The Mercedes 190E Evo I Was Great, But Ultimately Overshadowed
“Great” is a relative term. Over the last century plenty of “great” cars have been built, but as the years pass these icons are only as good as their offspring…cars which tend to only get better and better. The storied Mercedes 190E Evolution I is one such car—a striking, capable, and exceedingly rare sports sedan—that is ultimately looked over in favor of its younger brother. Nevertheless, it earns a spot in the Mercedes-Benz history books and this car, which recently popped up on eBay, represents a prime example of the rare breed. Only 502 Evolution I 2.5-16 cars rolled off the production line in 1989. This would appear to be one of those lucky few. Like many great Mercedes models, the 190e Evolution I was built for racing, or rather, to homologate entry into racing, and it packed some track-minded gear to boot. Immediately evident are the body mods—the pumped up fenders and the taller rear wing—which are shared with the Evo I’s racing cousin, and complement wider 16-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, and a trick height-adjustable suspension. All Evolution models came in the sinister black paint. RELATED: Check Out the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe
Its 2.5-16 engine (2.5 liters, 16-valves) also varied significantly from the standard mill found in other 190E sedans at the time. Its stroke was shorter, bore was larger, it could rev about 300 rpm more, and generated around 195 horsepower. An AMG Power Pack was also available, for a steep price, which bumped output up to 225 horsepower.
These cars were far from drag strip demons, but reflective of their touring car homologation, they could more than handle themselves when things got twisty. But in 1990, Mercedes one-upped itself again and brought forth the sinisterly styled Evolution II model, seen below. It did not mess around.
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The Evolution II brought bigger fender flares, a giant rear wing, 17-inch six-spoke wheels, and when prodded could unleash 235 horsepower. Its racing counterpart proved capable as well, taking the DTM championship in 1992.
In hindsight, the Evolution I is essentially the better behaved brother of two naughty siblings, but that certainly doesn’t detract from its no-nonsense persona. Pull up to a race track in one of these cars and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get noticed.
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Photo Credit: Kevin Wester and Mercedes press