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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

Year: 1990
Model: 190E 2.5-16
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-4
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 74,000 mi
Price: $44,995

Selling a very rare and collectible 1990 MBZ 190e 2.5-16v Cosworth. If you’re reading this ad, you know how special this car is and it’s place in 1980’s automotive history. The car is fast with amazing acceleration and low-down torque supplied through a 4 speed automatic with none of the notchy, long throw gearshift issues that plagued the 2.3 models with the manual gearbox . Beautiful condition, completely stock, blue-black exterior, full black leather interior with Recaro seats, Becker stereo, MBZ fire extinguisher, owner’s manuals, first aid kit, three keys, OEM MBZ EVO I 16″ alloys wearing new 225/45/16 tires, (still have OEM 15″ alloys with new 205/50/15 tires). Recent full service including new front OEM Bilstein shocks, OEM MBZ exhaust, air filter, fuel pump, fuel injection tune. Needs nothing. Legally registered with a clear Montana title. Car is equipped with a catalytic converter – OBD I. It has passed CA smog on a test run. Many collectors are starting to realize the collector value of Cosworth’s in relation to the BMW E30 M3 of the same era. European values are already rising and good low mileage examples are fetching premium prices. Email with questions.

In America the 190E “Cosworth” was only sold with a 2.3 liter, four cylinder engine and badged as a 2.3-16. But elsewhere in the world, the 2.3-16 was replaced by the 2.5-16 in 1988. The M102 motor was bored out to 2.5 liters and equipped with a double row timing chain (the single row timing chain was a weak spot on 2.3s). Power output was increased to around 200 hp, a bump of around 20 hp over the smaller engined-cars. This car is located in California but a check of the VIN (visible in the image of the slam plate under the hood) reveals it to be a Japanese import. I think there is a touch of hyperbole in the seller’s comment that the car is “fast with amazing acceleration,” but it should at the very least be quicker than the 2.3.

Condition looks impeccable: the 199 Pearl Black looks beautiful over a flawless looking black leather interior. The car has benefitted from a recent service and is said to require nothing.  While it’s equipped with an automatic gearbox, instead of the infamous dog-leg pattern 5-speed Getrag manual, I’m told that the automatic on these performs quite well. 16″ EVO I rims are a nice upgrade. The only flaw visible in the images is a little bit of vinyl lifting on the interior door panel (a common problem on W201s).

As neat as this car is, I think $45k asking price is pretty incredible. In my estimation, it’s probably worth around half that, though it could be worth much more in future. The seller is presumably banking on the extraordinary condition of this car, and the relative rarity of the 2.5 liter engine, to get him that kind of money.

– Craig


  1. Mario Puente.
    Mario Puente. February 26, 2017

    “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”

    What “enthusiasts” did you run this by? It is the market who dictates price on classic cars and everything else. The market has spoken for decent (not perfect) examples selling for mid 20-s (Check Bring a Trailer or Hagerty Valuation tools, for example).

    Your comment about “speed” tells us that you may not be a true enthusiast yourself as the value of classic cars is not solely related to top speed or 0-60 figures.

    When wanna-be-enthusiasts try to write about cars 🙂

  2. Mario Puente.
    Mario Puente. February 26, 2017


    AND “I am told the automatic on these performs quite well”.

    1. Writer can’t drive a stick (which would confirm writer is not a true car enthusiast).
    2. Writer has never driven one of these cars.

  3. Blackfin
    Blackfin February 26, 2017

    Review written by a 15yr old that was told these are cool and knows nothing about “collector cars.” I spoke to owner of this one and although could be a nice car, his lack of being up front and bullcrap regarding it being able to pass smog in CA made me look away. Smoke and mirrors, it has no CARB sticker so you can’t register it in CA anyway.
    And these geeky very torquey down low compared to the 2.3, I know this because I own both

  4. Carter
    Carter February 26, 2017

    @Mario Puente:

    1) The writer of this article is an enthusiast, and well versed in W201s, and can (and does every day) drive a manual.
    2) He’s entitled to his opinion, as are you.
    3) I’ll leave the comments up, because in general I don’t want to be the censor police, but I won’t tolerate further character attacks on one of my writers.
    4) I’m an enthusiast, I like the concept of the W201 Cosworth, and I think you’d have to be insane to pay $45,000 for one.

    You’re right in that the market has somewhat spoken, but that market isn’t always full of “true” enthusiasts, either, as when prices rise it’s speculators often rather than specialists who take to the hottest trend. Just my 2 cents, it’s worth what you paid – but the car may not be.

    Again, appreciate the commentary, but keep it to the car rather than the writer. If you have legitimate points to raise rather than just character attacks, we’re always happy to hear them.


  5. Craig
    Craig February 26, 2017

    Hi Mario,

    Thanks for your comments. A few notes:

    1. I can drive a stick! In fact, though I now live in America, I grew up in England where practically everyone drives stick – because that’s how we learn to drive. I currently daily drive a 5-speed manual transmission BMW e34.

    2. I guess I was being a little loose in terms of my use of the term “enthusiast.” Actually what I was really referring to is that whenever I post a 190E cosworth on this site (which I do quite a lot because I like them!) the comments we receive are usually along the lines of “these are not that fast, not that special, and not really worth that much.” And while there is a lot of subjective opinion there, I think there is some truth in this – in the sense that the 190E is really not that fast by modern standards (even in 2.5 liter guise).

    3. I’ve been following the market for 190E 16vs for a while. I agree with you that mint examples are advertised in the mid-twenties range. I don’t know if they actually sell for that, but if they are truly mint it would not surprise me. In fact, in the post you’ll notice at the end that I said that I thought this car was worth probably half of the asking price – so about 22.5k! (You’ll also note that I remark how it could be worth much more in future.) The trouble is, many of the examples that come to market are not mint, and are therefore not worth that much. So I don’t really think we disagree that much about the value of these.

