Four cars in one. The Mercedes-Benz VRC (Vario Research Car), which debuted in 1995 at the Geneva Motor Show, could meet the needs of different types of customers in just a few minutes by transforming itself into a sedan during the week, station wagon with ample space for luggage for long journeys, convertible for pleasant outdoor trips in summer and pickups to carry bulky loads.

The VRC concept car is a compact two-door car characterized by a monobloc superstructure consisting of roof, side walls and rear element. The structure can be easily lifted, changed and removed with another variant that in 15 minutes completely changes architecture and type of use. The Vario Research Car has been associated with a vision. The idea was that customers would not own the different superstructures, but would take the car to a rental station where the superstructures would be changed by Mercedes-Benz service technicians. After 15 minutes, the customers could then resume their journey in the same but different car.

It would be up to the customers to decide how long they would use a particular superstructure: the rental system would be as flexible as the car itself. The development of the Vario Research Car was stimulated by research according to which people would have more free time to spend engaging in different activities. They would therefore want to choose their car with both leisure activities and everyday use in mind. However, it would be uneconomic to maintain their small car fleet. This is where the Vario Research Car from Mercedes-Benz comes into play.

The VRC was also used to test various future-oriented technological equipment. The car was used to test Mercedes-Benz’s front-wheel drive, combined in this case with a continuously variable automatic transmission, as well as for testing the Active Body Control (ABC) designed to improve safety and driving comfort. The passenger compartment is equipped with a colour display that provides the driver with all the necessary information. By operating the rotary actuator in the centre console, the driver can select the desired menu items, including on-board computer and navigation, a rarity for the time. A special feature is the so-called safety display, which shows a green circle, provided that the driver complies with the specified speed limit. The colour and shape of the symbol change when the driver drives faster or does not maintain the correct safety margin from the vehicle ahead.