Concept coupe-sedan pushes design and technology envelopes
By Marc Lachapelle
The superb F 800 Style concept could prefigure the next CLS or C-Class sedan but Mercedes has simply revealed it as a ‘research vehicle’ in Geneva. The F 800 follows the twelve such ‘studies’ shown by the dean of automakers in the past two decades, starting with the Auto 2000 in 1981. The most recent was the long and sleek F 700 luxury sedan unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show and powered by the ground-breaking DiesOtto engine.
This time, the Mercedes-Benz advanced engineering group and design studios teamed up to create a slimmer and more compact sedan 4.75 metres in length. It’s just a touch shorter than the current 4.91-metre CLS which created the new ‘coupe-sedan’ styling trend after its launch in 2006.
The F 800 Style looks stunning, with short overhangs and sculpted flanks that are strangely remindful of the infamous and controversial ‘flame-surfacing’ treatment championed by a Bavarian arch-rival. It is unique for its rear doors that slide open rearwards, in parallel with the body, making access easier for passengers in tight parking spots.
Inside, the new ‘Cam Touchpad HMI’ (for human machine interface) control system uses a camera and a touchpad on the centre console to generate a transparent image of the driver’s hand on the main display, leaving all commands and menus fully visible. The HMI unit recognizes finger movements like an iPhone and is said to provide highly-intuitive control of various systems.
The F 800 Style also features Distronic Plus Traffic Jam Assist, an evolution of the current automatic cruise control that lets the F 800 follow the vehicle ahead without any steering input from the driver, unless it changes lanes or takes an exit. The Pre-Safe 360° system, on the other hand, will apply the brakes 600 milliseconds before an imminent rear-end collision to minimize the risk of a secondary crash into other vehicles.
Also new is the Range on Map function that shows your total possible driving range in electric mode as a full circle around the car on a map. This could come in quite handy in the F 800 since it can be equipped with either a hydrogen-fed fuel-cell electric or a plug-in, gas-electric hybrid powertrain. The former is the latest iteration of the E-Drive modular system used in the limited-production B-Class F-Cell model and has a range of almost 600 kilometres.
The plug-in hybrid version of the F 800 Style could cover up to 30 kilometres on electric power alone at up to 120 km/h. Its 109-hp electric motor, nestled inside the 7-speed automatic gearbox, is fed electrons by a lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged from a regular wall socket. The thermal engine is a 272-horsepower V6 with next-generation direct injection. Their combined thrust can produce 0-100 km/h sprints in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h.
Yet, the plug-in F 800 can sip as little as 2.9 litres of gasoline per 100 kilometres while generating a paltry 68 grams per kilometre of carbon-dioxyde (CO2). Much less than today’s typical subcompact, in both cases. This plug-in system is scheduled to appear in the next generation of the stately S-Class sedan.
If concept cars and ‘research vehicle’ are anything like crystal balls, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too one day. And do it in great comfort, safety and style.