1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

When I got my first job out of grad school, I needed a cheap daily driver to commute to work. Everyone told me to just buy a Honda and be done with it. But I knew that wasn’t going to work. I wanted something unusual, safe, classy and preferably German. And that’s how I came to buy a W201. I didn’t really know much about them at the time. But a nice looking example popped up for sale near me, and as soon as I drove it I was hooked. The 190E rides like a shrunken S-class: luxurious, sturdy and solid. The straight six motor is creamy and robust. And the design of the car is really quite handsome, under-appreciated even, especially when seen from the rear three-quarter angle. True, the 190E is not fast, the KE-Jetronic fuel injection system is a real pain when it goes wrong and, owing to the gearing on the old school four-speed automatic, the 2.6 is not as fuel efficient as it should be (the 2.3 isn’t much better either). Still, a nicely kept W201 can be a neat and satisfying entry point into budget-friendly German motoring. Provided you pick a good one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on Central NJ Craigslist

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The more I stare at the 2.3-16, the more I realize just how right Mercedes-Benz got it with the design of this car. The starting point was already a good one. The stock 190E, with its restrained, angular good looks and taut lines, brought Mercedes’s design language out of the 70s and firmly into the 80s. But the flared wheel arches, revised valences and rear deck spoiler found on the 2.3-16 turn the staid W201 into a car that looks ready to go racing. Which it did, first as a rally car and, when that didn’t work out, at the DTM. Power came from a version of the M102 2.3 liter four pot engine – later enlarged to 2.5 liters in the European market – breathed on by British tuning company Cosworth. But despite the looks and pedigree, the 2.3-16 has never attracted the same kind of attention or following as its obvious competitor, the E30 M3. The market for these is pretty spotty. They don’t appear very frequently and when they do, many of them have been battered and broken by neglectful owners. Still, every now and again a really nice one pops up.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on eBay

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

One of the first cars to be produced following the official merger between AMG and Mercedes-Benz was the 190E AMG 3.2. These cars came with an aggressive bodykit, giving the W201 a wedge-shaped profile reminiscent of the infamous W124 Hammer, and an enlarged version of the M103 six cylinder motor, bored out to 3.2 liters to produce about 234 hp. Only around 200 of these were made, so the chances of finding one today are slim. However, for a time AMG continued to offer an à la carte menu of upgrades for Mercedes customers to choose from. As a result, a number of W201s were specified with an idiosyncratic mixture of AMG styling and performance parts. This 190E for example, for sale near Stuttgart in Germany, combines an almost bone stock exterior with an AMG-modified motor, making for the ultimate sleeper.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E AMG 3.2 on Mobile.de

Feature Listing: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

Feature Listing: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

Creating the W201 series was a monumental undertaking for Daimler-Benz. Design and prototyping ran through the early days of the 1980s as the company spent 2,000,000,000 DM in development costs for the small chassis to compete against the 3-series. This amount included construction of a new factory in Bremen to help produce the W201. Bruno Sacco, head of Mercedes-Benz styling in the late 1970s and early 1980s, created a compact rendering of the S-class formula which worked well. The chassis brought new refinement to the small executive market, with multi-link independent rear suspension and anti-dive front suspension, along with increased levels of sound deadening and lower wind noise from the aerodynamic design.

Mercedes-Benz wasted little time demonstrating that the new “Baby Benz” was, indeed, worthy of the three-pointed star. The culture within the engineering department was still very much funded with an open checkbook, so no stone was left unturned to created a sedan of unparalleled quality and without compromise. To prove this point, shortly after its introduction Daimler-Benz took three of the newly launched, high-performance 190E 2.3-16 variant to the Nardo test track in Italy. At a time when not many family sedans were able to exceed much more than 110 mph, the diminutive Benz topped 150. But it wasn’t just for a moment; over ten days, the W201s lapped Nardo at a fevered pace, conquering world records in distance over time. First fell the 25,000 km World Record time, then the 25,000 mile one. Ultimately, along with a slew of class records, the 190E 2.3-16s averaged 154 mph for 31,000 miles – yet still returned over 10 mpg.

