Finding out what the customer wants or needs, observing social trends, looking into the future, then turning the findings into new concepts and ideas – this approach has served Mercedes-Benz well over the years. As the product drive shows, it is an approach which brings successful results.

‘Vision B’, the vision for a ‘Compact Sports Tourer’, is a typical example. Vision B was presented at the 2004 Paris Motor Show alongside ‘Vision R’, the ‘Grand Sports Tourer’. This was appropriate since there were close affinities between the two vehicles, Vision B being a new interpretation of the themes first introduced in the Grand Sports Tourer. The spacious interior of Vision B catered for family and leisure use and was combined with the prestige factor of a sedan, the comfort of a tourer and the dynamism of a sports car.

While the external dimensions corresponded to those of a modern compact car, with a length of 4.27 metres and a width of 1.78 metres, on the inside Vision B offered space and comfort on a par with larger sedans or station wagons. This was down to an ingenious concept: the patented sandwich principle. The space-saving positioning of the engine, which sat partly in front of and partly underneath the passenger cell, meant that the passenger and load compartments were able to occupy almost 70 per cent of the vehicle’s total length – an excellent dimensional performance and an excellent basis for long-distance touring comfort. The distance between the front and rear seats measured 84 centimetres, with rear shoulder room of 1.38 metres and rear headroom of 98 centimetres.

Vision R and Vision B shared a common design language. The front end of both cars was defined by a radiator grille with three horizontal slats and integral Mercedes star, with headlamps which were located well to the outside and emphasised the sense of width. In the case of Vision B, the large headlamps echoed the bumper contouring, thus integrating all the various parts of the front end into a stylistic whole. Another styling feature common to both sports tourer concept vehicles was the styling of the bonnet. Its shape was somewhat raised, thereby standing out from the fenders and reinforcing the powerful front-end stance. Muscular ‘shoulders’ supported a rounded roof line which rose slightly towards the rear, stressing the wedge shape and thus the dynamic and powerful nature of the sports tourers. The unmistakable overall effect was one of strength, confidence and readiness to perform.

The special high-gloss finish and intense sheen of Vision B’s innovative ALU-BEAM paintwork was the result of a newly-developed process which Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer in the world to put into practice. In conventional metallic paints the metallic effect is created by tiny pigment particles with a diameter of just 100 to 300 nanometres. To produce the new ALU-BEAM paint, the particles were subjected to unusually intensive processing and are also very much finer, with a diameter of no more than 30 to 50 nanometres (30 to 50 billionths of a metre). This means they are integrated more evenly into the paint surface. As a result, the light is reflected more intensely, producing an enhanced metallic sheen.

Inside Vision B, glass was used as an important styling feature, contributing to an attractive, upbeat atmosphere. As well as creating a visual link between the exterior and the interior, it produced a light and airy ambience which was inviting and at the same time added to the agreeable impression of spaciousness.
In keeping with the car’s youthful, sporty character, the dashboard, seats and doors of the ‘Vision B’ Compact Sports Tourer were trimmed with a new, high-tech fabric whose airy lightness was reminiscent of high-quality sportswear. Polished aluminium meanwhile was used for the trim around the air outlets over the centre console, for the control console of the COMAND and automatic climate control systems and for the instrument cluster backplate.

Vision B’s state-of-the-art diesel engine was a passport to dynamic driving enjoyment. The newly developed four-cylinder unit delivered maximum power of 103 kW (140 hp) and with 300 newton metres of torque available from just 1600 rpm offered lively mid-range acceleration. A further innovation was the Mercedes-Benz AUTOTRONIC continuously variable automatic transmission, which made maximum power available more quickly than a conventional automatic transmission. Like a modern sports car transmission, AUTOTRONIC can be shifted using steering-wheel gearshift buttons. Fuel consumption was less than six litres per 100 km.

‘Vision B’ was a window onto the future but at the same time very much a car of the here and now. Like every other Mercedes-Benz concept car, it had all its four wheels planted firmly in the world of reality.

The facts
– Vehicle: Vision B
– When: September 2004
– Where: Paris Motor Show
– What: Comfortable five-seater tourer combining features of a sedan, station wagon, MPV and sport-utility vehicle
– Drivetrain: Four-cylinder diesel engine, 103 kW/140 hp, front-wheel drive, AUTOTRONIC continuously variable automatic transmission

Technical highlights
– Sandwich floor
– Introduced 1998 in the A-Class (W 168)
– Prototype of an innovative, high-performance four-cylinder diesel engine
– Newly developed AUTOTRONIC continuously variable automatic transmission
– ALU-BEAM high-gloss paintwork
– New high-tech interior fabric

Source: Daimler AG