IMMENDINGEN, GERMANY—Leaving in the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX was slightly more stressful than expected. Not that it’s hard to drive, or hard to see from the low profile, but it’s also the only one there. Mercedes wouldn’t tell us the exact budget for the program, merely warning us that the EQXX alone should be considered priceless, but I’m guessing somewhere in the range of three Bugatti Pur Sports.
Like the Bugatti, the EQXX was built to an engineering specification – in this case, to build an electric vehicle capable of at least 621 miles (1,000 km) on a single charge. Just like the Bugatti, it is road-legal: in April this year, less than two years after the project was given the green light, the team drove the EV 1,006km from Sindelfingen in Germany to Cassis , in France, arriving with a state of charge of 15% in the battery.
Two months later, they followed that up with a longer ride that involved descending fewer mountains, driving from Stuttgart, Germany to Silverstone Racecourse in the UK, where reigning Formula E champion Nyck from Vries then used the remaining charge to drive some hot laps, the car eventually covered 747 miles (1,202 km) before coming to a stop in the pit lane.
But it’s not Bugatti and there are no plans for low-volume production, not even at exorbitant prices. The Vision EQXX is unique, a concept car that comes to life, but more fully realized than any other concept I’ve encountered so far. A pure exercise in engineering or a world record would not bother with a functional infotainment system that uses a single 44-inch 8k screen, nor a fully trimmed interior, even if it uses cactus fiber fabric instead of leather, carpets made from bamboo fiber and biotechnology-derived silk, among other innovations.
And despite the invaluable nature of this low-drag electric vehicle, Mercedes let Ars drive it.
As you can guess from its looks, the shape of the Vision EQXX is more than a little optimized for aerodynamics. About 62% of the work the engine has to do is fight against air resistance, after all. It’s a smaller car than it looks in the photos – about a foot shorter than the production EQS at 195.9 inches long. And that includes the long nose and cantilevered tail, so the Vision EQXX’s wheelbase is effectively a compact car, at 110.2 inches (2,800mm).
A narrow width of 73.6 inches (1,870 mm) and a low roofline of 53.1 inches (1,348 mm) give the car a rather small frontal area – 22.8 square feet (2.12 m2) – and the frontal area works with the drag coefficient, which in this case is only 0.17, making it one of the low-drag cars ever made.
From the nose to the C-pillar, it might remind you of the Porsche Taycan, a very slippery shopper itself. The door handles retract flush with the doors, or at least they do at the front; the rear doors do not open, one of the few says that it is indeed a concept and not a production car.
The side mirrors are a size you might expect to find on a race car rather than something with a license plate, but they work well enough. Which is good, because there’s no rear window. Instead, that space, along with the roof, is given over to a 300W solar panel that powers the car’s 12V battery which, like the traction battery, is also lithium-ion. (Since the priceless one-piece will never sit parked outside for very long, Mercedes didn’t bother adding the extra gubbins that would allow the panel to charge the traction battery.)
From the rear wheels, it’s like nothing else, except maybe the Lightyear Solo. When parked, the lower part of the tail retracts into the bodywork, extending when the car’s onboard brain decides it’s more efficient to do so.