Now Mercedes has prematurely announced the F800 Style concept, which seems to be a pretty faithful look at the upcoming 2011 CLS. If accurate, it looks like the next CLS will be as dramatic a departure from the old as the original was from the E-class on which it was based. That�s disappointing to us, as the current car is among the most beautiful cars on the road today, whereas this one�in pictures at least�seems to be based on Zoolander�s �Derelicte� line of nonsense spun as fashion. It looks like they borrowed ideas from a few carmakers and combined them into one, then slapped on an SLS grille and put a BMW 3-series front fascia on the rear. But we�ll reserve final judgment for when we see it in person.
Choose Your Own Alternative-Propulsion Adventure
On the mechanical side of the equation, Mercedes says the F800 could use either fuel-cell or a plug-in hybrid locomotion. Both options are �already close to the series production stage,� according to Prof. Herbert Kohler, �Head of E-Drive & Future Mobility and Chief Environmental Officer at Daimler� and the proud bearer of what is officially the longest title we�ve ever seen on anything. Ever.
The hybrid powertrain couples a direct-injection, 300-hp V-6 gas engine with a 109-hp electric motor that lives in the seven-speed transmission housing and draws its power from a 10-kWh lithium-ion battery stashed under the rear seat. Normally, simply adding the power figures of the internal-combustion engine and electric motor will not accurately produce a hybrid system�s actual power output. But in this case, Mercedes claims just that, stating the F800 has 409 combined horsepower.
The F800�s hybrid powertrain is largely based on that of the upcoming S500 hybrid, which is set to out-thrift its current S400 hybrid once the next-gen S-class arrives. Electric-only range is 18 miles, although speed along closer to the battery-operated limit of 75 mph�higher than what the S500 will allow�will no doubt shorten that leash. The vehicle�s nav system will use the map to show the radius of travel allowed on remaining battery power, although that functionality seems silly given that there�s an internal-combustion engine aboard to propel the car beyond those borders. Mercedes justifies the feature by saying, �should municipalities only permit purely electric automobile traffic in the future, the driver can determine whether the electric range of his or her vehicle is sufficient for the journey into and out of the urban area.� We think that, should municipalities only permit purely electric automobile traffic in the future, we�ll be finding a new municipality in which to reside.
Nevertheless, M-B claims 81 mpg on the Euro fuel-economy cycle. Despite such thrift, the F800 also is said to boast impressive performance. Zero to 60 mph is claimed at just 4.7 seconds, and top speed of course is restricted to the usual German limit of 155 mph.
For the fuel-cell version�we haven�t forgotten about it�the batteries beneath the F800�s rear seat would be displaced by two hydrogen tanks, and two additional tanks would be placed in the transmission tunnel. The motor would be the same one as is in the B-class F-cell, which is available now through a pilot program in California. An electric motor near the rear axle would develop 134 hp and torque in the neighborhood of 210 lb-ft. Not only is this powertrain already found in the F-cell, but Mercedes also has a fleet of city buses operating in Germany propelled by a double dose of this arrangement.
While both the hybrid and fuel-cell drivetrains are imminent, whether we�ll see the technology packed into the F800�s cabin soon is a toss-up. The familiar COMAND system gets a new interface that integrates a touchpad similar to that of the new Audi A8. With Mercedes� version, the driver uses a fingertip to draw on the touchpad and a camera captures its motion and overlays a ghostly image on the infotainment screen in the center stack. This way, the information display operates as a touch screen without demanding the driver lean forward and without the messy fingerprints. It also recognizes commands similar to those familiarized by the iPhone�tap, wipe, push, turn, and zoom. Additionally, the display in the instrument cluster uses a mirror to make information appear farther away, which will reduce fatigue as the eye switches from near to far focus less often.
Mercedes� existing safety tech sees an update with the F800, as well. Distronic Plus, the adaptive cruise control, gets Traffic Jam Assistant, which will not only maintain following distance down to and up from a stop, but will now track the vehicle ahead and control steering inputs up to 25 mph.
Pre-Safe, too, gets updated, being promoted to Pre-Safe 360. It will now monitor the area behind the car when stationary in traffic and engage the brakes just before anticipated rear-end collisions, the better to prevent the Mercedes from being pushed into the vehicle ahead. But if the driver sees a window for escape and jumps on the gas, the car will immediately release the brakes.
While we aren�t so excited about the shape of the F800 and hope the expected resultant CLS doesn�t look so much like what you see here, we look forward to seeing the technology featured in the F800 in future Mercedes vehicles.
(BY JARED GALL, PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICK M. HOEY AND THE MANUFACTURER)