• 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II

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Homologation special. It’s not a term that gets applied to cars much anymore, but it’s brought us some great ones. Think, 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO, 1981-1991 Audi Sport Quattro, and 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 RS. The idea is to require a manufacturer to build ‘x’ number of road-going versions of whatever car it wants to take racing. It prevents engineers from coming up with anything too crazy and forms a tangible link between what fans see on the track and what they can put in their driveways. Then, a company like Toyota comes along and builds two road-going GT-One Le Mans racers and blows up the entire notion.

Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Debuting in 1990, the Evo II, as it came to be called, was designed to do one thing: beat BMW in Germany’s DTM touring car race series. Unlike the DTM of today, which is comprised of carbon-chassis, purpose-built silhouette racecars, the DTM of the early ’90s was populated with cars built on road-car platforms and powered by road-car engines.

After getting trounced by BMW M3s and the odd Ford Sierra Cosworth during the 1989 DTM season, Mercedes went to work updating its 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution. The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show ahead of the 1990 season, with more power and a wild new body kit. All 502 road cars required for homologation sold out before it was even unveiled. At around the same time, AMG (still an independent company) went to work converting an allotment of Evo IIs to race cars.

The Evo II debuted in the third round of the 1990 season at the Nürburgring with Kurt Thiim behind the wheel. Thim went on to finish the season in third behind championship winner Hans-Joachim Stuck in an Audi V8 quattro and second-place Johnny Cecotto in a BMW M3 Sport Evolution. Things went a bit better in 1991, when Klaus Ludwig drove his Mercedes to second overall, again behind an Audi, but the Evo II didn’t hit its stride until the 1992 season, when Mercedes drivers Klaus Ludwig, Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider swept the top three championship spots.

Because of its extremely low volume and ridiculously high cost when new (reportedly $80,000 in 1990), the Evo II road cars didn’t enjoy the same exposure as the BMW M3, but those same factors are what make it so desirable and collectible 25 years after it was first built.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II.

  • 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
    190 E
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • 0-60 time:
    7.1 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph
  • Price:
    65000 (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:


1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Exterior
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1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Exterior
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1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Exterior
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Based on the relatively conservative W201 190 E, the Evo II is master class in how to make a boring car not boring. With its massive rear wing, ground-effect body kit and flared wheel arches, it kicked off the trend of ever more-extreme DTM cars that followed. The new additions were shared between the road and race cars and helped improve both aerodynamics and downforce.

Legend has it that when BMW research and development chief, Wolfgang Reitzle, first clapped eyes on the Evo II’s towering rear wing, he commented, "The laws of aerodynamics must be different between Munich and Stuttgart. If that rear wing works, we’ll have to redesign our wind tunnel." Rumor has it, BMW did just that.

Mercedes says all 502 Evo IIs were painted exclusively in blue black metallic, but several sources say the last two built were specially painted in astral silver.


1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Interior
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1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Interior
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1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Interior
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Inside, the Evo II is more or less the same as the 190 E on which it’s based. The seats and dash are wrapped in black anthracite leather, with touches of wood trim on the dash and door cards. Unique touches include production numbers on the shift knob and a switch that allowed drivers to adjust the ride height of the SLS suspension system. Air conditioning, a fire extinguisher, rear stereo speakers and heated front seats were all optional.


1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Drivetrain
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The Evo II’s 16-valve 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 235 horsepower at 7,200 — representing a 40-horsepower improvement over the Evo I — and 180 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. To make the extra power, Cosworth engineers raised the compression ratio to 10.5:1 and peak revs to 7,700 rpm.

Performance was brisk for the time, but most of today’s mid-size sedans would have it beat in straight line.

The stroke was decreased but the new cylinders were bored, so it maintains the same 2.5-liter displacement as the Evo 1’s engine. As such, it’s a high-strung race engine that’s very different from the torqy high-performance engines Mercedes has become known for.

Power is channeled to the rear wheels through a Getrag five-speed, which incidentally is the same transmission fitted to the E30 BMW E3. Four-wheel disc brakes, with 300-millimeter rotors in the front and 278 in rear, are housed within six-spoke 17-inch racing wheels wrapped in 245/40 section tires.

Performance was brisk for the time, but most of today’s mid-size sedans would have it beat in straight line. The sprint to 60 comes in 7.1 seconds and it tops out at around 155 mph.


1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Exterior
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Current prices for the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II are through the roof, which mainly comes down to its rarity and associated race history. Good examples currently fetch between $100,000 and $120,000, which makes $50,000 for an E30 M3 look like a relative bargain.


1986 BMW M3

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II
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Like the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II, the E30 BMW M3 was forged in foundries of motorsport, and since its introduction in 1986, it has become the sport coupe against which all other sport coupes are measured. Its balanced handling and telepathic steering feedback are the products of near-perfect 48/52 weight distribution and finely honed chassis.

Its small, yet effective, 2.3-liter engine produces 192 horsepower at 6,750 rpm and 170 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm. The sprint to 60 comes in 6.5 seconds and top speed in 146 mph.

Because of a much larger production run than the Mercedes, E30s are also much easier to come by. They can be had for as little as $15,000, but values can creep near $60,000 for mint-condition examples.

1981-1991 Audi Quattro

1981 - 1991 Audi Quattro
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1980-1991 Audi Quattro

Like the Mercedes Evo II and BMW E30 M3, the original Audi Quattro was built with motorsports in mind, but instead of road racing, the Audi’s purview was the rally stage. Its innovative all-wheel-drive system came straight from a Volkswagen military vehicle and helped it win in its competition debut.

The Quattro had a long production run, from 1980 to 1991. It started life with a 2.1-liter turbocharged five-cylinder producing 197 horsepower, which propels it to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and top speed of 137 mph. Engines for subsequent versions grew to 2.2 liters and produce up to 217 horsepower.

Despite a long production run, Quattros can be hard to find and pricy. RM Auctions recently sold a 1984 Sport Quattro for over $400,000, but more common examples can be had for much less.

Read our full review here.


1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II Exterior
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The Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II has become a modern classic, not just because of its rarity and history on the track, but also because it’s such a wild car built at a time when Mercedes was otherwise building conservative vehicles. Along with earlier cars like the 300SEL 6.3, it set the groundwork for the fast sedans, coupes and wagons Mercedes-AMG builds today, like the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63.

  • Leave it
    • Hard to find and very expensive
    • Possibly underwhelming by modern performance standards
    • Somewhat bland interior

Source: SilverstoneAuctions

James Wolfcale
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