The Research Cars of Mercedes-Benz
Stuttgart
Oct 17, 2011
Technology pure – Mercedes-Benz F 100
Facts
  • Vehicle: Mercedes-Benz F 100
  • Introduced in: 1991
  • Where: North American International Auto Show, Detroit/USA
  • Goals: Novel seat and door concept, passive and active safety, ergonomics
  • Powertrain: Four-stroke spark-ignition engine, six cylinders, 2.6 litres displacement, 143 kW (194 hp), front-wheel drive, three-speed automatic transmission
Technical highlights
  • Central driver’s seat
  • High level of crash safety
  • Steering wheel with fixed impact absorber
  • Telephone operation by means of steering wheel buttons
    Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1998, W 220 series)
  • Novel door concept
  • Sophisticated ergonomics
  • Autonomous intelligent cruise control Production launch under the name DISTRONIC in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1998, W 220 series)
  • Radar system for monitoring following traffic
  • Solar cell roof Production launch with the panoramic roof of the Maybach 62 (2002)
  • Gas-discharge headlights
    Production launch under the name xenon headlights in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (1995, W 210 series)
  • Prismatic rod-type taillights
  • Linear windshield wipers
  • Office equipment (voice-controlled telephone, fax, pc)
    Production launch of voice recognition for the car phone under the name LINGUATRONIC in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1996, W 140 series)
  • CTS tires (Continental Tire System) with flat-running properties
  • Electronic tyre pressure monitoring Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz CL (1999, C 215 series)
  • Electric parking brake
  • Optical fibres for signal transmission
  • Rain sensor
    Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1995, W 140 series)
  • Chip card instead of car keys Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1999, W 220 series)
  • Automatic adjustment of seat and steering wheel
  • Sandwich floor
    Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (1997, W 168 series)
  • Reversing camera
North American International Auto Show in Detroit, 1991 – the first major trade show of the year. Daimler-Benz deliberately chose it as the forum to present a very special automobile: the Mercedes-Benz F 100, a research car in which the visions of the engineers and market strategists for the automobile of the future had taken on concrete form. Never before had so many ideas and innovative technologies been realised in a fully operational car.
Driver seated in the middle in the F 100
This car put the results of accident and social research resolutely into practice. Statistically, 1.2 to 1.7 persons occupy a car – driver included. So the latter deserves the safest place, which is the centre position with its large distances to body parts. Additionally, the driver can always get out of the car on the off-traffic side. But the passengers also benefit from the concept. The two people in the second row sit in staggered order behind the driver and thus at a large distance from the dashboard, which likewise improves safety. Two more passengers are seated towards the middle of the vehicle between the sturdy rear wheel houses.
The body of the F 100 with its steep rear end anticipates the customer demand of later years – more and more, estates and other vehicles affording more than ample space on four wheels are requested. A chip card instead of a key opens up the vehicle. It is inserted into a reading slot and ensures the proper adjustment of seat and steering wheel position, which is controlled by electric motors.
A new door concept facilitates getting into the F 100: the hinged and swiveling doors for the driver take away a bit of the vehicle floor and the roof when opened. When closed, the doors overlap at three points and fully compensate for the disadvantage of the slim-waisted floor. The rear-seat passengers get into the F 100 via space-saving swiveling and sliding doors; the B-pillar was dispensed with in favor of easy access without impairing crashworthiness. To close them, all doors can be left slightly ajar – servomotors then pull them into their locks.
Central screen and autonomous intelligent cruise control
The gauges are arranged around the driver. A central screen moves the crucial information into the centre of attention at all times. A distinction is made between three logical priorities – from speedometer to warnings – to ensure the safe continuation of travel. The F 100 still uses a conventional cathode ray tube for this purpose, which has long since been supplanted by silicon-based displays in present-day cars. Signal transmission is quite advanced, employing optical fibres instead of copper wires. The steering wheel features a fixed impact absorber and integral controls for activating car phone and voice control. Numerous electronic units assist the driver and enhance safety, among them distance warning radar. Another radar system monitors traffic behind the car and warns the driver if there is a vehicle in the blind spot in lanes changes. It is also used for automatic lane holding. When the driver puts the car into reverse, a camera is extended from the rear spoiler, and its images are displayed on the monitor.
The front headlights are very compact owing to the first-time use of gas discharge lamps, later known as xenon lamps and a common feature on cars. The taillights consist of transparent prismatic rods which serve as light-wave conductors and are energised from a central light source in the colour required for the immediate function. Together with the rear screen they are cleaned by a rear wiper discreetly concealed underneath the roof spoiler when not in use.
The windshield is cleaned by a linear wiper which is guided across the entire width of the windshield at top and bottom and thus sweeps almost the entire glazed area. A sensor in the windshield ensures that the wiper is automatically switched on when it rains.
Debut of the voice-controlled car phone
Solar cells are integrated in the roof to support the batteries. Almost two square metres in area, they generate an output of 100 watts, which, among other things, furnishes power for the ventilation when the car is stationary and thus keeps temperatures at a pleasant level. With a car phone including voice control, mobile fax and a personal computer, the F 100 anticipated the communication and work options of later production vehicles.
Different engine concepts were examined in the F 100, including a modified internal combustion engine operating on hydrogen. The vehicle has front-wheel drive – a novelty for a Mercedes-Benz at the time. It rolls on CTS (Continental Tire System) tyres with flat-running properties, and tyre pressure is electronically monitored. The suspension features hydropneumatic auxiliary spring elements, enhancing comfort and handling safety. In the F 100 the first sandwich floor was realised; this feature made it to large-scale production in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class at a later stage. In a crash, the engine – guided by the sloped firewall – slides downward underneath the passengers to protect them.
With all its qualities, the Mercedes-Benz F 100 was not simply a test mule for the engineers – it represented a new type of automobile. It anticipated the future of mobility, and since its introduction in 1991 many of the solutions tested in the research car have indeed become a reality. At the same time it emphasised the fact that the customer is the focus of technical progress when a research vehicle is designed.
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