The Mercedes F300 Life-Jet concept three-wheeler was unveiled at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show, introducing some new ideas on vehicle concepts. Although the vehicle never went into full-scale production, the three-wheeler research study blended the special thrill and cornering dynamics of a motorcycle with the safety and comfort of a saloon car.
Three wheels, two seats and a “jet”-styled body are visual hallmarks with which the researchers were targeting a market niche that did not exist yet. Times have changed, though, as explained on the three-wheeler page.
The body styling of the F300 is just as unusual as the driving dynamics. The innovative tilting technology employed for the front axle and body was the toughest nut to crack on the technical side. It limits the stylists’ scope, imposing a particularly narrow front end and underfloor design. If the F300 Life-Jet is to lean into the corner at an angle of up to 30 degrees, the front axle and wheels need to have a certain freedom to move about. So the body becomes broader from front to rear like a letter V and is designed to take into account the unusual body kinematics in the area of the front axle.
Safety and lightweight construction had top billing in the design of the chassis. The researchers employed a “space frame” design: extruded aluminium sections with cast nodes form a strong structure which not only weighs just 89 kilograms but also absorbs high crash forces. On the underside the chassis is faced with double-skinned panels, between which is sandwiched a new aluminium foam for additional strength and sound insulation. Intelligent lightweight construction means that the F 300 Life-Jet has a kerb weight of only just over 800 kilograms.
Unlike a motorbike, the F300 Life-Jet is an uncompromising all-year-rounder. A two-part roof of aluminium and transparent polycarbonate provides protection against bad weather.The two halves of the roof are very light and can be easily removed whenever the mood takes the driver. The side windows, apart from the triangular windows at the front, can be completely recessed at the touch of a button. Only the strong front windscreen frame and the integrated
roll-over bar at the rear remain in place, as integral parts of the car’s safety concept.
There were three crucial requirements for the engine and transmission of the F 300 Life-Jet: high efficiency, low weight and compact dimensions. The researchers opted for the new 1.6 litre petrol engine used in the A 160, which develops 75 kW/102 hp and impressive torque of 150 Newton metres at 4000/min. It offers performance to match, with acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.7 seconds, a top speed of 211 km/h, and outstanding value in the new European driving cycle: 5.3 litres of premium fuel per 100 km (NEDC overall consumption) and emissions which undercut the EU 2 limits by up to 40%.
F300 jet-style steering, instruments and seats
create an impression of sitting in an aircraft cockpit.
At first glance slightly unusual, the passenger sits behind the driver.
The heart of the driving technology is the ATC (Active Tilt Control). Sensors calculate the body tilt angle and send the necessary commands to the hydraulic system.
The Mercedes F300 Life-Jet offered everything adventure-loving motorists could have wished for: The open-top experience of a cabriolet, the individuality of a roadster, performance of a sports car, and the comfort of a compact saloon. But do not despair, because modern three-wheeler are in full production