"The country needs new car ideas" – under this headline, Mercedes-Benz appeared in public at the 1993 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt with a vehicle concept that was completely out of the ordinary for the brand. The Vision A 93 belongs to the compact car class and has front-wheel drive. Mercedes-Benz clearly states that one of its future vehicle classes could look like this. Immediately the discussion begins: can this be a true Mercedes-Benz? Visitors to the show are asked for their opinion, which is unusually positive. Around 80 percent are in favor of a small Mercedes-Benz along the lines of the Vision A 93. In 1994, the renamed and subtly revised Study A was presented at the Geneva Motor Show, and again the public applauded. The American magazine "Motor Week" even awards the A study the title of "Best Concept Car 1994. By then, the decision by the Board of Management to go ahead with series production has long since been taken. The A-Class is launched in 1998 and, despite initial difficulties, has become a true success story
For the company has become. It finds its continuation in the successor to the W 169 series, which debuts in 2004.
The Vision A 93 is the logical further development of the concept car "Nahverkehrs-Fahrzeug" (NAFA) from 1982 as well as the research vehicle F 100 from 1991 and brings numerous new car ideas to the industry. No wonder: the postulated development goals of the Vision A 93 almost give the engineers the task of squaring the circle. The specifications include: attractive design, subcompact exterior dimensions, generous interior space, high utility value and high variability, maximum all-round safety, as is customary at Mercedes-Benz, low-emission and particularly fuel-efficient engines, and the possibility of implementing alternative drive concepts. These goals are all achieved. As a result, the Vision A 93 and the A-Class production model deserve the distinction of being an important driving force for compact cars. For since its appearance, this vehicle category has undergone a major shake-up. Reflects a greatly changed market. "The Vision A 93 is a study that redefines the term compact car", predicts the then head of Mercedes-Benz Jürgen Hubbert at the presentation of the car. "It provides the proof that it is possible to replace the traditional Mercedes qualities such as safety, comfort and reliability are also transferred to a much smaller automobile, thus ensuring mobility in conurbations in the future as well." And Dr. Dieter Zetsche, the member of the Executive Board responsible for passenger car development at the time, adds: "The Vision A 93 marks the beginning of a new era in automotive development. Mercedes-Benz is the first vehicle manufacturer to present a production-ready compact car study that resolves the contradiction between the shortest overall length and the highest level of safety. Such an overall concept makes it possible to combine both features in one automobile, which also offers the typical Mercedes qualities."
Unusual tasks require unusual solutions. The Vision A 93 was to be compact, yet offer a large interior: The engineers' trick is the "sandwich floor". Because in the Vision A 93, passengers don't sit behind the engine. Transmission – both are installed as a compact unit largely under them. The concept benefits entirely from a large interior space. The distance between the driver or front passenger and the rear-seat occupants is 82.5 centimeters, a value otherwise only achieved by models in the upper mid-range segment, as the press release points out. The concept car measures just 3.35 meters in length; the short version of the A-Class initially presented is longer, but only comes to a good 3.60 meters. Another side effect of the sandwich floor is a high seating position, which benefits the feeling of safety because of the improved overview.
Keyword safety: The high standards of Mercedes-Benz naturally apply to the Vision A 93. The sandwich floor helps again, because the drive unit slides into it in the event of a frontal impact and thus does not penetrate into the passenger cell – ideal for a vehicle with a short front end and correspondingly short crumple zone. The rest of the crash safety corresponds to the Mercedes-Benz standard. Full-size airbags for driver and front passenger, seatbelt tensioners, voluminous side impact pads in the doors and an integrated child seat in the rear are part of the additional safety equipment.
The design of the Vision A 93 posed a very special creative challenge for the experts in the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design department, because the unusual proportions – short and tall – do not in themselves create ideal conditions for a visually harmonious overall concept. In addition, the aim is to design a small car that does not look small at all. The vehicle proves that such stylistic obstacles are not insurmountable. The solution to the riddle is a body that visually consists of one piece and resembles the shape of modern large-capacity sedans with a windshield that is shifted far forward, a high roof and a flat floor. The car's short front end is cleverly integrated into the overall concept.
Former Mercedes chief designer Bruno Sacco describes the task: "The novel concept of a Mercedes-Benz with particularly compact exterior dimensions, high frame-floor system and at the same time generous interior creates in principle an extraordinary vehicle proportions. With large window areas and a lowered curb, we have succeeded in changing the proportions so that the Vision A appears larger at first glance than it actually is. Significant and Mercedes-typical features make the Vision A more than just a compact vehicle. They convey safety, elegance and solidity at the same time. This and its innovative technology make the Vision A a genuine Mercedes-Benz. The design concept does not follow fashionable trends, but will provide impetus for the design of future generations of automobiles for urban and short-haul traffic."
Much emphasis in the design of the Vision A 93 is placed on ecology. This manifests itself, for example, in the drive design. Three versions available. Designed for low fuel consumption and maximum emission control, a diesel direct-injection engine (44 kW/60 hp) and a gasoline engine (55 kW/75 hp), both with 1.2 liters of displacement, distributed over three cylinders. The engines are combined with a continuously variable CVT transmission (Continuously Variable Transmission), which also benefits fuel economy. Mercedes-Benz is also presenting the Vision A 93 as an electric vehicle with an asynchronous motor (40 kW/54 hp), whose battery is sufficient for 150 kilometers in city traffic. At this point, a point from the specifications should be recalled: the suitability of the vehicle for alternative drive concepts. From 1997 onwards, the A-Class will be used for testing the fuel cell at Mercedes-Benz – this was also thought of when the Vision A 93 was designed, as a corresponding note in the original press kit proves. In keeping with the ecological concept, the interior is also made of natural materials such as flax and wool, as well as new materials that are designed to be recyclable at a later date.
The Vision A 93 also serves to test the material aluminum. Its body is made entirely of light metal with a structure of high-strength extruded profiles. As a result, the body weighs around 70 kilograms less than a comparable body made of sheet steel. The Vision A with gasoline engine weighs only 715 kilograms (diesel: 735 kilograms). Despite the additional battery load, the electric variant is also more powerful, with a total of around 1.000 kilograms no heavyweight.000 kilograms no heavyweight.
The path from study to series production does not take long, as the example of the Vision A and A-Class demonstrates. Moreover, they are rolling proof that unusual vehicle concepts always find their place in the market if they are well thought out and geared to the future.