Mercedes-Benz F-300 (Life Jet) (1997)
F 300 Life-Jet – Dynamic driving pleasure on three wheels.
Cornering dynamics of a motorcycle.
Safety of a passenger car.
Body and front wheels tilt when negotiating bends.
Three wheels, two seats and a jet-design body – these are the visual characteristics of a research vehicle with which DaimlerChrysler surprised the public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in autumn 1997. The F 300 Life-Jet is aimed at a market segment which does not even exist yet, namely the niche between passenger cars and motorcycles. A new species of vehicle could establish itself here which combines everything the modern motorist requires for the perfect driving experience: the fresh-air fun of a convertible, the individuality of a roadster, the performance of a sports car, the comfort of a compact car and – not least – the safety of a Mercedes-Benz.
The F 300 Life-Jet offers all these attributes, and combines them with a further special feature which car drivers have previously lacked: the driving experience and cornering dynamics of a motorcycle. Accordingly this research vehicle reconciles seemingly contradictory characteristics: it is as safe and comfortable as a four-wheeled vehicle but as dynamic as a two-wheeler.
Active Tilt Control (ATC) lies at the heart of the F 300 technology. This system is based on the lightning-fast interaction between electronics, hydraulics and mechanics: sensors register the current driving situation and continuously feed the onboard computer with data indicating the yawing and linear speed of the vehicle, the acceleration, the current steering angle and the position of the hydraulic cylinder which steers the front axle. On the basis of this information the computer calculates the necessary angle of body tilt and sends the relevant control signals to the hydraulic system. As a result, the F 300 Life-Jet adopts a precisely calculated angle of tilt when negotiating bends, which reflects the current driving situation and therefore offers the best possible resistance to overturning. At maximum speed, for example, the ATC computer allows only a very small amount of body roll and provides additional stability, but quickly allows the active control system to select a maximum angle of tilt of 30 degrees at non-motorway road speeds.