Testing different drive systems Auto - the Auto 2000
In the late 1970s the Federal German Ministry for Research and
Technology launched the Auto 2000 project, in which several
carmakers participated. Fuel consumption was not to exceed eleven
litres per 100 km (21.3 mpg) for a vehicle with a cerb weight of
up to 2,150 kilograms – a very ambitious target in those days – and
the maximum for vehicles weighing 1,250 to 1,700 kilograms was
9.5 litres/100 km (24.7 mpg).
In addition, the car was supposed to accommodate four occupants and provide a payload capacity of more than 400 kilograms. Mercedes-Benz met the requirements.
The Auto 2000, first presented to the public at the 1981 Frankfurt International Motor Show, had an aerodynamically optimised body with a very low Cd (drag coefficient) of 0.28. As many as three different engine concepts were tested in this vehicle. An automatic cylinder cutoff system was premiered in a 3.8-litre V8 petrol engine. When only little power was required, four of the eight combustion chambers were temporarily shut down – today this is a feature of several large-displacement petrol engines built by Mercedes-Benz. The 3.3-litre diesel engine tested in the Auto 2000 had exemplary accelerating power thanks to its six cylinders and two turbochargers; it offered an excellent range of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres (about 31.3 mpg) at a speed of 120 km/h.
With the third drive unit of the Auto 2000, the engineers realised an ambitious project: the automotive gas turbine. It had several qualities, including low-pollutant combustion, low weight, compact dimensions, favourable torque characteristics, and the elimination of water cooling. All engines were harnessed to a four-speed automatic transmission. Integral seats for the driver and front passenger, with all the belt mounts on the seat itself, along with integral child restraint systems in the rear and pedestrian-friendly bumpers, were also tested in the Auto 2000.