Skip advert
Advertisement
Features

Concept cars – the Mercedes-Benz F300 Life Jet

One of the industry's many tilting car concepts, but one whose technology lives in spirit today

1997 was not a vintage year for Mercedes-Benz, being the year the first-generation A-class hit the road. And then floated above the road, and then hit the road again as a pair of journalists from Swedish car magazine Teknikens Värld turned the car onto its roof during their standard accident avoidance manoeuvre, dubbed the ‘elk test’.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The A-class was actually a jolly clever car, with a sandwich floor down which the engine would be pushed in an accident, and packing E-class interior space into a footprint shorter than a Fiesta.

But der Elch Vorfall gave Merc’s reputation a kicking (at a time when quality was already slipping) and required significant extra investment to make the supermini a little more stable.

Ironically, 1997 was also the year Mercedes unveiled a concept that wouldn’t fall over even if you tried. Or at least, fall over in the direction you expected. It even featured an A-class engine.

The F300 Life Jet was one of the automotive industry’s occasional forays into leaning cars and featured the same marketing spiel: a car with the driving experience of a motorcycle, they said.

Quite a hefty motorcycle, given the Life Jet weighed around 800kg, and one that broadly look up the same road space as a regular car. More than a standard A-class, in fact.

Look at the F300 in isolated pictures and you expect some sort of Twizy-sized three-wheeled pod, but those five-spoke alloys are each 16 inches in diameter at the front rather than the diddy 13-inchers you expect, and the tandem passengers sit high in the chassis. A compact, Carver One-style sportster the F300 was not.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

A system called Active Tilt Control could tip the F300 up to 30 degrees in the direction of a given corner (preferable to the 180 degrees or so a pre-ESP A-class could achieve in extremis), detecting steering angle input - the Life Jet had conventional, car-like controls - and activating hydraulics to roll the body into the corner.

It could apparently achieve 0.9g of cornering force, and due to the tilting body this force would be exerted more comfortably on the occupants, pressing them into the seats rather than trying to slide them out.

The 1.6-litre, 101bhp four-cylinder A-class engine failed to turn the hatchback into a hotter one, but in the lighter, more aerodynamic F300 it was apparently good for a 7.7-second 0-62mph time and 131mph. Its 53mpg economy seems less impressive today, but in 1997 that was a significant improvement on the A160’s 36mpg average.

Unsurprisingly, the F300 remained a concept, and all Mercedes today include at least four wheels under their chassis (some offer a couple more).

The concept of the leaning car though is alive and well, as part of the firm’s Active Body Control system and its ‘curve tilting’ function. By dropping the inside suspension slightly in corners the body remains flat and the passengers remain unruffled. Good for cornering, good for comfort, and one imagines, good for avoiding roaming ruminants.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

The Mercedes 190E Evo II is reborn as a £730k restomod built by HWA
HWA EVO
News

The Mercedes 190E Evo II is reborn as a £730k restomod built by HWA

The engineering firm behind a number of iconic AMG race cars is building a run of 100 Evo II restomods, priced from £730k apiece
4 Jun 2024
Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupé (2014-2021): a lavish grand tourer for as little as £35,000
Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupé - front
Reviews

Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupé (2014-2021): a lavish grand tourer for as little as £35,000

Discreet and underrated, but brilliantly fit for purpose – the S63 Coupé is a remarkable GT car for Golf GTI money
2 Apr 2024
New Mercedes-AMG CLE53 – two more cylinders for £25,000 less than a C63
Mercedes-AMG CLE 53
News

New Mercedes-AMG CLE53 – two more cylinders for £25,000 less than a C63

The new CLE coupe has gained a straight-six engined AMG version, with prices starting from £72,990
24 Jan 2024
2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE63 S E Performance spied – 671bhp hybrid spotted in drop-top form
Mercedes-AMG CLE63 cabriolet
Spy shots

2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE63 S E Performance spied – 671bhp hybrid spotted in drop-top form

AMG's new four-seat coupe and cabriolet ranges will be topped by a 671bhp AMG flagship, spied testing in Germany
9 Nov 2023
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars
Used mid-engined bargains
Group tests

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars

Everyone should own a mid-engined car at least once in their life, and the S2 Elise, Mk3 MR2 and 987 Boxster S are brilliant places to start
15 Jun 2024
McLaren Artura Spider 2024 review – Ferrari 296 rival just got a whole lot better
McLaren Artura Spider
Reviews

McLaren Artura Spider 2024 review – Ferrari 296 rival just got a whole lot better

More power, comprehensive chassis updates and a new Spider model has resulted in McLaren’s Artura being impossible to ignore for those in the junior s…
16 Jun 2024
Ferrari F430 v Lamborghini Gallardo v McLaren 650S v Audi R8: The best used mid-engined supercars
Affordable mid engined exotics
Group tests

Ferrari F430 v Lamborghini Gallardo v McLaren 650S v Audi R8: The best used mid-engined supercars

For most of us, owning a mid-engined supercar is the ultimate. And because of the numbers built in the last 20 years, the dream is more attainable tha…
16 Jun 2024