The fourteenth research vehicle introduced by Mercedes-Benz since 1980s, and the second in two years following last year’s ESF 2009, has debuted in Geneva at the 2010 Motor Show. Historically used to demonstrate the potential of specific vehicle technologies, many of the innovations shown make it to production. With the latest experimental model, the F 800 Style, the emphasis is clearly with powertrain development in mind.
Mercedes-Benz is touting the F 800 as the future of executive sedans, encompassed in a compact, 4.75 m (15.6 ft) long body. Underneath that body is a platform with the ability to integrate multiple drives such as electric and plug-in hybrid types.
The plug-in hybrid features Mercedes-Benz’ tried and tested 3.5-L V6 petrol unit, which develops 272 bhp (203 kW), and is coupled to a 81-kW hybrid module. The third power source is the lithium-ion battery pack, charged either at charging stations or via a household power socket. With plug-in hybird technology onboard, the F 800 can run on electric power only for up to 30 km (19 mi).
Mercedes says the ability to perform better electrically than any of its previous research vehicles, in an urban environment, was a vital part of the program. As a result, Mercedes engineers have achieved higher power reserves in electric mode than the company’s Vision S 500 Plug-in hybrid. Performance over that specific version is improved, the F 800 managing a top speed (in electric mode) of 120 km/h (75 mph) compared with 75 km/h (47 mph).
According to Professor Herbert Kohler, head of E-Driver and future mobility and Chief Environmental Officer at Daimler, the plug-in platform allows expansion of the hybrid system, depending on the performance needed by the driver. “In this car, it is possible to combine different batteries and hybrid modules of different performance ratings, with both gasoline and diesel engines that have high levels of torque.”
The car achieves a CO2 figure of 68 g/km, but can still offers 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) performance in under in 4.8 s and a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph).
Taking inspiration and technology from the B-Class F-Cell vehicle, the fuel-cell-based F 800 Style combines a 101 kW, 290 N·m (214 lb·ft) electric motor with a lithium-ion battery pack to power the car. With one eye on occupant protection, the battery pack has been installed behind the rear seats, while two of the four hydrogen tanks are located in the transmission tunnel, the remaining couple situated underneath the car’s rear seat.
Beyond the powertrain, F 800 debuts next-generation touchscreen technology for Mercedes. An expansion of the company’s Command system, this human-machine interface (HMI) consists of a touchpad on the center console and a camera that records images of the user’s hand as it moves across the pad. The images are displayed on the center display to identify which menu or submenu has been selected. Similar to a laptop’s track pad, the camera HMI unit can recognize certain movements, such as wiping, pushing, turning, and zooming. As a result, telephone, internet access, and audio and navigation systems can all be controlled easily.
On the exterior, the F 800 has integrated rear pivot-and-slide doors, developed partly in response to customer feedback. With no B-pillars, the car allows a large area between the A- and C-pillars for embarking and disembarking.