The second vehicle in the F series was the 1996 F 200 Imagination, an avantgarde coupe with a passenger compartment covered by a glass dome but most important, a car that was controlled only by joysticks.
As its name suggests, Mercedes F200 Imagination was not only a visionary and innovative proposal from Mercedes-Benz but also an extremely ambitious project.
Its most important feature is the future-oriented “drive-by-wire” dynamic handling system which allowed the driver to control all vehicle movement by means of one of the joysticks fitted on the centre console and in the door trim panel.
Steering was performed by moving the joystick in the desired direction; pulling forward on the stick accelerated the vehicle and pulling back applied the brakes. The steering wheel and pedals are in this way removed, meaning that passengers have more space and thus more comfort.
Moreover, the electronics recognise the driver’s commands as requests for a certain driving mode – accelerate, brake, steer, reverse – and decide in a flash how to comply with the commands in the best and safest manner.
Based on the data, the computer decides, for example, how sharply the wheels should be turned when cornering, or what engine speed is appropriate for driving on a wet road.
The system is interlinked with the active suspension Active Body Control, but the list of innovations goes on even further. Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination introduced the window airbag which inflates across the side walls and considerably reduces the risk of head injuries in side crashes and rollovers.
The rear-view mirrors have been replaced by a video system with five permanent mini-cameras while in terms of powertrain, the F200 Imagination concept used a four-stroke spark-ignition 12 cylinders engine delivering a total of 394 hp to the rear axle via a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.