Ahead of this week's Frankfurt auto show, Mercedes-Benz just showed off the Concept IAA, a silver bullet of a car that's designed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. But it's got two very different modes: below 80 km/h (50mph), it bears some resemblance to a normal sedan; above 80 km/h, a bunch of panels deploy from the front, rear, and sides to reduce drag coefficient to 0.19 (for comparison, the most efficient current-generation S-Class has a Cd of 0.23).
There's clearly some design DNA shared with Mercedes' wild F 015 self-driving car, but the Concept IAA feels considerably closer to reality, despite its status as a transformer — it's got a fairly conventional 279-horsepower hybrid drivetrain and appears to be designed for driving by an actual driver. Two 12.3-inch displays handle the job of communicating information to the occupants, while the steering wheel makes use of optical sensors to navigate through menus with your fingertips.
Clearly it's not a production car, but it's easy to imagine that some of the Concept IAA's ideas could make it to the dealership — some modern vehicles already have "active" aerodynamics that move louvers and other exterior features to minimize drag while meeting cooling needs, and this looks like a logical next step.