    4. I used to daily drive a stock 2.6 190E but always lusted after the 16v Cosworth edition. My car had a four-speed automatic gearbox that was typical of Benz transmissions of the era: it was exquisitely smooth, and lovely to use for cruising, but not all that conducive to performance. You would have to mash the pedal to the floor to activate a kick down switch to make it shift down. I used to think that it would have been a lot more fun with a manual transmission, but many people on the forums say that Mercedes’s manual gearboxes of the time were just not that great – notchy and balky (I can’t confirm because I haven’t driven one) – and that Mercedes were always better at making autos.

    In fact, it is often commented about the 190E cosworth with a manual that while it uses the same Getrag transmission that was in the E30 M3, it never felt as good in the 190E. I hear that a common upgrade to overcome this is to swap out stock transmissions bushings for Delrin ones, which apparently improves the gearbox.

  6. Son of stig
    Son of stig February 26, 2017

    I love this site….always my go to before I look at bat….so let’s keep the comments from becoming like a peanut gallery they have…. I’m wondering if Mario was speaking more on the sellers description than on Craig’s commentary

  7. Blackfin
    Blackfin February 26, 2017

    Wow, never seen an editor get so upset over responses from readers. Article was very badly written, full of his opinions written as they were facts. Lol at the responses from the GCFS crew. Make yourselves look like such whiners you make Trump look mature. Grow up or don’t make your blog public if you can’t take criticism.

  8. Craig
    Craig February 26, 2017

    Hi Blackfin,

    Just to be clear, I’m the author of the post, and I don’t mind at all hearing your criticism (though it would be nice if you avoided the unnecessary ad hominems: I’m not 15 years old. My hairline certainly attests to that fact).

    I stand by most of my original opinions, despite your criticism. I think the seller of this car has dramatically overpriced it. I don’t think the performance is all that great on these, which is why they are still not in demand the way that E30 M3s are (though I think they are overrated too: but perhaps that debate is for another time!). I think that since these cars are not that blisteringly fast, having an auto-equipped model is not the end of the world in the way that it would be for some other cars, but I would be happy to hear more from those who’ve driven both and can compare. (In fact, I seem to recall in old Top Gear segment Richard Hammond quite commended the auto on the 190E, though I would have to go back and check to be sure).

    I will happily concede the point that I overegged the pudding a little by saying “general consensus is ….”


  9. Early Smith
    Early Smith February 27, 2017

    Hey Blackfin, I own this car. You, my friend, are one big LIAR. We have NEVER spoken about this car. In fact, since it has been on Ebay or Craigslist, I haven’t spoken to ANYONE about a potential sale of this car. Yes, it DID pass a CA smog test. Yes, I will be soon be registering it LEGALLY in CA with a CA plate and NO, it doesn’t need a CARB sticker to be/get legally registered in California coming in from another State. And to all the other naysayers who are so quick to judge the performance of this car…how can you comment on its acceleration and outright speed if you’ve never driven one. I have owned plenty of German cars in my 55 year old lifetime, and this 190e has plenty of torque throughout its rev band to shame many other competitors.

    Blackfin…your word and comments mean NOTHING to anyone anymore!!!

    “I spoke to owner of this one and although could be a nice car, his lack of being up front and bullcrap regarding it being able to pass smog in CA made me look away. Smoke and mirrors, it has no CARB sticker so you can’t register it in CA anyway”…LIES LIES LIES

  10. Blackfin
    Blackfin February 27, 2017

    So you’re not the owner then? Because who was on the other line when I called 4153058725 and got a two second response of ” yeah we’re working on it, it will be fine. Hang up.”
    Smoke and mirrors, keep digging yourself in.

  11. Blackfin
    Blackfin February 27, 2017

    And for the record I know how fast these are and agreed with you regarding that. I have one here in England and would love to have one for the 6 months I spend in CA every year. But not if it can’t be registered. You have my number, it’s the international one on your caller ID. Show me it can be legally registered and it is worth what you are asking.

  12. Early Smith
    Early Smith February 27, 2017

    You certainly didn’t speak to me. I gave out my number to two people on eBay and no one returned a call.

  13. Early Smith
    Early Smith February 27, 2017

    In fact, just curious how you came by that number?

  14. Vince Davie
    Vince Davie February 27, 2017

    Talk your trash talk to another site. There was nothing wrong with the write up. Yes, I own one and also an 88 M3 and an 88 M5. Feel free to drop by my warehouse in Campbell any sat to varify this. I don’t even get the reason for your post, no coffee yet? Tell you what, go start your own site and put the hard work in like these guys do then you can talk. Hate when I see crap like that.


  15. Early Smith
    Early Smith March 1, 2017


    I have some news for you. The Cosworth passed California smog today and I had the VIN verified by the California Highway Patrol. I’m going to register it Monday morning here in Walnut Creek. You have my number…


  16. son of stig
    son of stig March 1, 2017

    who did he talk to if he didnt talk to you but i guess has your number but talked to someone

  17. Early Smith
    Early Smith March 2, 2017

    That’s my number, but we never spoke.

  18. Early Smith
    Early Smith March 2, 2017

    And rather than wait for Monday to register it, I just did so now and put it back on eBay with a clear California registration and title.

  19. Early Smith
    Early Smith April 25, 2017

    Hey Blackfin. Oi, big mouth, you going to buy this car now that it’s CA registered, or are you just spouting off again and pretending to be someone you’re not, like the loudmouth you are…

Comments are closed.