Mercedes-Benz 190E ‘Cosworth’ (1985 – 1993)
The Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 ‘Cosworth’ made its first appearance at the Frankfurt motor show in September 1983, and as a homologation special for the DTM touring car version. Although the 190 looked great thanks to its subtle and well-executed body kit, its Cosworth-developed engine that made it truly special. it was based on the M102 four-cylinder 2.3-litre 8-valve, but thanks to Cosworth’s engineering excellence, the new cylinder head improved breathing and efficiency, giving the new car 149bhp out of the box in road trim.
Although performance wasn’t electrifying compared with future rivals, the BMW M3 and Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, with a 0-60mph time of 7.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 143mph, it was more than enough to help transform the 190E’s rather pedestrian image. Handling was also excellent, helped in no small way by a standard-fit limited slip differential. It was further improved in 1988 with the arrival of the 2.5-litre version with 200bhp form – and it’s this model that enthusiasts prefer today, given the far more potent performance. Evolution I and II models gained wild aerodynamic spoilers, and more tuning options, and are worth considerably more today. But values continue to lag signifcantly behind those of the BMW M3.
The evo view
It doesn’t take very long to recognise that the 190E Cosworth was built when Mercedes over-engineered its cars and really, deeply cared about build quality. There’s a solid clunk of the small door as you close it behind you, and the feel of the seats, the switches and the controls make it abundantly clear you’re in a 1980s Mercedes.
But that doesn’t necessarily bode well for its performance characteristics: solid and heavy rarely translate to something fast and lively. But the engines are strong, and despite the rumours, the 2.3 feels torquey enough for a classic four-cylinder. It revs eagerly, too, but taking it right to its 7000rpm red line is a little taxing – it’s best change up at just after 6000rpm.
What you aren’t treated to is much noise – it’s certainly more hushed road-car than barking DTM racer. There’s no tearing induction note to get you writhing in the leather seat in excitement, just a modest parp from the exhaust if you use lots of throttle and allow the engine to rev as high as you dare.
What to pay
Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 & 2.5-16
Manual cars are worth slightly more than the automatics.