Guest Post >> The modern age test bed: the Auto 2000 from 1981

Author: Sukhwinder Singh
Contributor: Vikral Bhatt

Since the dawn of the automobile, there has been an increasingly advancing quest to make the concept even better; more safety, comfort, performance are always of desire, but more importantly, the neccessity of environmental compatibility;the last point, particularly had in mind, was the reason for the introduction of this forward-looking automoble, the Auto 2000. Mercedes-Benz, the brand that always reinvents itself, certainly reinvented itself in 1981 with the debut of the Auto 2000, which tested alternative drive systems. The concept displayed a level of innovation previously not seen, and as Mercedes-Benz has consistently surprised the automotive world and continues to do so, this was no exception.

The Auto 2000 was solely presented to offer a glimpse of the future of environmentally efficient fascination. It debuted three different types of systems; one was the remarkable self cut-off ability of the 3.8 litre V8 gasoline powerplant, the other was a highly advanced 3.3 litre diesel with bi-turbocharging, boasting an exemplary acceleration and a fuel consumption of only 31.3 mpg(7.5 l/100 km), and finally, the gas turbine, an unusual system, which offered the best of both worlds.

Maybe the most ineresting and most important finding was the 3.8 litre V8 gasoline engine derived from the W 126 S-Class, but having been substantially modified and featuring automatic cut-off technology. This remarkabaly ingenious innovation certainly caused a stir in 1981, as the engine powering the Auto 2000 was the first powerplant in the world which permitted operation on only half of its cylinder capacity. In situations where the engine was using only a proportion of its total power, for instance in case of constant travel such as highways, or low speed urban driving, the engine would automatically recognise the driving situation and cut-off 4 cylinders;that meant only 4 cylinders were driving the car, and, perhaps most surprisingly, without a sacrifice on smoothness and quiteness, which was a further plus. This technology clearly had positive effects on consumption and emmisions, with the fuel consumption being reduced to just 9.3 litres per 100 km in the euromix cycle. Naturally, if the driver wished to put his foot down, the system would re-activate the other 4 cylinders for full performance.

This innovation was brought to reality in the new 1998 S-Class;the sensational newly developed V8 engine for the S 500 utilised this technology, then further grew to the flagship S 600 V 12 model, both saloon and coupe. This just goes to show the unique way in which Mercedes-Benz integrates their exclusive technological innovations into cycles of different generations and the unmatched advanced innovation on display; the 1998 S-Class, which was launched almost 20 years later used this technology and even then it was considered a technologial masterpice. This clearly demonstrates the relentless approach Mercedes-Benz quests for.

In styling terms, the new concept had an unusually dignified look, which was very rare in the sense that this car served as a 'lab car'. In true Mercedes-Benz style, even though the Auto 2000 was in no way a design study, it still managed to combine design elements in a successful way, with the usual 80's extreme ways of thinking exemplified in the rear section and the way the bonnet opens. But, besides these small 'flinky' elements, it had a strong personality, which was no coincidence as its design was largely based on the W 126 S-Class, and the front section resembling that of the newly presented S-Class Coupe, with its wide SL style grill sporting the incorporated star sitting proudly in the centre. Even in terms of body, it was designed to function, achieving an incredibly low Cd figure of only 0.28, which even by todays standards is a very good figure. Strangely enough, the new concept also displayed a face which was very similar to that of the W 124 E-Class launched 3 years later;it displayed a front end which was steeply raked in an upwards fashion, an element that has been part of almost every Mercedes since the W 124 model, and not forgetting its great effects on aerodynamic efficiency.

The Auto 2000, designed for newly allocated legislations of car development, may never would have existed if it were not for these new proposals. It was a concept, like every model Mercedes-Benz makes, which in 1981 commited to the future development of the automobile in an unmatched way. The automatic cylinder cut-off feature, for example, was an engineering miracle, only to be found in a car wearing the sublime three pointed star. The Auto 2000 research prototype is only one of the many examples Mercedes-Benz has shown over the years - not only reinventing itself but also the automotive industry as a whole.

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