The Mercedes-Benz F100 was revealed at the 1991 Detroit motor show, looking almost production ready. However, it was, in fact, a technologically advanced concept packed with remarkably prescient ideas, including some that wouldn’t appear in Mercedes-Benz production cars for another 20 years.
The F100 was in many ways the ancestor of today's Mercedes executive models. Features such as cruise control, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, voice recognition and a collision avoidance system all featured on the concept.
After scrutinising the car in Detroit, Autocar’s Peter Robinson described it as “a mobile test bed for impending technologies and, not least, an effective generator of publicity”, as well as “a complex and complicated camouflage, interesting in its own right for its problem-solving potential”.
At the time, the US was Mercedes’ largest export market, absorbing 78,000 cars a year – 13% of annual production. Hence the Detroit debut for the F100, which was “plucked from the depths of the advanced research department to act as a focal point for Mercedes’ stand”.
Somewhat against the grain for 1991, the F100 was a “rakish MPV”, and it impressed Robinson. Styling, he mused, was “superbly finished, tall but sleek, and original”, while the interior, accessed by “open to the touch, electrically powered doors”, revealed “bucket seats for only five occupants, despite an overall length of 4869mm”.
The front three seats were positioned in a layout similar to that which appeared a year later in the McLaren F1, with the driver in the centre. “Crash test research proves the centre of the car is the safest position,” explained Robinson. “Since Mercedes’ statistics show that, on average, cars carry only 1.3 passengers in commuting driving, priority was given to driver protection in frontal offset crashes and side impacts.”