First Sight: Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet

29 August 2017 | by Lem Bingley

The recent Pebble Beach Concours provided a berth for the latest luxury land-yacht from Daimler, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet. A drop-top version of the coupé concept shown a year ago, it shares the previous car’s electric underpinnings as well as its extreme proportions. Laid out within an extravagant six-metre expanse there are just two seats, plus a bonnet seemingly big enough to land a helicopter.

While the imperiously long lines captured attention, the most arresting part of the new concept lurks under the neat white soft-top. The cabriolet’s interior is much more fully formed than the rough-cut version shown inside the coupé.

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“Last time we hadn’t really realised the interior as something you could sit in,” notes Hartmut Sinkwitz, director of interior design at Mercedes-Benz. “We’ve surprised ourselves by how good the car looks as a cabriolet, and for the interior we were also able to work out the design concept we showed last year.”

Interior development for the Cabriolet was carried out at Mercedes’ Advanced Design Studio in Como, Italy.

Sinkwitz says one aim was to echo the elegance of the inky blue sheet metal: “We continued the extreme flow of the exterior, so the eye runs from the deck of the boot down into the rear part of the interior in a very soft and smooth way that I think we’ve never seen before.”

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The Cabriolet’s powerboat lines led to nautical thoughts inside – hence the bright white leather and the wooden planks divided by aluminium in place of carpet.

The W-shaped seating surface, flowing smoothly over the centre console and up onto the door cards, was inspired by the graceful undulations of manta rays. “It’s almost like a 2D material simply bent into this double wave form of the seating arrangement,” Sinkwitz says.

Aviation was also an inspiration. “We always play with wing shapes for our dashboards, to envisage the central beauty of lightness,” Sinkwitz says. The Cabriolet features air vents hanging below the curved dashboard like the engines of an airliner or the gondola of an airship.

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The vents were absent from last year’s coupé and one of several refinements made to the design. In the coupé, two narrow strips of blue-lit glass ran across the IP before melding into a single strip at the doors. In the Cabriolet, a single, broader ribbon of glass now runs in a full 360-degree loop around the cabin.

“The idea would be that the display band is built using OLED displays,” Sinkwitz explains. “That works more as a typical display in the front and in the centre, showing for example navigation, and then in a very subtle way fading into the colour.”

As well as providing ambient illumination, the display band incorporates touchscreens for adjusting the seats and other features as it runs across the doors. “It’s about emotion,” Sinkwitz says of the blue halo, “but it’s also an opportunity to rethink conventional switches.”

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The seating upholstery features matching blue-lit buttons, decorated with a three-pointed stars and envisaged as providing more than decoration and illumination. “They’re inspired by the capitonnage buttons from early times, and you can also think of Chesterfield sofas,” says Sinkwitz. “They are little displays that optically work like jewels. To give it a connection with the future, we had the idea to combine, in one knob, sensor and display functions.”

While practical details haven’t been entirely fleshed out, Sinkwitz suggests the seat buttons might measure temperature, humidity and other bodily qualities, perhaps anticipating the need for heating, cooling or a gentle massage. “This could be a future next level of comfort,” he predicts. “It’s a nice, very playful idea that can be also used for many realistic functions.”

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A transparent tube bisects the cabin front to rear, forming a floating centre console. It’s intended to showcase the flow of energy from the batteries under the bonnet to the electric motor under the boat tail, Sinkwitz says.

“It’s again a very playful idea,” he adds. “Customers don’t really get a strong experience with electricity, compared to a combustion engine. You start an engine and you hear an evocative sound, especially with a V8 or V12, so in an electric car we need to find new ways to stage the character of electricity, to make it enjoyable rather than just having emotion disappear.”

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On a more pragmatic level, the brightly-lit tube also provides a strong visual indication of when a completely silent car is actually primed and ready to move. “It can be very dangerous if you hit the pedal [accidentally], especially with a very powerful car, so it’s really important to be informed that the electric system is ready,” Sinkwitz notes.

“That’s why we also have a start button. Although this is a traditional element, we think that the need for very clear feedback – [that] the car is turned-on and ready – shouldn’t be underestimated.”