Mercedes-Benz F 300 Life-Jet: the three-wheeled driving machine
By Mike Hanlon
January 21, 2005
January 22, 2005 The Mercedes-Benz F 300 Life-Jet research project never saw the light of day as a showroom model, but it remains one of the most interesting and passion-invoking concepts ever displayed by the company (competing against a stellar cast). The three-wheeler research study, equipped with intelligent technology, blended the special thrill and cornering dynamics of a motor cycle with the safety and comfort of a saloon car - a combination for unrivalled driving enjoyment.
Originally shown back in 1997 at the 57th Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA), the Life-Jet had an active tilt control system - the front wheels and body of the two-seater lean into the bend when cornering. This meant the F 300 Life-Jet combined cornering speeds comparable with those of a motor cycle with maximum standards of active safety.
The tilt control also increased the ride comfort for the passengers, who did not need to brace themselves against centrifugal forces when cornering. When riding a motorcycle the cornering forces push the passenger (and rider) downwards through the central axis of the motorcycle. The Life-Jet offered a similar feel.
A sophisticated electronic system used the vehicle speed, acceleration, steering angle and yaw to calculate the exact angle of tilt required in any particular situation.
The electronic commands were passed on to a hydraulic cylinder on the front axle which, with reference to the steering angle, pushed one of the two spring struts outwards to produce the desired degree of lean. The maximum tilt angle was 30 degrees.
Engine and transmission taken from the A-class
The three-wheeler's engine and transmission were space-savingly accommodated between the interior compartment and the rear wheel. Daimler-Benz researchers decided to use the 1.6 litre 75 kW/102 hp engine from the then new Mercedes-Benz A-class.
The four-cylinder unit accelerated the F 300 Life-Jet from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.7 seconds. With a top speed of 211 km/h, the innovative three-wheeler boasted performance to better far more powerful sports cars or roadsters, at the same time as offering better-than-motorcycle fuel economy thanks to better streamlinging - just 5.3 litres of fuel per 100 km/h.
Aluminium chassis with removable roof sections
The two-seater research car had an aluminium chassis which weighed only 89 kilograms. Points of interest on the body included an upward-swivelling door for the driver, a rear-swivelling passenger's door and a hardtop of aluminium and transparent plastic, which made the F 300 Life-Jet an uncompromising all-weather, all-year-round contender.
The roof was split into two halves. To turn the three-wheeler into an open roadster, these could be quickly and easily removed and stowed away in a compartment over the rear wheel. Headlamp with automatic cornering control
A new-design front headlamp with three reflector zones and two bulbs offered maximum illumination when cornering. The headlamp was equipped with an electronic control system which was linked to the active tilt control. It adjusted the headlamp position in response to the tilting of the body and if necessary activateed an additional cornering light. This increaseed the width of the dipped beam by more than 80 per cent.
The direction indicators, brake lights and side marker lights of the research vehicle featured a space-saving neon lighting technology. The low beam was automatically switched on by a sensor at nightfall or when entering a tunnel.
Unforrtunately, the Life-Jet never came to be, though with global emphasis now switching firmly towards lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and with the company's expertise in hybrid and fuel-cell technologies, perhaps there's life in this concept yet. Let's hope so.