The Mercedes-Benz F100 was the MPV you always wanted

90s cars General Bunk Mercedes-Benz
The Mercedes-Benz F100 was unveiled at the 1991 Detroit Motor Show. It featured many technical innovations and a central driving position.

The Mercedes-Benz F100 was unveiled 30 years ago this month at the Detroit Motor Show. It should have been called the ‘Kristallkugel’, because it truly was a vision of the future.

It's also a bit of a fraud, because the Mercedes-Benz F100 previewed an MPV future that was never realised. The first-generation Vito was cool, but it wasn't F100 cool, and the less said about the R-Class the better. Few people dream of owning an MPV, but they would if people carriers looked like the Mercedes-Benz F100.

From traditional angles, the F100 looked rakish, sleek and slippery. From above, with the doors open, the F100 displayed animal-like qualities, with the rear doors sliding back to give the MPV concept a pair of haunches. To suggest that the F100 could have appeared on the dystopian streets of the Amiga game Syndicate might be a stretch, but your inner cyborg might get this reference.

Murray, mint

Mercedes-Benz F100 doors open

The fancy doors were more than just tools to wow the crowds in Detroit. The rotating/swivelling front doors included parts of the vehicle floor and roof when they opened to make it incredibly easy to enter and exit the vehicle. It was the automotive equivalent of a walk-in bath without June Whitfield. At the back, the doors slid back to reveal the absence of a B-pillar. Still want that Nissan Prairie?

Gordon Murray would have approved of the central driving position. Coming to a Johnny Cab near you, circa 2084.

The Mercedes-Benz F100 also previewed a front-wheel drive future for the brand, six years ahead of the launch of the first A-Class. Although the concept featured a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine, a range of powertrains were considered, including one powered by hydrogen.

Mercedes-Benz went into full Gadget Show prize draw mode with the F100, loading it with more tech than ever before. Many features appeared on Mercedes production vehicles before the end of the decade, most notably:

  • Gas-discharge headlights (xenon) – E-Class (1995)
  • Phone-based voice recognition – S-Class (1996)
  • Rain-sensing wipers – CL (1996)
  • Sandwich floor – A-Class (1997)
  • Operating the phone using buttons on the steering wheel – S-Class (1998)
  • Distance control – S-Class (1998)
  • Electronic tyre pressure monitoring – CL (1999)
  • Key card instead of car keys – S-Class (1999)

Other features wouldn't debut in Mercedes models until much later. The F100's reversing camera first appeared in 2005 on the S-Class, followed by blind spot monitoring in 2007. Even automatic lane keeping was possible in 1991. Further equipment included a mobile fax machine and a personal computer.

Modern life is rubbish

Mercedes MPV concept 1991

Even the wipers were fancy. At the front, the rain-sensing wiper moved across the entire width of the windscreen to clear it almost entirely. At the back, the wiper remained concealed when not in use, only to spring into action to clear the window and the rear lights.

Although the Mercedes-Benz F100 previewed tech that's still being realised today, we were denied the opportunity to see a production version of the Syndicate MPV. This is a shame, because the non-aggressive, almost cheery styling remains appealing, while the simple and logical dashboard is a welcome tonic to the modern reliance on touchscreens.

Do we really want a 141cm-wide Hyperscreen running along the entire width of the dashboard? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

In the meantime, let us appreciate the Mercedes-Benz F100 for its magnificence, while slamming it for promising an MPV it couldn't deliver.

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