Today, in the age of the internet of things and self-driving cars, calling by pressing a button on the steering wheel seems almost a matter of course. In the early 1990s, when ABS and satellite navigation were the exclusive preserve of the most expensive and luxurious models, it was little more than a utopia. Exactly as know the tire pressure by reading a display behind the wheel or stay on track thanks to an automatic lane keeping device.
Yet these and many other innovations, now widespread also on city cars, already existed thirty years ago. We must take a step back to Detroit motor show of 1991 and stop at the Mercedes-Benz stand to discover them, one after the other. The prototipo F 100 it appeared to land in Michigan from another planet. That research vehicle, more like a spaceship than a car, showed the public with a large turn in advance many numerous technologies that would forever change the way people understand and use a car.
The Mercedes F 100 was anything but a pursuit of style for its own sake. With its huge glass surfaces, the revolving and tilting doors and the central driving position, the design offered ideas of great originality. Yet most of the innovative figure of that strange car, which today we would struggle to place in a segment, was elsewhere. Under the skin, the efforts and insights of years and years of research were concentrated. The goal was to achieve a safer, more versatile and smarter car. But above all, a car that was able to transfer its enormous technological potential to mass production in a short time. And in a few years, in fact, Mercedes models began to benefit from innovations that would make them a benchmark and a source of inspiration.
Mercedes AAVision, the prototype of the M-Class makes 25 years
The steering wheel phone controls came on Class S in 1998. Three years earlier, on the Class E, it was the turn of the gas-discharge xenon headlights. In 1999 the CL Coupe it was equipped with an electronic system that monitored tire pressure. But there is more. Today getting on board and starting a car without using the key is certainly not something from another world, but at the gates of 2000 to use a cip card to get on board, even in the case of a highly prestigious model like the Class Yes, it didn’t exactly happen every day. The same applies to the rain sensor, standard on the CL Coupé from 1996, and to the “sandwich” floor of the Class A.
Mercedes 190E Compact, half regret
Just like the F 100 prototype, that slightly bizarre car that nurtured the ambition of becoming the first true luxury subcompact in history was designed with a gap between the engine and the passenger compartment. In the event of a frontal impact, the engine ran into it, avoiding the risk of invading the passenger compartment and causing serious damage to people on board. This, and much more, was the F 100. A car that, after thirty years, retains its ability to imagine the future intact. And to amaze.