Sindelfingen. A vehicle is driving on a country road on a cold, dull December morning. The road surface leaves a lot to be desired, and potholes and ruts make for uneven road conditions. The driver does not notice any of this. He effortlessly steers the vehicle along the route and through sharp bends. Even an obstacle which suddenly appears is effortlessly avoided by the vehicle, without setting the driver’s pulse racing too much. This special feeling of safety, comfort and effortless superiority is unmistakeable. It is inherent to a Mercedes. The developers behind it refer to this feeling as the “Mercedes-Benz driving character”.
Development is a matter of character
“We aspire to make our vehicles immediately recognisable. Not just through the hallmark Mercedes design, but also the handling,” is how Markus Riedel, Head of the “Ride & Handling” Centre, sums up his team’s main mission. “In concrete terms a Mercedes is characterised by three very pronounced traits: optimum ride comfort, high driving safety and tangible self-assurance. In every situation a Mercedes driver must have the impression that their vehicle still has reserves.” It is the job of the engineers at the Sindelfingen Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre to constantly optimise these three KPIs and develop them further for every new model platform.
At the start of every development cycle the required specification of these three top properties, supplemented by sportiness and precision, is translated into over 90 measurable physical characteristic values, including for vertical, lateral and longitudinal dynamics. Countless calculations, design variants and simulations on supercomputers are necessary before the parameters on paper can be fed into the target description, i.e. into the specification of the component parts and wheel alignment systems. “The real art of the development process is for us to reconcile these statistical values with one another to such an extent that they create a complete driving experience geared to humans,” says Markus Riedel, explaining the challenges in developing the handling characteristics. Because for all this digitisation and technology: it is the subjective perception whilst driving that is decisive.
This means that all the objective statistical values – whether calculated or measured – have to be interpreted with subjective perception. This is the only way in which the Mercedes-Benz driving character can be created.
“Modern handling is therefore developed through the triad of digital simulation on the computer, measurements on test stands and finishing touches through subjective fine-tuning with real vehicles. Each of these three instruments has its strengths, but also its limitations. The actual art is now to combine them with one another optimally.”
Feeling meets physics