Tesla generated a lot of controversy with its yoke, but Mercedes had an even wilder steering wheel replacement. 26 years ago, the F200 Imagination concept was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show as part of the “F” series of research vehicles. Its most unusual gimmick was represented by the pair of Sidesticks, with one mounted on the driver’s door and the other in the center console. You can see this gentleman using them to maneuver the car.
The fully functional concept was filmed arriving at the London Concours with one feature you’ll find on only a handful of production cars today. Much like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Honda E, Lexus ES, and a few others, it did away with traditional side mirrors by adopting cameras. A look inside the cabin shows the two outer screens providing footage from the camera as part of a multi-display setup – think Hyperscreen from 1996.
1996 Mercedes F200 Imagination
From window and knee airbags to bi-xenon headlights, the F200 was a technological tour de force. It even had an early version of Mercedes’ active suspension (Active Body Control) as well as voice recognition (Linguatronic). Many of these goodies eventually trickled down to production cars, including the electro-transparent panoramic roof the Maybach 62 received.
The Imagination concept has rarely been filmed following its debut and it reminds us of how it previewed the styling of the CL-Class (C215) and S-Class (W220). The Koenigsegg-esque doors were also a party piece, and Mercedes gave it a camera in the rear bumper while an additional four were incorporated in the corners of the swoopy roof. At the back, the taillights featured an arched neon tube.
For those wondering what powers the F200, Mercedes gave it a naturally aspirated V12 engine with 394 hp and 570 Nm (420 lb-ft), which was channeled to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.
The Imagination didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it did predict drive-by-wire tech, dashboard-wide screens, rear cameras, and many other features we now take for granted.
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