Celebrating 40 years of the Mercedes-Benz 190

by Craig Jamieson | Nov 27, 2022
Mercedes-Benz 190E W201
PHOTO: Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes W201 is now four decades old. And, if you’re actually old enough to remember (count us out for that one), it was called the ‘Baby Benz’ at its launch. However much that title wants for some imagination, it is rather fitting – Mercedes’ big push into the middle (manager) market required a small, relatively cheap sedan. And if you can believe it, the higher-ups at Merc were concerned a smaller Benz would tarnish the reputation it had spent decades building.

Mercedes-Benz 190E W201

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With the benefit of hindsight, we can say a) that absolutely didn’t happen, b) my, how Benzes got smaller after that, and c) clearly, anyone who was worried about the effect of the 190 had left the company before the R-Class got the go-ahead.

Mercedes-Benz 190E W201

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But let’s not dwell on the R-Class, the fact Mercedes made an AMG version, or how much like a rudderless canal boat it actually handled. Especially when we have the whole reason the C-Class exists. Oh, and the BMW M3... and small Benzes in general. Clearly, the W201 was a decent bit of kit.

Mercedes-Benz 190E W201

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Which is now, as we’ve rather covered already, 40 years old. But apart from the obvious 40-year-old baby jokes – and to which family member / public figure / character from a Michael Schur sitcom you feel like ascribing such a title – what is there to learn that we haven’t already?

Mercedes-Benz 190E W201

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Well, nothing, really – we’ve had four decades to learn about its life and works, from the rise of the compact luxury family sedan to its bewinged battles with BMWs in the DTM. But then birthdays aren’t a time to learn anything; they’re a time to look back and celebrate. So lift a glass, mug or stein (had to get a German joke in there somewhere, right?) and say a heartfelt prosit to a bona fide modern classic. Well, modern-ish. It’s four decades old, after all.

Mercedes-Benz 190E W201

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This story first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Mercedes-Benz
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