Mercedes 190E (W201) – All you need to know

The Mercedes W201 was in production between 1982 and 1993 and in that time it came in all sorts of variations and engines configurations, but the most popular one is the 190E. The 190E came with either a 2.0L in-line 4-cylinder engine, a 2.2L in-line 4-cylinder engine, a 2.6L inline 6-cylinder engine, or the two Cosworth made DTM engines.                          

All of these engines are indeed made to last, but the best ones are reserved for the Evolution and Cosworth models which are now incredibly sought after and expensive. The 3.2L 6-cylinder AMG engine and the 6-cylinder Cosworth engines are the most powerful ones with around 235hp.

The 190E looks and feels 1980s and many people believe that the 190E looks like a true Mercedes should. It is a really reliable car that can last hundreds of thousands of miles if kept in decent condition. Almost 2 million 190E examples were sold during its 11 years in production which means that finding one is rather easy.

The 190E is available with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed auto, and both of these are decent. However, be sure to replace the gearbox oil every four years at the very max if you want to experience all sorts of gearbox-related issues.

Mercedes 190E – The powerplant

The 190E came with all sorts of engine options ranging from 122hp and going all the way up to 235hp for the range-topping Cosworth and AMG models. Pre 1988 cars are known to experience all sorts of engine-related issues because they come with a single-row timing chain which is only able to last around 100k miles or so.

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Post-1988 models all utilized a double-row timing row chain which is a lot more dependable and able to last more than twice as much. The 190E is a fairly lightweight car which means that 235hp is more than enough. The 5-speed manual seems to be more robust and you get one extra gear which should increase efficiency.

The best 190E engine is the 2.6L because it offers a nice balance between size and power while being superiorly reliable. Cosworth-made 190E models are the most popular of the bunch and arguably the best ones to drive, followed closely by the EVO and 3.2L AMG models.

All 190E models came with a rear-wheel-drive system and there was no option to go for an all-wheel-drive system. All in all, the 190E offers a colorful powerplant palette and almost all of them are amazing to this very day.

 Mercedes 190E – The design and the chassis

The Mercedes 190E offers a classic Mercedes 1980s stately design that is likely going to look nice even in 20 years’ time. The 1980s were a time when Mercedes pushed a more angular design with boxy corners which make their cars look more substantial and commanding on the road. Nowadays Mercedes utilizes a more feminine design language in order to make their cars look more streamlined.

The 190E weighs about 2,500-2900lbs which means that it’s a fairly lightweight car. As such, a 235hp engine is more than enough for you to explore the dynamics and the chassis of the car. The AMG and EVO models are the most enjoyable ones to drive because they are tuned for such purposes.

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Mercedes 190E – Reliability and common issues

The 190E is a fairly reliable car that should be able to last a really long time if maintained correctly. The most common issues are down to the single-row timing chain design fault, head gasket leaks, corrosion, overall wear and tear and potential creaks and rattles coming from the suspension system.

However, as far as 30+-year-old cars go, the 190E is one of the best ones out there because it can last a million miles without any major overhauls. It’s worth mentioning that post-1988 cars are a lot more reliable than the earlier models.

Mercedes 190E – Value and practicality

The 190E can now be bought incredibly cheat, but if you want one in a more decent condition, you are likely going to have to pay a few thousand dollars. However, the most valuable 190E model is the EVO II which sells for more than $300,000 and the very best examples can go for more than $400,000.

Practicality-wise, the 190E is nothing to brag about which means that it can take you and 3 different passengers in relative comfort, but it can’t even compare to the current C-Class as far as space is concerned.

FAQ Section

Is the Mercedes 190E a safe car?

The Mercedes 190E is a relatively safe car, but only as far as other 1980s cars are concerned. The 190E is simply way too old to be equally as safe as most modern cars are. Mercedes has always tried to offer the safest cars on the market and the 190E is not far from that.

The NHTSA received around 16 different safety complaints about the 190E which is actually not that bad. However, the 190E is such an old car that most people are not even looking at such issues nor reporting them if they come across them.

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Is the Mercedes 190E a Mercedes classic?

Around 2 million models of the 190E were made in all sorts of iterations which means that there are too many of them. The higher-end AMG, Cosworth, and EVO models are indeed classic cars and they do hold a hefty value on the classic car market.

Either way, the more regular models are not considered classic cars and should not gather value over time. However, some pristine condition models are likely to increase in value, but only time will tell for certain.

What is Mercedes Cosworth 190E?

In the late 1970s, Mercedes wanted to compete in rallying, but they needed a racecar engine. Mercedes reached out to Cosworth for them to design and develop a racing engine for the 190E. However, Audi was dominating the rally world with its groundbreaking AWD system and Mercedes decided to join the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) with this very engine.

However, in order to take part in the DTM championship, a manufacturer had to base a race car on an existing road car, and because of this, the 190E 2.3-16V was born and was later replaced with the most powerful 2.6L model.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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