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The Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo Is One of the Coolest Mercedes-Benz Models

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2018

I was at a local cars and coffee here in San Diego this week, and a Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo II showed up with a for sale sign and an asking price of nearly $200,000. I was reminded, at this moment, that this car is one of my all-time favorites, so I figured I'd write a little piece about it for people who don't remember it.

For those who don't remember the Evo II, here's a brief history: The 190E was the entry-level Mercedes-Benz sedan throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, before being replaced for the 1994 model year by the C-Class. It was rear-wheel drive, but it was a rather lackluster performer -- until they made the performance versions.

There were several performance versions. The 190E 2.3-16 was an early one, with a 2.3-liter, 16-valve engine (hence the name) that made 185 horsepower in foreign markets and 167 here in the U.S. A more powerful 2.5-liter engine came out later, which pushed power past 200 hp, which was big for the time. But then, BMW came out with the "M3 Sport Evolution," and Mercedes-Benz felt the time had come for more.

The result was the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution I, which had roughly the same hp and styling as the regular model, but some other improvements, such as a higher rev limiter and an improved lubrication system, that made it a little faster. But the truly impressive model came next: The 190E Evolution II, with its crazy body kit that included massively flared fenders and a huge, memorable wing. This thing looked like a period DTM race car for the road, and its power now stood at 232 hp, along with 181 lb-ft of torque. Only 502 units were made, nearly all in a metallic black-gray color, and the car was made in just two years -- 1990 and 1991.

These days, the 190E Evo II has become something of an icon, with collectors trying to add the car that foreshadowed the beginning of many high-performance models from the AMG -- and a car that seemed emblematic of the start of the hp wars between BMW "M" and Mercedes-Benz "AMG." It's a special car, and it's always a treat to see one -- though it's a decidedly uncommon treat.

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Used 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo Is One of the Coolest Mercedes-Benz Models - Autotrader