Out at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, plenty of manufacturers claimed to have built the car of the future. Mercedes, never one to be outdone, is in on the act with the F800 Style -- a possible replacement for its current CLS coupe.
The company gave us dozens of reasons why this is the automotive equivalent of sliced bread. What really caught our eye was the bonkers cabin tech. Remarkably, this car includes a rear-projection display in the dash and a multi-touch mouse trackpad that uses infrared cameras to let you control the sat-nav.
The former is particularly impressive. Like the Jaguar XJ, it ditches old-school mechanical dials in favour of dynamic digital ones. To achieve this, Mercedes has installed a projector inside the dashboard ahead of the steering wheel, which bounces images off a mirror and up on to the screen on the instrument binnacle. It's capable of showing gauges for speed, remaining fuel and engine temperature, as well as navigation instructions and vehicle settings using stylish computer graphics instead of the boring needles and numbers you get on most cars.
The car's 'cam touchpad' multi-touch information and entertainment system is like nothing we've seen in a car. Between the driver and passenger seat lives a large mouse trackpad. As you sweep your fingers across its surface, your movements are followed by an infrared camera mounted opposite. An outline image of your fingers is then overlaid on top of the graphics on the TFT display on the car's centre console.
Tapping the trackpad when your finger is shown hovering over icons launches the highlighted function. A pinching gesture zooms, while stretching zooms out. If you're confused, don't worry -- we were too. Mercedes could easily have used a multi-touch-capable touchscreen instead of this elaborate effort, but that's not really the point. The point is it can -- so it did.
The F800 Style will serve as a platform upon which a variety of Mercedes-Benz cars can be built. It can be powered by a fuel cell or a plug-in hybrid drive system. The former is taken from Mercedes' modular E-Drive system, which has already cropped up in Citaro fuel-cell buses on trial across Europe. The latter will consist of a 272hp V6 petrol engine plus lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor churning out around 109bhp. It's expected that when fully charged, the car will be able to run on battery power alone for up to 18 miles, with the sat-nav highlighting the remaining possible travel radius.
Mercedes-Benz describes the F800 style as a research vehicle, from which its future cars will draw inspiration, so don't expect to see it on the road any time soon. Despite this, we're told many of the technologies inside this thing are extremely close to market and could soon begin appearing in Mercs in the very near future.