Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG
As AMG became more successful on the track its road cars got more attention. A prime candidate to be fettled and tweaked by AMG was the road-going four-cyliner 16-valve 190E, and it provided a power pack that increased the output of the 2.5-16 and Evolution I model’s engine. But it didn’t limit itself to just the four-cylinder car, and in true AMG style, it found a way of squeezing as big an engine as possible into the small saloon. The result was the 190E 3.2 AMG, fitted with a 234bhp 3.2-litre straight-six – an engine a whole 0.6-litre bigger than the one Mercedes thought appropriate. This was the first time an AMG was sold directly from Mercedes dealerships, too, perfectly complementing the company’s new on-track partnership
Few things about the 190E 3.2 AMG scream that this is a performance car; there’s no overtly aggressive styling and none of the dramatic noises that sporty modern cars have conditioned us to think necessary.
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But, at your first opportunity to feel the 190’s performance you realise its sombre, subtle appearance and muffled sound are perfectly suited to its approach to thrills. The acceleration is tranquil and the engine revs slowly and smoothly. Much of that lack of urgency is down to the frustratingly unresponsive automatic gearbox; it seems to want to hold onto gears unless you jab the throttle severely. That’s not an action that usually feels appropriate in a rear-wheel drive saloon, instead wanting to feed the power in more sedately, but the AMG simply isn’t potent enough for you to need to worry about being ruthless with the accelerator. And, any real aggression is absorbed by the masses of body roll the suspension allows. On a circuit is certainly not the 190E AMG’s natural habitat.
What can be said for the 3.2 AMG is just how refined it is; what it lacks in aggression it makes up for in serenity. Wind and engine noise is surprisingly low for a car from 1988, while the soft suspension helps create a very plush ride. It would make a pleasant autobahn cruiser, and once you’d got it up to speed it would be easy to maintain a decent pace.