The F 100, unveiled at the 1991 NAIAS, had some of the tech we probably thought it wasn’t possible 25 years ago: voice-controlled telephone, autonomous intelligent cruise control, xenon headlights and a chip key card. This was due to its innovations in the key areas of passive and active safety, ergonomics and its concept of space. In its subsequent standard-production cars, the Stuttgart-based brand followed up on this promise with some pioneering systems.
Following the footsteps of the F 100, Mercedes-Benz brought forth the F 200 Imagination (1996), F 300 Life Jet (1997), F 400 Carving (2002), F 500 Mind (2003), F 600 Hygenius (2005), F 700 (2007), F 800 Style (2010), F 125! (2011) and F 015 Luxury in Motion (2015). The research vehicles include many other vehicles that were built in the brand’s 130-year history.
In addition to its research vehicles, Mercedes-Benz also develops technology vehicles, test vehicles, concept vehicles and one-off vehicles in advance of new standard-production models. Technology vehicles are standard-production vehicles that are equipped with new technology, such as alternative drives, in order to test that technology under everyday conditions.
Related to research vehicles, so-called test vehicles are used to take new technologies out of the research lab and onto the test track. Concept vehicles are near-production, ready-to-drive vehicles that position a future vehicle variant on the market. They are usually equipped with novel technology just short of readiness for use in series production. Finally, one-off vehicles are feasibility studies that show new ideas in the form of complete automobiles.
In 1991, the F 100 was clearly a member of the group of visionary research vehicles. It was employed by the engineers and designers to implement key findings in relation to future demands on vehicle technology. Among other things, the research vehicle incorporated findings from accident/social research: as a typical passenger car carries an average of between 1.2 and 1.7 people in everyday use, the developers positioned the driver in the center of the passenger cell.
This made the innovations in terms of crash safety for the driver even more effective. The occupants in the second row were seated to the left and right behind the driver. Two further passengers were given seats towards the center between the sturdy rear wheelhouses. The body of the F 100 with its steeply raked rear end anticipated the trend of future years, in which there was an increasing demand for spacious estate cars and other vehicles.
The innovative spatial concept of the interior was matched by new-type doors: access to the driver’s seat was by means of rotating-swivelling doors, which took parts of the vehicle floor and roof with them when opened. When they were closed, mechanical locking mechanisms in three places ensured firm, reliable closing. In this way, the F 100 made up for the slender waistline in the vehicle floor and the design with no B-pillar between the front doors and the space-saving, rear pivot-and-slide doors.
With many of its systems, the F 100 anticipated solutions that were in future years to give rise to the connected car. These included the voice-controlled telephone system and the central display, on which the vehicle system automatically showed the key information in every situation such as, the current speed or warnings about traffic in the area around the vehicle. The info was relayed for example, by a reversing camera, a distance-warning radar and other radar systems that did traffic monitoring at the rear and gave a warning during lane change, as well as auto. lane keeping and chip key card. The F 100 even had electric motors to control the seats and steering, mobile fax and a permanently-installed personal computer.
Related fascinating tech available on the Mercedes F 100 were the gas-discharge front lights and rear lights with transparent prism rods. Other first inputs for the F 100 comprised of the front-wheel drive, a sandwich floor, electronic tyre pressure monitoring and a modified internal combustion engine that ran on hydrogen.