The Research Vehicles of Mercedes-Benz
F 300 Life Jet (1997)
The development of the F 300 Life Jet was initiated by a specific question: how can the feel and cornering dynamics of a motorcycle be combined with the safety and comfort of a car?
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F 300 Life Jet
Motorcyclists enjoy the freedom offered by their vehicles: they lean into bends, sense the power of the engine, are agile, feel at one with the elements, and experience the unbridled pleasure of the road – all of which are also part and parcel of the F 300 Life Jet. Over and above this, it offers the advantages of a car: even three wheels are more stable than two. The top can be closed, and seat belts are provided. The motoring experience can be shared with a second person inside the vehicle, both unimpeded by protective clothing, helmet and wind noise. And air conditioning makes for pleasant temperatures.
Facts
Goals
Feel and cornering dynamics of a motorcycle, combined with the safety and comfort of a car
Powertrain
Four-stroke spark-ignition engine, four cylinders, 1.6 liters displacement, 75 kW (102 hp), rear-wheel drive, electrohydraulic five-speed manual transmission featuring sequential gear change
Technical Highlights
Active Tilt Control (ATC)
Actively controlled rotational headlights
Light sensor
  • Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class
    (1998, W 220 series)
Electrohydraulic manual transmission(shift-by-wire)
Newly developed tyres
Body leans into bends
Never before had the world seen a three-wheeler that leans into bends. To make this possible, Active Tilt Control (ATC) was developed. A complex electronic system computes the tilt angle, calculating the speed, acceleration, steering angle and yaw of the vehicle so that the tilt always complies with the actual driving situation. The electronic control commands are transmitted to a hydraulic cylinder on the front axle. Depending on the steering angle, it presses one of the two spring struts outwards so that wheel and body adopt the tilt angle calculated by the computer. The maximum angle of inclination is 30 degrees. Special tyres that allow large camber and slip angles were specially developed in cooperation with a tyre manufacturer. The rims of the F 300 Life Jet are made of magnesium and tip the scales at only about 75 percent of what a conventional aluminium motorcycle rim weighs.
Lightweight aluminium chassis
The chassis of the two-seater is an aluminium construction weighing just 89 kilograms. The bodywork styling resembles that of a jet. The vehicle is as long as a regular car, but not as wide – so that it can lean into bends. The F 300 Life Jet has room for two persons seated one behind the other. The special features of the body include an upward-opening, spacesaving, hinged door for the driver, a hinged door which swings to the rear for the passenger, and a fixed two-part roof made of aluminium and transparent plastic. In good weather, the two halves of the roof can be removed in a jiffy and stowed in a compartment aft of the rear wheel, thus converting the F 300 Life Jet into an open roadster.
The lighting technology is in keeping with the unusual vehicle concept. The headlight has three reflector sections and two bulbs. The headlight electronics ensure the best possible roadway illumination including in bends. They are linked to the Active Tilt Control computer and turn the headlight to conform to the body tilt; when required, they also cut in a special cornering light. This increases the range of the low-beam headlight by more than 80 percent. A light sensor controls the beam: the light comes on automatically at dusk and when the vehicle enters a tunnel. Neon lamps are used for the indicators, brake lights and marker lights. The slender tubes are accommodated in the wings.
 
Transmission with sequential gearshift
The engine – a 1.6-litre unit from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class – and the electrohydraulic transmission (shift-by-wire) are installed in a space-saving position between the interior and the rear wheel. Power is transmitted via a toothed belt to the rear wheel. The 75 kW (102 hp) output allows acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 211 km/h. Consumption is around 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres (44.3 mpg). To change gear, after stepping on the clutch, the gear lever situated on the right of the cockpit is moved lightly forward and backward. This technique is known as “sequential gearshift”. It enables particularly rapid gear change and underscores the dynamic character of the F 300 Life Jet.
The cockpit of the F 300 Life Jet is reminiscent of that of an aeroplane. The steering wheel, gauges, gear lever and seats have the feel of a jet plane and give the driver the impression that he has just taken a seat in an aeroplane cockpit. The segmented steering wheel is also an active element of the “control centre”. Buttons for operating the car radio and phone are integrated in the side sections of its impact surface, so that the driver does not have to take his hands off the steering wheel.
From the computer to the world of research
The F 300 Life Jet was the first research vehicle to be designed entirely on the computer and then brought to life. It thus served not only as a proving model for new vehicle equipment, but also to test a design tool called CASCaDE (Computer Aided Simulation of Car, Driver and Environment), developed by Daimler-Benz. From a very early stage, the computer was able to deliver data on the F 300 Life Jet’s handling by means of simulation.
The company consistently adopts an unconventional approach in the interests of developing both the automobile and mobility – as demonstrated by the F 300 Life Jet. The F 300 may be capable of establishing a new type of vehicle, combining everything required to fulfil the modern desire for perfect enjoyment on wheels: the fresh-air feel of a convertible, the individuality of a roadster, the performance of a sports car, the comfort of a compact car, and the safety of a Mercedes-Benz.
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