The Mercedes-Benz W201 was the last incarnation of the Mercedes-Benz 190 nameplate. It was a sports sedan/compact executive car produced by the Mercedes-Benz division of Daimler-Benz. It was replaced in 1993 by the C-Class.
Dubbed "the Baby Benz", the W201-based 190 was the most affordable model in the marque's lineup, being designed to fill the gap in the range below the W123, the equivalent of a modern Mercedes E-class. Amongst the items that were a first for Mercedes was the 190's patented 5-link suspension at the rear, used in subsequent E- and C- class models, and developments used today in Mercedes road cars. It had front and rear anti-roll bars, and anti-dive, anti-squat geometry. The 190 was available with airbags, ABS brakes and seatbelt tensioners, and other advanced safety features.
Local 'red tape' in Bremen (which produced commercial vehicles at the time) prevented Daimler-Benz from building the 190 there, so production was started in Sindelfingen at a capacity of just 140,000 units per year. Eventually after just the first year, Bremen was cleared for production of the 190, replacing its commercial vehicle lines, and there the 190 was built with the first running modifications since release
In roadgoing trim the 190 E 2.3-16 produced 49 hp (36 kW) and 41 ft·lbf (55 N·m) of torque over the basic single overhead cam 2.3 engine on which it was based. The 2.3 L 16 valve engine made "185 hp (137 kW) at 6,200 rpm and 174 ft·lbf (235 N·m) at 4,500 rpm, the oversquare 95.50 x 80.25 mm bore and stroke dimensions ensuring that it revs easily up to the 7000 rpm redline". Acceleration from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) was less than eight seconds, and the top speed was 230 km/h (143 mph).
US-Specification cars had a slightly reduced compression ratio (9.7:1 instead of 10.5:1), and were rated at @ 5800 rpm and @ 4750.
The roadgoing version of the engine was reconfigured with reduced inlet and exhaust port sizes, different camshaft profiles, no dry sump configuration and Bosch K-jetronic replacing the specialised Kugelfischer fuel injection. These changes helped bring power down to the required specification, but still resulted in a "remarkably flexible engine, with a very flat torque curve and a wide power band". The heads for the engines were cast at Cosworth's Coscast foundry in Worcester and sent to Germany to be fitted to the rest of the engine, parts of which were different from the standard 2.3 including light pressed alloy pistons, and rings designed to withstand higher engine speeds, whilst con-rods, bearings and bearing caps were found to be strong enough as standard and left unaltered.
The strictly four-seater interior had Recaro sports seats with strong side bolsters for front and rear passengers. 3 extra dials - an oil temperature gauge, stopwatch and voltmeter - were included in the centre console. The 190 E 2.3-16 was available in only two colours, Blue-Black metallic, and Smoke Silver (which looks gold). The 2.5-16 added Almandine Red and Astral Silver.
All 2.3-16 valve 190 models are fitted with a Limited Slip Differential (LSD) as standard. They were also available with Mercedes' ASD system which was standard equipment on the 2.5-16v. The ASD is an electronically controlled, hydraulically locking differential which activates automatically when required. The electronic control allows varied amounts of differential lock from the standard 15% right up to 100%. It is not a traction control system however, and can only maximize traction rather than prevent wheel spin. Activation of the ASD system is indicated by an illuminating amber triangle in the speedometer.
The suspension on 16 valve models is very different from the standard 190 (W201). As well as being lower and stiffer, it has quicker dampers, larger anti-roll bars, harder bushings and hydraulic Self-Levelling Suspension (SLS) on the rear. This allows the rear ride height to remain constant even when the car is fully loaded.
At the inauguration of the new, shorter Nürburgring in 1984, a race with identical cars was held, with former and current F1 pilots at the wheel. A rather unknown young driver named Ayrton Senna took First Place in that race.
Private Teams such as AMG later entered the 2.3-16 in touring cars races, especially the DTM. In the late 1980's, the 2.5-16 (never released in the United States) raced many times, against the similar BMW M3 and even the turbocharged Ford SierraCosworth.
The Evo I's output similar to the of the "regular" 2.5-16. However this car had a redesigned engine of similar capacity but, most importantly, a shorter stroke and bigger bore which would allow for a higher rev limit and improved top-end power capabilities. Additional changes stretch to "rotating masses lightened, lubrication improved and cam timing altered". Cosworth also list a project code "WAC" for the development of the short-stroke Evolution engine.
