In a move that would later write the beginning chapter of the SUV history, Mercedes-Benz presented the AA Vision Concept at the 1996 Detroit Auto Show in deliberate fashion.
The AA Vision Concept was described by Mercedes-Benz as a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) and its launch on American soil wasn’t just a coincidence, as North America established the world’s largest market for comfortable offroad vehicles.
As you might have figured out, the AA Vision Concept resembles the later-launched M-Class, which went into production one year later, in 1997. AA stands for “All Activity” and Mercedes-Benz wanted a vehicle capable of performing for an extensive range of applications.
AA Vision had to be in its element on and off the road, in the town or in the country, in the sphere of work or in the sphere of leisure. Therefore, the emerging vehicle was designed by teams in Germany and USA as it moved on from the classic two-box design of its previous peers.
The front-end treatment, with the raked headlamps and the prominent Mercedes-Benz star, was distinctive and cutting-edge while at the same time being recognizable as belonging to a Mercedes-Benz. At the same time the broad wheel arches gave the AA Vision a sturdy and rugged stance.
The practical element was a solid presence, as the AA Vision Concept offered a roof rack for carrying bicycles, surfboards or snowboards and a rear bumper with a retractable trailer hitch.
However, the prototype had other new things to show the world. Besides the flexible interior configuration, two sunroofs, navigation system and car phone with hands-free system and steering wheel control buttons, AA Vision came with a revolutionary electronically controlled four-wheel drive that was introduced in the M-Class (W163) under the name 4ETS.
As you probably know, the system identified any wheel or wheels losing grip and transferred the power to the other wheels, maintaining an optimal level of traction. Add the independent four-wheel suspension and you get, according to Mercedes-Benz, excellent ride comfort.