The 2001 Mercedes-Benz F 400 Carving Explored the Limits—of Weirdness
This research concept utilized active camber control and was definitely strange.
The DaimlerChrysler conglomeration spawned all sorts of weird science experiments, and whatever you think of them, many were at least memorable. Remember the Dodge Tomahawk V-10 motorcycle concept? That was arguably one of the most iconic concept vehicles of the early 2000s, and it took bedroom walls by storm in poster form. Or how about the Chrysler Crossfire, an eccentric mashup of Mercedes-Benz SLK and quasi-retro cues (and a lot of hood strakes)? That one was less of a hit. And you definitely are forgiven if you forgot about the truly bizarre Mercedes-Benz F 400 Carving concept.
Part of a line of research vehicles (concept cars that explored some useful feature or gimmick), the F 400's mission was to explore variable camber. The system could alter the camber of the outer wheels in a turn up to 20 degrees, utilizing specially-developed tires to increase lateral grip significantly. Anyone who's set up a car for track duty will understand the benefit of negative camber, but with traditional suspension setups increasing negative camber is a compromise that can improve handling but can increase tire wear.
Not so with the F 400, which enjoyed the benefits of extreme negative camber without suffering the ill effects. DaimlerChrysler claimed the F 400 could pull more than 1.28 g, an impressive number.
The tires featured a unique design, too, wherein the inner part of the tread was rounded off slightly, as it was not in contact with the road during normal driving. In a corner, however, the active camber system would increase the negative camber, allowing the grippier part of the asymmetric tire tread to make contact with the tarmac below. The camber system was also used to enhance the stability control and emergency stopping power of the F 400.
While the car's cornering hardware remains a trick feature to this day, it's styling looks less fresh. A less charitable observer at the office said the F 400 looked like a blobfish. At least it's not boring, though.
Unfortunately, the F 400's active camber system didn't pan out, but the company hasn't stopped innovating with interesting handling systems. Active Body Control has been around for years. And more recently, the company's Active Curve Tilting system helps its cars lean into a corner a bit (like a motorcycle), providing plus or minus three degrees of tilt to improve handling while limiting the perceived lateral g-forces.