Between 1982 and 1993, Mercedes Benz manufactured nearly two million entry level luxury cars labeled as the 190 Series. The sales were very good in Europe, but the little Benz did not do well in the United States. It was discontinued after the '93 model year. The M-B 190 Series was a small vehicle positioned below the S-Class top-of-the-line series and E Class mid-sized vehicles. The 190 was offered as a four-door sedan only and was powered by a variety of M-B engines; Inline four cylinders from 1.8 to 2.5 liters and a 2.6 liter inline six. Diesels from two liters to 2.5 liters were also offered, both non-turbo and turbocharged.
In a response to Audi entering into sports sedan racing with their Quattro" all-wheel-drive and turbocharged engines, Mercedes Benz turned to racing engine builder Cosworth to adapt their 2.3 liter I-4 for racing. The result was the 2.3-16, the latter digits denoting the sixteen valve heads on the 2.3 liter four-banger. In racing form the engine produced 320 bhp. The German Touring Car Championships into to which the racing 190 was entered require that the race car be built from a road-going vehicle, so Mercedes Benz prepared and sold a sufficient number of detuned vehicles. Badged as 190 Series 2.3-16, these little sedans were blisteringly hot.
While testing the "Cosworth" 190, Mercedes Benz set twelve endurance and speed records, including an average top speed of 154+ miles per hour. The street version still produced 187 horsepower and was a fast, nice handling little car. The 2.3 liter engine was bumped up to 2.5 liters in 1988. The street vehicles now had more than 200 horsepower in the sixteen valve version. A Getrag five-speed manual gearbox was offered in the 190 2.5-16.
The suspension on the 2.5-16 was lowered and stiffer than the stock 190. Gauges and seats were different as well, being more performance oriented. The Benz "hot rod" was competitive with the BMW M-3 and Ford Sierra Cosworth high performance machines. A little over 500 Evolution model 190 2.5-16s were made, that featured another thirty horses, an even stiffer performance suspension, and a power-pack' intake and exhaust system. This "Evo" was sold only in Europe, much to the dismay of American enthusiasts.
Diesel powered versions of the 190 Series were very rugged and many of them recorded over 500,000 trouble-free miles. The baseline diesel was their 2.0 liter model, but 2.3 and 2.5 liter engines were available in some model years. The 2.5 liter turbo model was available only in 1987 and these models are considered collectibles today. The 190 Series was replaced by the present day C Class of sedans, coupes and station wagons.
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