Mercedes Auto 2000: Trying To Predict The Future In 1981

Trying to predict the future is a tough business, but over the decades many a car maker has taken the bait. In 1981, Mercedes presented its Auto 2000 both as a way to meet a Government program, and to show its prowess in propulsion systems as well as aerodynamics. Fortunately, and perhaps Mercedes-typical for the times, they didn’t create a wild, spacey thing to predict future design whims. Instead, it was more an exercise in engineering than design, as that Plexiglass tail makes all too obvious. Under the hood were three different propulsion systems: Did any of them accurately predict the future?

Its aerodynamic CD of 0.28 was excellent for the times. Interestingly enough, the new-for 2001 W203 S-Class came in with a very similar CD of 0.27.  Still, it didn’t exactly need such drastic measures as that aero-tail. Certainly, that wouldn’t fly on an S-Class in 2000.

One of the engine choices was a 3.8-liter V8 with cylinder deactivation. The 2001 W220-body S600’s V12 engine also offered that technology under the name of Active Cylinder Control (ACC). Other manufacturers have since taken up such technology, although not nearly so much as you might have expected.

The second engine was a 3.3-liter, dual-turbo diesel six whose horsepower figures are not given. Although not yet a direct-injection six, its performance was more than adequate, delivering7.5 L/100 km (31.3 mpg) at 120 kmh (75 mph). The W220 offered (but not in the U.S.) a 3.2-liter, 197-hp turbo-diesel six that probably yielded comparable fuel economy.

The third engine was a gas turbine about which little detailed information is available. As we know, turbines have not played any actual role in powering post-2000 cars. What Mercedes failed to predict were hybrid systems, as well as fuel cells which, of course, remain (perpetually) a few years off.

All in all, not a bad record for crystal balling.