Faster and safer on bends
- Pioneering technology for outstanding handling safety and dynamism
- The outer wheels tilt when negotiating bends
Handling safety, dynamism and driving pleasure – these aspects were also the main considerations for the concept of the F 400 Carving, which attracted great attention at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2001.
This two-seater research vehicle follows in the footsteps of other car studies such the F 200 Imagination (1996) or the F 300 Life-Jet (1997), which also featured innovative steering and suspension concepts: “drive-by-wire” and active roll control were two of the most important areas of study during these automotive research projects. These ideas were perfected in the F 400 Carving, which was produced by the engineers and scientists at the DaimlerChrysler research unit.
The name “Carving” already suggests what is special about the suspension technology of this research vehicle: when taking bends, two of its wheels behave like carving skis in order to achieve high speeds and dynamic performance. They tilt to the side and ride on a specially optimised area of the tyre tread which has a particularly high coefficient of friction, ensuring the best possible handling stability.
The main attraction of the F 400 Carving is a technology which increases the camber of the outside wheels by up to 20 degrees on bends, depending on the situation. In combination with the newly developed tyres, this enables 30 percent higher lateral forces to be transferred than by a conventional suspension system with a fixed camber and standard tyres. The result is a considerable improvement in active safety, for the better the lateral support provided by the tyres, the better the road contact and stability when cornering. Thanks to this active camber adjustment, the research car achieves a maximum lateral acceleration of 1.28 g and betters the values for present-day sports cars by up to 30 percent.
The F 400 Carving serves as a mobile research laboratory for the development engineers, enabling them to examine the further potentials of this innovative suspension technology. For in addition to providing more handling stability on bends, this technology also ensures a significant improvement in handling safety in emergency situations, e.g. by specifically increasing the wheel camber when there is a danger of skidding, providing more lateral support to augment the action of the Electronic Stability Program ESP®. All four wheels of the research car can be instantly cambered during emergency braking, which shortens the braking distance from 100 km/h by a good five metres.
In addition to active camber adjustment, the F 400 Carving research car is equipped with other trailblazing steering and suspension systems. These include an electronic steering system which operates without mechanical components. Sensors register the driver’s steering movements and transfer these to two microprocessors, which in turn control the electrically driven steering gear. The engineers in Stuttgart have also broken new technological ground in the suspension tuning, using an active hydropneumatic system for the first time which immediately adapts the vehicle’s springs and dampers to the current driving situation.
With xenon bulbs beneath the bonnet, whose light is transferred to the headlamps by optical fibres, the researchers have also presented a completely new lighting technology in the F 400 Carving. This excels with a high performance and a very low space requirement. Spotlights located on the sides are switched on when taking bends.
The occupants of the F 400 Carving are seated on carbon seats and immediately become one with this exciting car and its technology – an almost perfect combination of man and machine. The seats provide perfect lateral support and can be individually adjusted despite their one-piece design. The multi-layered construction of the fibrous structure makes it possible to vary the inclination angle of the backrest without joints or hinges – a small lever mechanism suffices. Vibration comfort is ensured by spring/damper systems beneath the seat, as well as several sections of padding distributed over the seat surface. In 2003 a similar seating technology based on the high-tech material carbon entered series production in the SLR McLaren sports car.
The F 400 Carving also provided impulses for the materials technology used in the bodyshell and brakes of the recent Gran Turismo SLR McLaren: the bodyshell of the research vehicle is of carbon fibre, while the front brakes are of fibre-reinforced ceramics.