Despite its name, the most intriguing part of the Mercedes-Benz F800 Style concept isn't its style at all: the Geneva motor show concept is also an amazing rolling showcase of the German automaker's future alternative powertrain and convenience technologies. With the possible exception of its sliding rear doors, expect to see many of the gee-whiz gadgets on the F800 on an E- or S-Class sedan in the coming years.
But while most of the future tech will wow you, we think Mercedes has taken some of it a bit too far. Case in point: Traffic Jam Assist. The technology builds on Mercedes' existing Distronic cruise control system that accelerates and decelerates by itself down to a stop. Traffic Jam Assist can follow vehicles ahead of it even into curves up to 25 mph. Mercedes assures us that the car won't try to follow other commuters who suddenly make turns off the highway, but we're still not keen on a system that essentially relieves its driver of the effort required to repeatedly turn a steering wheel. If you don't have the energy to turn a wheel in stop-and-go traffic and want a Mercedes-Benz, you'd probably be better off hiring a chauffeur.
When you eventually reach your destination, if you're a rear-seat passenger, you'll exit through one of the F800's best ideas: rear pivot-and-slide doors. Entry-and-exit through small rear doors on a car with an aggressively sloped roofline can be difficult, but with no B-pillar and these van-style doors, slipping out of the car appears to be much easier. And since the rear sliding doors are suspended from an interior swivel arm, there are no unsightly track marks.
Mercedes says the F800 has a multi-drive platform, which means it can be fitted with either a hydrogen fuel cell or plug-in hybrid system. The fuel cell application, which is essentially the same setup employed on the B-Class F-CELL, produces 136 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque in the F800, according to the automaker. In years past, it sometimes helped to fit the fuel cell system to SUVs like a Toyota Highlander or Chevrolet Equinox in order to more easily to store the hydrogen tanks. In the F800, however, all alternative drive system components are hidden in the engine compartment and in gaps within the chassis. In the F800 fuel cell, two of the hydrogen tanks are beneath the rear seats while the other two are in the transmission tunnel between the front and rear passengers. The F800's lithium-ion battery pack sits beneath the rear seats, though it's unclear whether that has any effect on trunk capacity.
If more power is what you're looking for, stomp on the F800 plug-in hybrid's accelerator pedal and cargo capacity for the five-seater won't seem important. Before the car reaches a claimed top speed of 155 mph, 0-60 mph comes and goes in just 4.7 seconds. Driven more gingerly, fuel economy is about 80 mpg and you can reach 75 mph in electric mode or go 18 miles without using the V-6 at all. Of course, you can recharge the lithium-ion battery in your house's power socket or at a charging station.
Making these stats possible is a direct-injection V-6 engine of unspecified output paired to a hybrid module for a combined total of about 400 horsepower, Benz says. For comparison, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid makes a combined 295 horsepower from a 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor.
In either F800, a "Range on Map" function could prove especially helpful for automakers developing range-limited vehicles. Range on Map shows about how far the car can travel as a 360-degree graphic. To access the Range on Map, you might have to use Mercedes-Benz's new touchpad HMI control system. The technology records video of the driver using the touchpad on the center console. On the main display screen, driver and passenger will see the contours of the user's hand gliding across the image. We're told the system understands when the user is wiping, pushing, turning or zooming. Needless to say, this is a system that will likely come into focus when we have a chance to see it in action.
When we do see the F800 in-person, we'll see that the concept is about 20 inches shorter than the S-Class and even about half a foot shorter than the CLS. Take another look at our recent spyshots of the next-generation CLS and you can already see the influence of the F800. In both cars, a more prominent grille is framed by a wider grille on the bottom. A similar technique is used on the Honda CR-V, though on the F800 the result is especially effective when complemented by the slim headlights. Those headlights feature LED daytime running lights that are much better integrated into the car's design than the awkwardly placed LEDs on the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The F800's aggressive styling might catch your attention, but it's really the technology beneath the surface that foreshadows what can be expected on future Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Except for the Traffic Jam Assist, we look forward to seeing how any of these features will make it to the automaker's lineup 5-10 years from now.