Mercedes-Benz is in a process of reinventing its design language, going from the sharp edged and relatively boxy designs at present to a much more fluid form for its next-generation of cars. Last month Mercedes-Benz design chief Gordon Wagener revealed that the automaker was keen to raise the design credentials of its cars and to emphasize the point a "pure design concept” was unveiled in Detroit to preview the new look.
Now, just weeks out from the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz has gone a step further and unveiled a brand new concept car called the F800 Style. Showcasing the automaker’s future design and technology, the five-seat, four-door coupe combines efficient drive technologies with high levels of safety and comfort.
The F800 Style has a spacious interior full of intelligent seating, operating, and display concepts. Two different versions have been developed, highlighting a new multi-drive platform that accommodates electric drives with fuel cells (enabling ranges of almost 375 miles) as well as the use of a plug-in hybrid system that can drive for up to 18 miles solely on electricity.
The plug-in hybrid drive versions consists of a 300 horsepower gasoline V-6 mated to a 109 horsepower electric motor running on lithium-ion batteries that can be charged by a household power socket. According to Mercedes-Benz, the F800 plug-in hybrid will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 155 mph--all while returning a fuel economy of 81 mpg. When in electric only mode, the vehicle has a top speed of 75 mph. A production version of this powertrain will appear in the next-generation S-Class.
The fuel cell version packs a 136 horsepower electric motor and a hydrogen fuel cell similar to the one in the upcoming B-Class F-Cell, but in a rear-wheel drive configuration.
At just 15.5 feet in length, there are many people behind-the-scenes calling this the “baby CLS” Mercedes-Benz is rumored to be working on for its next-generation small car family. The automaker admits that the concept previews its new design idiom, which is marked by a long wheelbase, short overhangs, and a flowing roof line.
One aspect we’re unlikely to see make it to production any time soon is the rear pivoting and sliding doors. Whereas the front doors are attached to the A-pillar in a conventional manner, the rear doors slide backward when opened, as they are suspended from an interior swivel arm. The F800 Style also has no B-pillar, making the entire space between the A- and C-pillars completely accessible when the doors are opened.
In terms of technological innovations, the F800 Style sports a new multi-function display concept and a human-machine interface (HMI) with a camera-assisted touchpad. The new HMI is an expansion of the Mercedes-Benz COMAND system and consists of a touchpad on the center console and a camera that records video images of the user’s hand as it works the pad. The live image of the hand is presented in transparent form in the central display above the console and allows the user to see the contours of his or her fingers glide across the image without covering anything. Pressing the display with one’s fingers generates a feeling similar to that of touching laptop keys so that users know when they are carrying out specific actions.
Other new features include the DISTRONIC PLUS traffic jam assistant, which makes the F800 Style fully capable of following another vehicle along a curved road automatically while stuck in traffic (at speeds of up to 25 mph), as well as the PRE-SAFE 360, which constantly monitors movements in the front and rear and can prime the brakes if it detects a crash is imminent.
The F800 Style previews important drive, comfort, and safety technologies, as well as a new design language, all of which--according to Mercedes-Benz--point the way forward for future production models. It will make its world debut on March 2 in Geneva.