It looks a little silly at first glance, a compact mid-Eighties Mercedes sedan with fender flares and wings bolted to it. The
modified Mercedes 190E 2.3-16v set the template for an entire generation of The Fast and The Furious-inspired cars.
This hot rod sedan may seem a bit out of character for Mercedes, especially in its wildly aggressive final form, but it’s got a very important place in the flow of automotive history: many people agree that this is the car that officially kicked off the German horsepower wars. It’s definitely responsible for the BMW M3, because BMW put that car on the road as a direct response to the 190E 2.3-16v.
As with many car stories, it all begins with racing. Mercedes started out looking for a sensible replacement for the 450SLC that was its entry in international rally racing. Teaming up with Cosworth was a sensible way to go about it, and the W201-chassis 190E underwent a comprehensive makeover in 1984. And then the Audi Quattro happened. The all-wheel drive car took the rally world by storm, so Mercedes changed its focus to the German Touring Car Championship. The 190E was modified and did a successful turn in the series, racking up 42 victories over its life span. As regulations required, the car was also homologated for road use, resulting in the 190E 2.3-16v Cosworth.
And with that, a long-standing competition was born. As BMW developed the M3, the 190E 2.3-16v became more extreme as well. In its final form in 1990 as the 190E 2.5-16v Evo II, it looked and sounded like a DTM car for the street. Though the 190E 2.3-16v was only officially sold in the United States in 1986 and 1987, the hot-rodded 190E models helped to spawn a generation of legendary super-sedans.
Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16V.