Mercedes-Benz has built a reputation around making some of the most stately sedans in the industry. Cars such as the S-Class and the E-Class are known for their ability to waft through the twisties as if you were gliding on air. If you wanted something sporty, however, you would either check out the SL roadster or go to the other German brand with the blue-and-white propeller badge.
Yet, true Merc fanboys will note that today’s AMG sports sedans and SUVs trace their roots as far back as 25 years ago--to a time when the so-called baby Benz flexed its muscles as a sports car in four-door guise. Yes, folks, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II has just marked its 25th birthday.
Based on the W201 model line, the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II was first unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in March of 1990. It wasn’t just a new, high-performance model for the Stuttgart brand at the time. It likewise formed the basis for Mercedes-Benz’s entry into Group A racing of the German Touring Car Masters. As the name suggests, this was the second iteration of the Evolution series, which had first seen light a year earlier. But what made this car so special, you ask?
How does 235hp in a lightweight compact body sound? This was up from the Evolution’s already potent-at-the-time 195 ponies. To match its powerful engine, Mercedes fitted the car with revised front and rear bumpers with integrated spoilers, flared wheel arches, rear airfoil, and racy 17-inch alloy wheels. To top it off, all units were finished in distinct blue black metallic paintwork.
Of course, what set the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II apart from other Benzes of the era was that it was practically the very first compact to wear the three-pointed star. Not only was it smaller, lighter and more fuel-efficient, it also allowed the younger set to enter the prestigious world of the German marque.
Earlier examples of the W201 190E, however, had nowhere near the potent power the Evolution series packed under the hood. The base 190, launched in 1982, put out a measly 90hp, the 190E had 122hp, and the 190D (first seen in 1983) packed 72hp in its diesel mill. Enlightenment came in 1984 when the more powerful 190E 2.3-16 produced a rousing 185hp.
This set the stage for the model competing at the Nurburgring, driven by a then virtually unknown Ayrton Senna. In 1988, Mercedes-Benz entered the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) while working on the Evolution Series, which saw light in 1989. And to make the Evolution truly special, only 502 units of each series were made--the number needed to make the car street-legal.
Today, cars such as the C63 AMG trace their roots to this special car. To the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II, alles gute zum geburstag!