By Sajeev Mehta / Hagerty.com
The mid-1990s doesn’t seem too far in the past, but the era of the original Sony Playstation and Intel Pentium–powered PCs indeed foreshadowed the digitized, hyper-connected world in which we currently live. And while it wasn’t as revolutionary as the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep that same year, the 1996 Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination concept car was anything but a mere teaser for an upcoming production model. So let’s dig deeper on this, the silver anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination.
While the production 1998–2006 Mercedes-Benz CL-series (C125) sports the Imagination’s pillarless hardtop coupe, it lacked the majority of concept’s futuristic swagger. The Imagination was fully drive-by-wire, including joysticks to show just now unnecessary steering wheels could be in the future.
The Imagination’s active body-controlling suspension, variable-intensity headlights, video cameras, voice recognition, and head-protecting airbags are now commonplace. Even today’s Porsche Taycan sports a similar (albeit optional) array of wall-to-wall dashboard screens. The Imagination also had wireless internet with smartphone-ish features, as it possessed software capable of in-car hotel reservations and virtual banking (yes, really). And while the centrally-located steering sticks have yet to make production, Tesla’s new steering yoke suggests we are well on our way to that future.
The folks as Mercedes-Benz Classic suggested that “the future came one step closer in 1996,” thanks to the F 200 Imagination—and we, the folks of the future, couldn’t agree more.
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