The steadily increasing power of diesel engines in the 1950s gave the Bundesbahn the reason to order a series of large single-engine diesel locomotives instead of the previous two-engine series. A locomotive with 1,400 kW was planned, which had to be able to run at 120 km/h and to have steam heating for passenger trains.
The pre-production locomotives were delivered in 1960 and received a locomotive body with rounded fronts, which earned them the nickname “Lollo”. In the production series, this was replaced by one with a more angular front end, which not only had better aerodynamics, but was also much cheaper to produce and shaped the image of all other models in the V-160 family. A 16-cylinder from Maybach was used as the engine, which later became part of the MTU program and delivered exactly the required 1,400 kW. As with all Bundesbahn diesel locomotives, power was transmitted hydrodynamically. In order to be able to make better use of the engine power, the gear ratio could be switched while stationary in order to achieve a top speed of 80 or 120 km/h as required. Many locomotives were also equipped with the then current technology for multiple working and push-pull trains.
224 units were manufactured between 1964 and 1968, the last of which received the new class designation 216 ex works. They were used with all types of trains on non-electrified lines, but were soon overtaken by the more powerful diesel locomotives that were based on them. From about 1990, they were no longer used for passenger trains, since from that point on there were no longer any steam-heated passenger cars available and, unlike their successors, they did not yet have an electric heater. In the years from 2000 to 2004 they were decommissioned by Deutsche Bahn, with some pieces being sold abroad or to private railways. The rest fared like all post-war classes at the end of their lives, they were almost all scrapped. Today there is only one running example and two museum locomotives.