25 years of the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

A quarter-century of one of Mercedes' most famous models - and a video of Senna's Cosworth racer

The word ‘evolution’ is predictably close to evo’s heart, and the badge has graced several iconic performance vehicles over the year – Mitsubishis, Lancias, BMWs and more.

It has also graced Mercedes, and this month marks 25 years of one of its most famous uses – that of the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

Not the catchiest of names it has to be said, but its application more than justifies the moniker.

The story starts with the regular Mercedes-Benz 190e, given the internal W201 designation. At the time, it was simply an entry-level model for the brand, albeit one constructed to the same exacting standards of other contemporary Mercedes.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

That meant a series of hardy but hardly exciting power units, from a 90-horse carburetted 1.8 to a smooth 2.6-litre inline-six, and a plodding but unburstable diesel.

In 1984 things began to change, with the introduction of the 185hp 190E 2.3-16 – colloquially referred to with the name of the company that honed its four-cylinder powerplant – Cosworth. The aim was to compete with BMW’s M3 in the Deutche Tourenwagen Masters, though in production form the car is best known for the driver who won a publicity race at the new Nurburgring grand prix circuit – a young Ayrton Senna.

The young Brazilian – at the time, a relatively unknown rookie driver in Formula 1 – surprised all by taking his 190 Cosworth to the win against names like Lauda, Prost and Hunt.

2.3 litres expanded to 2.5 in 1989 with the first Evolution-badged car, a production run of 502 vehicles enabling homologation for its DTM entry. The Evolution II followed in 1990, touting a bellicose body kit with wide arches, chunky 17-inch, six-spoke alloy wheels and a rear wing to both reduce drag and increase downforce.

Total output rose from 202bhp in the roadgoing Evolution (333bhp in the racer) to 232bhp, while the 190 Cosworth’s self-levelling suspension could be adjusted from inside the car with a switch.

None of this came cheap. The Evolution II’s contemporary $80,000 equates to around $143,000 in 2015 – about £96,500, or close to 50 per cent more than a new C63 AMG in Mercedes’ current range.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Owners will have the last laugh, however – values are quickly climbing and have already surpassed the cost of the brand-new AMG – and thanks to DTM victories in the early 1990s, the Evolution II’s modern equivalent will never quite have the motorsport kudos of its quarter-century old forebear.

Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/subaru/202102/2020-subaru-levorg-sti-prototype-revealed-at-tokyo-auto-salon
Subaru Levorg

2020 Subaru Levorg STI prototype revealed at Tokyo Auto Salon

13 Jan 2020
Visit/jaguar/xe/202100/jaguar-xe-d180-hse-r-dynamic-awd-review-the-drivers-choice
Jaguar XE

Jaguar XE D180 HSE R-Dynamic AWD review - the driver's choice

10 Jan 2020
Visit/audi/202047/audi-rs-25th-anniversary-package-pays-homage-to-the-rs2-avant
Audi

Audi RS 25th Anniversary package pays homage to the RS2 Avant 

13 Dec 2019
Visit/porsche/porsche-panamera-sport-turismo/202021/2020-porsche-panamera-sport-turismo-spotted-testing
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

2020 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo spotted testing 

6 Dec 2019
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/sports-cars/202115/porsche-ditches-four-cylinder-for-flat-six-in-cayman-and-boxster-gts
sports cars

Porsche ditches four-cylinder for flat-six in Cayman and Boxster GTS

New models eschew turbos with detuned 4-litre from the Spyder and GT4
15 Jan 2020
Visit/toyota/gt-86/202104/toyota-gt86-vs-mazda-mx-5-vs-abarth-124-spider-lightweight-sports-car-shootout
Toyota GT 86

Toyota GT86 vs Mazda MX-5 vs Abarth 124 Spider – lightweight sports car shootout

Three affordable sports cars from Japan and, er, Japan battle it out on the Yorkshire Dales
14 Jan 2020
Visit/news/202119/2020-geneva-motor-show-preview-what-to-expect-from-europes-most-important-auto-show
News

2020 Geneva motor show preview

Electrification will likely dominate proceedings, but Geneva will have plenty of performance metal to get excited about too
17 Jan 2020
Visit/features/22907/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-col-de-turini
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Col de Turini

We take the Hyundai i30 Fastback N up the Col de Turini, a 31km stage of the Monte Carlo World Rally Championship
19 Jul 2019