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While 2009 was a tumultuous year for automakers, the worldwide economic crisis pushed the auto industry into the mainstream automotive media’s spotlight, making big automotive news stories even bigger. And while new products continued to be introduced, they garnered possibly even more attention that ever before. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the Top 10 biggest stories of 2009 for an automaker that didn’t recoil, but continued on, unveiling an all-new version of one of its most important models, delivering a new exotic car to market, promising an electric car in the future… and making some big changes in its motorsports program. That automaker is Mercedes-Benz.
#10 Mercedes Goes Green With New Hybrids
Slow to adapt hybrid technology, German automakers began to take on the Japanese luxury hybrids in 2009. Mercedes launched two important hybrid models, the S400 Hybrid and the ML450 Hybrid. The S400 Hybrid was the first Mercedes hybrid to go on sale and is also the first mass production automobile to use a lithium-ion battery. Priced at $87,950 it uses an electric motor and 3.5-liter gasoline V6 to produce 295-hp, while getting mileage of 19/26 mpg – an improvement of 26 percent over the S550 in the city. Despite its high-tech battery pack, the S400 Hybrid is a mild-hybrid, which limits its fuel economy.
The second hybrid model from Mercedes is the ML450 Hybrid 4MATIC. A lease-only model, for either 36 or 60 months, at either $659 or $549 per month, the ML450 is the first two-mode hybrid (like the Toyota Prius) from Mercedes. The ML450 uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric motors to make 335-hp and 381 ft-lbs of torque. Unlike the S400 Hybrid, it will be able to operate exclusively on electric power for short periods of time. Its fuel economy is rated at 21/24 mpg (city/highway), which is roughly the same as the ML350 Bluetec diesel at 18/25 mpg. This is also a 46 percent improvement over the fuel economy rating of the similarly-powerful ML550.
The next step for Mercedes in the field of hybrids comes with the Vision S500 Plug-In Hybrid, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show and foreshadows a plug-in hybrid version of the next generation S-Class. Thanks to a direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 60-hp/184 ft-lb electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, the car is capable of getting an amazing 73.5 mpg! Possibly more shocking is that the car doesn’t sacrifice performance, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. Additionally, the electric motor will be able to power the car emissions-free for 18 miles.
German automakers VW, BMW and Mercedes dominate awards
While not nearly so popular as the International Automobile of the Year Awards, once annually a jury of 65 automotive journalists from 30 countries gets together to decide what the best engines are. The International Engine of the Year Awards celebrate engine technology, giving honors to engines in 12 specific categories, including the overall International Engine of the Year award.
This year the top position went to Volkswagen for its TSI Twincharger, which can be found in Volkswagens like the Golf, Scirocco, Eos, Jetta, Touran, Tiguan and the Seat Ibiza Cupra. It makes 178hp and 177 ft-lbs of torque from a turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder. That is an impressive 127.1 horsepower per liter. Possibly even more impressive, the engine gets an average fuel-economy rating of 45.5 mpg.
Impressively the TSI Twincharger was noted for winning favor with journalists outside Europe, including North America, Asia and South America. American Matt Davis said that, “Volkswagen’s 1.4-liter TSI EA111 is still way ahead of the curve, sensationally over-engineered in all the right ways, and even makes the company’s fantastic 2-litre TFSI already look like yesterday’s tech.”
With those figures the TSI Twincharger also claimed the award for best engine in the 1.0- to 1.4-liter class, as well as the Green Engine of the year class. It also unseated the BMW twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine, which took the top honors in both 2007 and 2008.
In total, German automakers look awards in 11 of the 12 spots with Toyota the lone exception in the Sub 1.0-liter Class for it’s 1.0-liter three-cylinder, which can be found in the Aygo, IQ, Yaris/Vitz, Citroën C1, Peugeot 107 and Subaru Justy.
The award for Best New Engine of the Year went to Porsche for its direct-injection 3.8-liter flat-six, while the Best Performance Engine award was won by the Mercedes/AMG 6.2-liter V8.
Follow the jump for a full-list of the 2009 International Engine of the Year winners: