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Geneva show: Benz crystal balls with F800

Future focus: The Mercedes-Benz F800 shows what's around the corner for the German manufacturer.

Mercedes lays its styling, tech and new entry-level model family cards on the table

23 Feb 2010

MERCEDES-BENZ has lifted the lid on a radical concept car that previews an imminent new entry-level model family, an edgy new design direction for all models and cutting-edge technologies destined for most of its cars within five years.

Apart from previewing the styling of the striking new replacement for the CLS due to emerge at this September’s Paris motor show, the F800 Style heralds an all-new smaller four-door ‘coupe’ stablemate and a new “multi-drive” platform that can accommodate both plug-in hybrid and even fuel cell drivetrains.

Revealed a week ahead of its global debut at the Geneva motor show on March 2, the F800 reveals the design, dimensions and packaging of a direct – albeit four-door – replacement for the three-door CLC ‘coupe’ not due to reach production until 2012.

In a complex arrangement, while the front-wheel-drive successor for the CLC, which borrows its styling from the current W204-series C-class but is based on the decade-old 203-series C-class, will be part of the front-wheel drive A and B-class model family, the F800 also previews a new modular rear-drive platform that will first spawn the next-generation C-class around 2015.

4 center imageBefore then, Mercedes-Benz will produce a direct rival for BMW’s all-conquering 3 Series Coupe in a two-door version of the latest C-class sedan, which will emerge globally next year.

A subsequent convertible version of the C-class coupe, which could also revive the CLK nameplate, should form a new entry-level model family from Mercedes, positioned below the new E-class sedan, coupe and cabriolet (the latter will complete the new E-class range here in April).

The latest in a series of ‘research’ vehicles from Mercedes, the F800 follows the F700 concept from the 2007 Frankfurt show and the 2008 Paris show’s Concept Fascination – the first vehicle to show a new design direction under recently appointed design chief Gorden Wagener.

According to Autocar, the production version of the ‘baby CLS’, which also continues styling themes introduced by the Mercedes-Benz Bionic and Blue-Zero concept car lines, will closely resemble the F800, which measures 4738mm long, 1938mm wide and 1445mm high.

That makes the futuristic F800, which also heralds the overall dimensions of the 2011 C-class coupe, just 12mm longer than the C-class sedan overall, but 130mm shorter than the E-class sedan and a full 175mm shorter than the current CLS – although its 2924mm wheelbase is 70mm longer than the CLS’s.

Of course, the production version of the baby CLS, which Autocar says will be topped by a 225kW turbocharged all-wheel-drive flagship, will not come with the concept’s huge 20-inch wheels with skinny 215/45-profile low rolling resistance tyres and complicated minivan-style sliding rear doors.

It will, however, be underpinned by Mercedes’ new MFA platform, which was developed to replace the German car-maker’s revolutionary but expensive sandwich-floor architecture. Autocar says the flexible new platform can be produced with various wheelbases and track widths, and will underpin next-generation versions of the entry-level A and B-class hatchbacks, plus an all-new mini-SUV.

The F800 also heralds future powertrain options to come from Mercedes, led by the concept’s new 220kW turbocharged 3.5-litre direct-injection petrol V6 mated, as in the S400 Hybrid, to an 80kW electric motor incorporated within its seven-speed automatic transmission and powered by a lithium-ion battery pack under the rear seats.

Claimed performance figures for the F800 hybrid, which delivers a total output of 300kW, include 0-100km/h acceleration in just 4.8 seconds, a top speed of 150km/h and the ability to drive on electric power alone (at speeds of up to 120km/h) for up to 30km.

Aided by an automatic clutch decoupling system similar to that in the new Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, the F800 hybrid is said to return average fuel consumption of just 2.9L/100km and CO2 emissions of 68g/km.

Mercedes says the F800 is also designed to accept fuel cell technology, which the company introduced recently with the B-class Fuel Cell vehicle that will soon be available to selected European lease customers.

Signalling the second phase of Mercedes’ fuel cell development program, the F800 can house a fuel cell within its front-end to power a more powerful (100kW) electric motor that delivers 0-100km/h acceleration in a claimed 11 seconds, a top speed of 180km/h and a driving range of almost 600km.

Two F800 features that are likely to reach production sooner rather than later are the Distronic Plus Traffic Jam Assistant and Pre-Safe 360-degree systems, representing next-generation versions of Mercedes’ radar cruise control and collision preparation systems.

“For many decades now, our research vehicles have been turning pioneering concepts into reality and thereby setting future trends. We set a course on the large touring sedan segment in 2007, when we presented the F700,” said professor Herbert Kohler, head of E-Drive & Future Mobility and chief environmental officer at Daimler.

“Characteristic features of the F800 Style are its innovations, whose development is already close to the series production stage. This is true not only of the electric drive with fuel cells but also of the plug-in hybrid, whose components were taken from our modular system for electric and hybrid vehicles.”

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