That achievement signaled the launch of a new level of small sedan performance which soon would be met with improved models from BMW and other marques. And while those subsequent models would go on to be more famous on the race track, the 190E made its mark nonetheless.…

1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 manual

1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 manual

I’m a purist at heart. I like older cars that have survived into the present while remaining practically bone stock and unmodified. But I also realize that there are many different ways to love and appreciate cars, and the stance scene – with its lowered ride heights, deep dish rims and negative camber –  is just another of them. So even though I don’t quite understand it, or find it all that appealing, I respect the craft, and the obsession that goes into creating these cars. This modified 190E caught my eye on the Benzworld classified forum. It’s riding low, but not too low, and while the wheels really don’t quite fit, they are at least very handsome. And with an “Avantgarde” interior taken from a European spec car, the inside on this one’s a bit of a treat too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on Benzworld

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

Last week I wrote up a tidy looking 190E 2.3-16, the boxy, 80s DTM-racing inspired version of the W201 from Mercedes that has never really gained the same kind of attention as its obvious competitor, the E30 M3. Perhaps that is changing, as more of these come to market in respectable shape. The general consensus among enthusiasts, however, seems to be that these cars are neither desirable nor fast enough to merit the higher price tags we’re beginning to see. (Once upon a time they were firmly in the sub-$10k category, whereas now sellers seem to want the mid teens and up for non-basket case examples.) But maybe the skeptics will be won over by a an imported 2.5-16 like this one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 on eBay

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The 2.3-16 is more than just a W201 in a fancy bodykit. Developed by Mercedes-Benz to go rallying, it was redeployed in the DTM instead when it became clear that it stood no chance against the Audi Quattro. Powered by a willing four cylinder, 16v motor with a head provided by British racing firm Cosworth, it has nonetheless struggled to move out from underneath the shadow of the E30 M3. While the M3 has now attained legendary status amongst enthusiasts, with eye-watering prices to match, the 190E has rather languished. True, it’s not quite as fun or as fast as the M3 (especially in US specification). It’s not that fast at all, in fact: many modern day, entry level cars will pull away from it quite easily. Still, these 190E Cosworths are great  because they retain all of the admirable qualities of the W201 (a confidence inspiring, over-engineered chassis, indestructible build quality) while dialing up the fun.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on Atlanta, GA Craigslist

1986 Mercdes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1986 Mercdes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The 190E 2.3-16, Mercedes’ competitor to the E30 M3, remains relatively under appreciated, with values struggling to climb higher than the mid teens for a nice example. (If you can find one. Many come to market in a sad state.) The upshot is that those looking for an 80s DTM-inspired hot rod can pick one up relatively cheaply. They’re not all that fast by today’s standards –  a humdrum Honda with a V6 would probably undoubtedly beat it in a straight line –  and the high strung four cylinder motor can be a bit finicky. But the combination of 80s Mercedes build quality, a cool aero kit, a chassis that inspires confidence and a dogleg 5 speed manual gearbox (first is down and to the left, leaving second and third directly in line) makes for a unique and enticing package.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on eBay

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1Built in conjunction with British engineers Cosworth to rally before the Audi Quattro debuted (and siphoned instead into the DTM when Mercedes realized it stood no chance), the 190E 2.3-16 marries the handsome lines and tank-like build quality of the W201 chassis with a race-tuned four pot engine and a muscular and aerodynamically purposeful bodykit. We’ve featured a number of 16 valvers on the site lately and I’m beginning to wonder if there has (finally) been an uptick in the market for these cars. It does seem as though there are more nice examples out there for sale with every passing year, in contrast to the raft of rotted out and abused ones that used to dot Craigslist not too long ago.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on Hemmings.com