Only 502 units of the Evolution model were produced for homologation in compliance with DTM rules. For those customers desiring even more performance, a PowerPack option engineered by AMG was available for DM 18,000. The PowerPack option included hotter camshafts, a larger diameter throttle body, more aggressive ignition and fuel management as well as optimization of the intake and exhaust systems. The net result was an additional .
In March 1990, at the Geneva Auto Show, the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II was shown. With the success of the first Evolution model, this model's 502-unit production was already sold before it was unveiled. This car retailed in 1990 for USD $80,000.
The "Evo II" included the AMG PowerPack fitted to the same short stroke 2.5 engine as the Evolution, as well as a full SLS suspension allowing vehicle ride height to be adjusted from an interior switch. An obvious modification to the Evolution II is a radical body kit (designed by Prof. Richard Eppler from the University of Stuttgart) with a large adjustable rear wing, rear window spoiler, and Evolution II 17 inch wheels. The kit served an aerodynamic purpose — it was wind tunnel tested to reduce drag to 0.29, while at the same time increasing downforce. Period anecdotes tell of a BMW executive who was quoted as saying "if that rear wing works, we'll have to redesign our wind tunnel." The anecdote claims that BMW did.
As mentioned 502 were made in "blauschwarz" blue/black metallic. But the last two, numbers 501 and 502 were made in astral silver.
At present the Mercedes-Benz 190 E Evolution II fetches an average of £20,000 - £35,000 GBP. The Evolution I fetches slightly less than the Evolution II, with an average of £12,000 - £18,000 GBP.
|Engine displacement (cc)||Model||Configuration||Power PS (kW)||Max Speed mph (km/h)|
|1996||Carb||I4 8V||105 (77)||115 (185)|
|1797||Inj||I4 8V||109 (80)||115 (185)|
|1996||Inj||I4 8V||122 (89)||122 (195)|
|2298||Inj||I4 8V||136 (100)||124 (200)|
|2597||Inj||I6 12V||166 (122)||133 (215)|
|2299||Inj ECE||I4 16V||185 (136)||143 (230)|
|2299||Inj RÜF||I4 16V||177 (130)||140 (225)|
|2299||Inj KAT||I4 16V||170 (125)||137 (220)|
|2498||Inj RÜF||I4 16V||204 (150)||146 (235)|
|2498||Inj KAT||I4 16V||194 (143)||143 (230)|
|2498/2463||Inj||I4 16V AMG p/p||225 (165)||152 (244)|
|2463||Inj KAT||I4 16V Evolution (Evo I)||194 (143)||143 (230)|
|2463||Inj||I4 16V Evolution II (Evo II)||235 (173)||155 (250)|
|1997||Diesel||I4 8V||75 (55)||100 (160)|
|2199||Diesel||I4 8V||73 (54)||100 (160)|
|2497||Diesel||I5 10V||94 (69)||109 (175)|
|2497||Diesel Turbo||I5 10V||122 (89)||119 (192)|
The turbo diesel model listed was not marketed in right hand drive form for the UK.
Some believe that the LE was marketing ploy used by Mercedes to clear out their parts bin. LEs were equipped with extra features that had been options on the other models and were only available with the 1.8 or 2.0 litre engine. Both the 1.8 and 2.0 litre engine came equipped with a standard electric tilt and slide steel sunroof, four electric windows, electric aerial, 8 hole alloy wheels, Blaupunkt Verona CR43 Radio/cassette and walnut wood trim (as opposed to Zebrano wood). The 2.0 litre engined version had in addition rear headrests and a front armrest. This represented a huge cost saving of nearly £3500 when compared to an identical specced non-LE 1.8 car and roughly £2000 for a identically specced 2.0 litre non-LE car.
No further options could be added to LE cars from the factory - though some were equipped with other dealer installed items.
Together with the BMW M3, which enjoyed fewer sales worldwide in spite of being less expensive, the 190 E 2.3-16 and 2.5-16 continue to be used in the "Normally Aspirated cars up to 2500 cc" class in endurance and 24 hour racing at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, as newer models from BMW and Honda are not designed to be as competitive as these two 1980's veterans.
Production of the 190 ended on May 5, 1993. About 1.8 million were produced. It was replaced by the C-Class, with Mercedes announcing that they were stopping the process of 'over-engineering' their cars. The 190 is considered by some to be a classic car, there are a number of owners clubs. In spite of their age many 190's can still be seen on roads today.