Weekly Treasure: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

Car Culture / Comments

The days before Mercedes acquired AMG.

It may sound hard to believe, but before 1982 there was no Mercedes-Benz compact sedan. The Mercedes C-Class was still a little over a decade away, though its immediate predecessor debuted in mid-82 as an '83 model. That vehicle was the Mercedes-Benz 190, internally called the W201. This was Mercedes' original BMW 3 Series fighter and it continued to evolve for over a decade until it was retired in 1993. It was offered with a variety of engines, both gasoline and diesel and over 1.8 million examples were eventually built in three countries. Sold only as a sedan, there were two specific variants that have remained icons ever since their introduction.

The Mercedes 190 E Evolution I debuted at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show as a direct response to the BMW M3 Sport Evolution. Power came from a Cosworth 2.5-liter inline-four rated at 191 hp and paired to a five-speed manual transmission. The top speed was officially rated at 143 mph, and only 502 examples were produced for DTM homologation requirements. Not surprisingly, each example was sold before the official unveiling, but Mercedes smelled money.

Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer

That's why the 190E Evolution II debuted the following year. The Evo II came powered by the same engine which also came with the AMG PowerPack, which was optional on the Evo I. Total outputs for the Evo II came to 232 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. Again, just over 500 examples were produced as part of the same homologation rules. The Evo I already came with a body kit but the Evo II's kit was far more aggressive. It was designed by aerodynamics specialist Dr. Richard Eppler and featured far more pronounced fender flares, a rear window spoiler, and an adjustable rear spoiler to help achieve a drag coefficient of 0.29. BMW took notice of that massive rear wing.

"The laws of aerodynamics must be different between Munich and Stuttgart," said Wolfgang Reitzle, BMW R&D chief at the time. "If that rear works, we'll have to redesign our wind tunnel." BMW reportedly did redesign its wind tunnel after that.

Lucid Air Vs. Tesla Model S Vs. Porsche Taycan: The EV Triad Is Complete
Lucid Air Vs. Tesla Model S Vs. Porsche Taycan: The EV Triad Is Complete
11 New Cars That Must Be Successful
11 New Cars That Must Be Successful
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer

All but the very last two examples of the Evo II were painted in Blue-Black Metallic; numbers 501 and 502 were painted in Astral Silver. Needless to say, they're each worth a ton. But that's not to say surviving examples of the other Evo IIs aren't worth a pretty penny. There's currently one up for auction on Bring A Trailer and, as of this writing, had a current bid of $115,000. There are still a few days to go until the auction ends so the final price will surely be higher. This 1990 Mercedes 190E Evo II is number 130 out of 502 and was purchased by its original Swiss owner who kept it for 29 years.

The second owner only purchased it last October and is currently located in the Netherlands. It has 84,000 miles on the clock, meaning the first owner didn't just park in his garage for three decades. He drove the hell out of it. His family commissioned some cosmetic work, specifically to repaint a few exterior body panels, which were the victims of a few scrapes. It happens when cars are actually driven.

Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer

Interestingly, Swiss market Evo IIs were not allowed to have the big rear wing due to some weird regulations, so all came with the small Evo I wing. Fortunately, this example has since been properly updated with the correct wing. Everything looks amazing inside and out, and the sale includes a service booklet featuring stamps beginning in 1990 through June 2016. Mercedes 190E Evos don't come up for sale very often, but when they do they're typically snapped up extremely fast and for mega-money.

Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer

Join The Discussion