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

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We are no strangers to the W201 around here. We feature them frequently, and for good reason. The 190 offered up everything ranging from a frugal diesel to a six-figure DTM super car with a myriad of other engine choices in between.  Today’s featured car for sale in the Pacific Northwest falls right in the middle of the range in terms of price and practicality. A Japanese import 2.5-16, it’s a little out of the norm compared to a 2.3-16 that North Americans are used to seeing.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 on eBay

Motorsports Monday: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

Motorsports Monday: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

While the regular 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth had originally been intended to be a rally car, by the time the company got to producing the “Evolution” models they were fully embroiled in the DTM war of the late 1980s. Massive wings mounted trunklids, fenders flared, and engines roared to new heights of power. While most probably associate the E30 M3 as being the pinnacle of this period, the wildest road-going warrior was the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Mercedes-Benz made 502 of these cars, replete with AMG-tuned motors and enough wings and flares to make an M3 jealous. It should be no surprise that these cars hold a special place in enthusiast’s hearts and they’ve led the market in value because of their very limited nature:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II on eBay

1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Euro-Spec

1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Euro-Spec

1I’ve posted several 190Es since joining GCFSB, making no secret of my love for the W201. But I haven’t yet written up a 2.3-16, the high-performance version developed in conjunction with Cosworth to go racing at the DTM. It’s not because I don’t like them. Far from it; I lusted after one of these when I was in the market for a W201 a few years ago. But the 16v models in my price range were all wrecks and so I settled for a stock 2.6 instead. (I did, however, get my hands on a full 16v body kit but, as some of you will know, I crashed my car before I had the chance to install it). The reason is rather that many of these come to market in poor shape, and it takes a special car to pique my interest. This one has it’s faults but, being a European market gray import, it also has a few redeeming features.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on eBay

1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

You know that feeling you get when you stumble across a car that resembles one you used to own, and now sorely miss? That pang, deep down in your stomach, of gut-wrenching remorse that you let it go, mixed with familiarity and excitement (“hello, old friend”), and the irrational urge to buy another car just like your old one, even though you probably shouldn’t (because: reasons)? I got that feeling when I saw this listing for a 190E. Outwardly it looks almost identical to my old baby benz, whose life ended ignominiously and prematurely in a ditch to the side of the I-95 on a cold, icy day in February. I still think about that car. This is my “one that got away.” If I hadn’t crashed it I would have kept it forever, because the W201 is the best kept secret in the world of cheap daily drivers that still, after all this time, feel expensive and luxurious. (A side note: after the insurance adjuster told me he was going to total it, a mechanic who was observing the scene, and who must have noticed the sadness on my face – as well as a lucrative opportunity – pulled me to one side to say he could probably rebuild it for less than the cost the adjuster had estimated, if I wanted. But because I was exhausted, broke and feeling upset and confused, talking to an unfamiliar mechanic who I was not sure I could trust, I said no. I should have said yes.)

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on eBay

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

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We’ve featured the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II a few times in the past couple months. Today we have another one that takes an already pretty bonkers car and turns the dial up a few more notches. This Evo II in California is another one of the 502 made that found it’s way stateside and of course, carries a mid-six figure price tag. But like I hinted at, this one has a few extras that turns the car into a pseudo DTM car for the streets. So let’s check this rare W201 with a little extra something out.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II on eBay

1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E AMG 6.0

1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E AMG 6.0

1This car is the very definition of a hot mess, so much so that I almost passed it by. But a V8 powered Baby Benz is such an outrageously fun proposition that I couldn’t resist writing it up anyway. In the 1980s, AMG was still an independent tuner that offered bodykit, engine and suspension upgrades for Mercedes cars. These are known to enthusiasts as the “pre-merger” years; AMG would later be folded into Daimler-Benz in about 1990. While we’re fairly familiar with W124 and W126 AMGs from this period (especially the W124 Hammer, which you can see Chris Harris hooning here), occasionally a 190E will pop up to remind us that the geniuses at Affalterbach also worked their magic on the W201 chassis. At first glance this candy red 190E appears to be an AMG-modded car, but a look beneath the surface reveals that it’s actually a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E 6.0 V8 on eBay