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Mercedes-Benz 190

Mercedes-Benz 190 Published: 6th Feb 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes-Benz 190
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The first true rival to the BMW 3 series, and a better car overall, yet prices remain criminally low for this down-sized E Class

Not a replacement for the W123 but a completely new car for a completely new market for the 1980s dominated by the BMW 3 Series. The 190 was, and still is, a serious rival to the Blue Propellor badge, and yet still handsomely undercuts the Bavarian in terms of value for money and are arguably the better built. However, the car lacks the BMW image – which can be a positive plus we hear you say…

What makes them so special

The 190 is rather like a down-sized E Class in terms of build quality but it’ drives far more modern and sporty with crisp handling, care of a new five-like rear suspension and some punchy petrol engines, not least the Cosworth tuned models which cleaned up in motorsport. Even the more prosaic models – including diesels – perform and cruise well and the 190 is probably the last of the old guard Mercedes-Benz saloons.

The majority are automatic; the manual transmission was criticised for a vague gearchange and some odd choices of gear ratios.

Right choice

There’s a huge range both in the UK and abroad. The base 1.8 petrol and the 2.5-litre 190D are a bit placid – far better is the 190E packing 122bhp 2-litre power although performance is still only moderate but the best ‘cooking’ saloon is the six-cylinder 166bhp 2.6 which performs very smartly if thirstily. The Cosworths are the real collectors’ items; a 2.3 or 2.5-litre that’s match for the Ford Sierra of the same name yet are still notably cheaper on the open market – apart from the Evo versions – as well as being more sophisticated. The 190 was ripe for personalising but steer clear of tarted up customised cars.


Ignoring the cultured Cosworths, the 190 is a bargain prestige classic; reckon on £5000 for a well kept model of any year or specification while honest examples hover around half this or less – it depends on whether the owners have latched on to their classic status! Ordinary (if you call them that) Cosworths will touch £20.000 (still cheap compared to a Ford) but the limited run Evo I and Evo II cars can fetch six figures with ease and up to a quarter of a million if utterly exceptional.

Significant dates

Launched in 1982, W201 has choice of petrol and diesel engines; UK cars from September 1983. 2.3-16V Cosworth comes along for 1985 and 1.8 also gain a slight power boost. Two years later sees a six pot 190E 2.6. Cosworth gains 2.5-litre engine for ’88, with start of Evo model a year later. Sportline option (uprated trim and suspension) on selected models from 1992 plus special equipment-laden LE for UK.

Don’t get caught out…

  • While panels are readily available from M-B and its main dealers it’s not a logical car to restore – Cosworths excepted – due to historic lowly values.
  • Rust affects sills, jacking points, floors; cosmetically doors, wheel arches.
  • Body kits common – some look good, but are also maybe hiding rust?
  • There’s wide choice of engine and all are strong. Rattly timing chains and head gasket failure want watching however – they leak oil here too.
  • Autos should be smooth and perky in ’S’ (Sport) mode. It’s normal to start off in second but should kick down if requested. Some come with electronic limited slip diff; check for noise, slack and has dash ASD light been doctored?

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