Avatar: Waterway is the long-awaited sequel to James Cameron’s visually stunning 2009 blockbuster, but the fantasy planet of Pandora gets grounded via a concept car from one of our favorite European automakers.
The Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR first made its debut in 2020, but the three-pointed star is launching it again to commemorate its second release Avatars film. We recently had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Vision AVTR, where we got an up-close look at its unusual bodywork and futuristic propulsion system.
If you squint, the Vision AVTR bears a resemblance to Mercedes’ existing EQ lineup of electric vehicles. The bold grille panel, for example, accentuates the centrally located Mercedes-Benz star, but includes some quirky design touches to make it feel more three-dimensional and sophisticated. The sleek sides of the body, too, are reminiscent of vehicles such as the Mercedes EQS sedan, though the full glass doors promise a unique look to the car.
Beyond that, however, the AVTR is the stuff of concept car dreams. The rear deck features dozens of small scales that feed into the bodywork for maximum aerodynamics where appropriate, but can also be tilted forward to provide downward thrust, backward for an air brake effect, or side to side to act as a rudder when cornering. The light that illuminates the scale works hand in hand with the back light and indicators, so you can never be in doubt of your intentions.
Bubble-shaped rolling stock consists of a dense rubber casing that wraps around the surface of the wheel. The wheels themselves have a sleek floral design that ties inward Avatars series’ theme of conservation and preserving the beauty of nature. Moreover, there is a four-wheel steering that can even move the AVTR sideways.
As you approach the Vision AVTR, it “comes alive” with an animated ballet of glowing LEDs and aft deck scale check controls, and the entire center console moves up and down gently, as if the car were breathing. Mercedes says this is to underscore the relationship between the operator and the machine, similar to the relationship between the Na’vi and their flying banshees. Enter the Vision AVTR and the seat reclines slightly to envelop you, and when you move your hand toward the center console a single trackpad climbs into the palm of your hand. Moving it back and forth has the same effect on the car, you guessed it.
But if you rotate the top of the trackpad and push it forward, the car will move sideways, giving you more flexibility as to how you want to drive. What’s more, you can combine motions – circular motions with forward, backward, or left and right – to exert a great deal of control within tight limits. It feels as if the AVTR can make a U-turn as narrow as its wheelbase or parallel park in a space barely inches apart. It’s a strange experience, but a lot of fun.
Now, as a concept car, the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR has a limited top speed, and we’re not allowed to drive it outside the parking lot. But I can safely say that the gorgeous show car provided more thrills than any of us could have experienced at 20 miles per hour, and the looks from passers-by were hilarious.
It’s unclear whether the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR will actually appear in the film Avatar: Waterway. Regardless of whether the humans in the film drive around in Benzes or not, it’s still very cool that Mercedes built a vehicle that underpins its futuristic styling with a forward-thinking driving experience.