SOTW: Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16

It's 1994 and I’m 21 years old, working in a Mercedes Benz dealership in Cambridgeshire. I’ve just been handed the keys to the 'demo' that nobody wants, a brown 190E 1.8 manual. Now I’m not sure who specced this car up, but it certainly found few friends among the sales team and was often left unwanted at the end of the day, although at least it meant the new boy had some wheels to use.

It was that car that started my love for the 190 series; it was so solidly built and felt of the highest quality - just like a Mercedes Benz should do. The doors clunked shut, the ride was whisper quiet and I could even forgive its rather notchy manual gearbox because it was so good at everything else. It was with this car in mind that I bought my very own 190E 2.0 many years later, a car that has now been replaced by a brown Range Rover. It seems I grew to like the colour too.

Throughout my time at the dealership I drove many 190Es from the aforementioned 1.8, through 2.5 diesels right up to the fantastic 2.6. One day, however, my perception of these cars would be raised even higher when I was asked to deliver a 190E 2.3-16 to a customer who lived 20 or so miles from the dealership across deserted fenland roads. I apologise now to the owner of this car, should he be reading this.

I wandered over to the valeting bay to see the blue/black metallic car sitting there with its half leather Recaros front and rear, the additional dials in the centre console, the lowered stance and subtle bodykit. It looked fantastic and I was hugely excited at the chance to drive the car that we simply called 'The Cossie'. The dog-leg gearbox threw me at first but I found 1st in the end and set off on my delivery run. Naturally I was running a little bit late and so I needed to make up the time. Out on the flat and deserted fenland it was obvious that this car handled much better than your common or garden 190; the increased torque was noticeable, the 16-valver loved to be revved and even the usually notchy Merc 'box seemed smoother in this car. By the time I had reached my destination I had to allow the car to cool after the thrashing, top up the fuel and wipe off the flies, I then drove slowly up the road to the new owner and handed over his pride and joy.

The history of the 2.3-16  is fairly glamorous as it was originally conceived through a desire by Benz to (unbelievably) go rallying in a 190E, and Mercedes asked Cosworth to create an engine with 320hp (codenamed WAA) to compete with the Audi Quattro. However, in the end Mercedes decided to enter the DTM instead and had to sell a road going version to be able to compete. The road-ready 2.3-16 made its debut at the 1983 Frankfurt show with a detuned version of the Cosworth motor delivering 185bhp and 143mph performance. All these years later, I think it is fair to say that this car is as desirable today as it was when new.

Desirable may not be a word that you would choose to use about this week's SOTW. It’s a 1986 190E 2.3-16, an original Cossie with only 146,000 miles on the clock. The trouble is that this one has been sitting in a garage for an undisclosed number of years and has no MOT. However, take a look at the pictures and it looks largely original (steering wheel aside) and would make an ideal project for someone, especially when you consider that average-condition runners are fetching upwards of £2500 and mint examples over £5000. I imagine that we'll take some stick for this car, but I love it and would be tempted if I had a garage and could get it for the right price. The question is, however: am I alone in that view?

Ad says: 1986 MERCEDES-BENZ 190 190E 2.3 16V 4dr Saloon. 4 Door Saloon, Petrol, Manual, no tax or mot been parked in a garrage for a few years 5 speed dog leg gearbox very good condition bargain!. £999 ONO.


Comments (117) Join the discussion on the forum

  • general190 03 Jul 2009

    No..... You are not alone
    For I am here with you
    Though you're far away
    I am here to stay


    (Sorry I couldnt Resist!)

  • Dunk76 03 Jul 2009

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Weeeell, seeing as you ask; everything!

    Well, that's not entirely fair - but they do rust in some awkward places, eat LSDs on pre May '86 versions, wear out suspension bushes and SLS spheres, and the Jetronic constant fuel injection is a bloody travesty and a real black art to diagnose when it gets a hiccup.

    A poor 2.3-16 is a terrible thing indeed, a good one is a miracle of poise and balance.

    Better chassis than the E30 M3 in my opinion. The liberties which one can take with it on the limit are quite astonishing. It's a car that needs to be driven utterly flat-out to understand, otherwise they seem quite dull.

  • minimatt1967 03 Jul 2009

    great shed! How much would you pay for an E30 M3 in equivalent condition?

  • davidcharles 03 Jul 2009

    ..the steering wheel in that car is just plain wrong.

  • Dunk76 03 Jul 2009

    The standard one isn't much better. Being the same they fitted to all Mercedes from Buses to lorries to Vans to Cars.

    forgot to mention the valver's little anorak secret - fully adjustable suspension geometry... from the factory. 8)

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