet offers just two seats. The wheels stand 24 inches tall. Although the 6 Cabriolet runs on battery power (its solitary nod to the future) and therefore lacks an engine, the hood makes up about half the car’s length.
The vestigial radiator grille was inspired by a pinstripe suit—something else Silicon Valley is doing its best to kill. The rear end brings to mind a yacht, a theme apparently chosen to keep anyone from thinking the car draws ideas from something useful, like a container ship.
Naturally, the interior offers a melee of leather, chrome, open-pore wood, and aluminum. Mercedes’s Rumpelstiltskin department even weaved rose gold into the fabric top. When you aren’t gazing out over roughly four acres of hood from the driver’s seat, you can monitor the car’s vital functions with a glance of what Mercedes calls “hyperanalogue” instruments—digital displays with real needles sweeping over them.
Each wheel gets its own electric motor that draws power from the battery that comprises the car’s underbody. All told, they generate 750 horsepower, and the the car will go 200 miles between charges. Well, it might if the car actually existed. This is a concept.
Mercedes won’t actually build the 6 Cabriolet, or anything that looks like it. No, this is simply a showcase of design ideas, a glimpse of what the company’s engineers could do if freed from constraints like budgets, practicality, and physics. Be that as it may, you have to like the underlying message here: The pods are coming, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up opulence.