1996 Mercedes F200 Concept: the car that is driven with the joystick (VIDEO)

Concept cars are often outlandish prototypes. The history of motoring teaches us that it is possible to really make cars of all kinds: from those that go on water like amphibious vehicles, to those with jet engines and the like. Few prototypes, however, have been able to predict the future like the 1996 Mercedes Benz F200 Imagination. It was just recently seen arriving at the London Concours – a rare opportunity to see this deeply unusual concept car.

Mercedes F200 Concept in London

The doors, which open somewhat like Koenigsegg’s dihedral doors, actually seem to give the driver a reasonable space for entry and exit. Another of the particularities of the car, however, concerns the way it is driven. Unlike a normal car, the F200 Imagination is controlled with a joystick, the kind used on aircraft simulators. Imagine, therefore, having to do a parking or exit maneuver as shown in the video and instead of the classic steering wheel, you need to use two joysticks, one on the right on the central dashboard, and one on the left on the driver’s door. Tesla also tried to bring an innovative steering wheel recently, called Yoke, but as revolutionary as the one made by Mercedes 26 years ago so far we haven’t seen any yet.

The joystick on the inside of the passenger compartment and the dashboard
The joystick on the inside of the passenger compartment and the dashboard

The characteristics of the Mercedes F200

From a mechanical point of view, the engine of the Mercedes F200 Imagination is quite normal, if by normal we mean a 12-cylinder. Under the hood, in fact, we find a naturally aspirated V12 that delivers almost 400 hp of power. The drive is rear, while the gearbox is automatic at 5 speeds. Thanks to its huge glass roof, huge dashboard display and drive-by-wire controls, it looks more like an electric vehicle than an internal combustion engine vehicle. In fact, as we saw earlier, the F200 Imagination has a lot of features that you can find on the modern EQS. The huge screen, for example, is reminiscent of the Mercedes Hyperscreen. It also features cameras instead of side mirrors. Four cameras, then, are positioned at the four corners of the sloping roof. At the rear, the headlights feature an arched neon tube.

The rear area
The rear area with the trunk open and the rear lights darkened

The screen can also show information for phone, navigation, radio, CD and DVD and the front passenger (who can also control the car thanks to those joysticks) can listen to the media with wireless headphones. That’s all pretty impressive for a car that was unveiled at the 1996 Paris Auto Show. And that’s not all. The car also features window and knee airbags and bi-xenon headlights. Today it is already quite innovative, for the time it was even extremely futuristic.

The driver's side of the F200
The driver’s side of the 1996 Mercedes F200 Concept

On the London Concours lawn, everything seems to be running smoothly, apart from one or two abrupt stops. It is a model sold for almost 10 million dollars. However, we are talking about a unique specimen. Below is the video that shows closely how the Mercedes F200 Concept is made.

It is a car whose technological solutions are almost all implemented on today’s production models. With the exception of joystick driving, in fact, on today’s cars we find drive-by-wire, dashboard displays, rear cameras and many other features that we take for granted today. Anyone who had the opportunity to see it up close in London a few days ago can be considered extremely lucky: it is a car that is very rarely shown in public and even more rarely is put into operation.

Mercedes F200
Mercedes F200 Concept from 1996

1996 Mercedes F200 Concept: the car that is driven with the joystick (VIDEO)