Last year in 2015, The Mercedes Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II (insanely long name, yes) completed a quarter-century from when it was first introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1990. It was a limited edition model based on the company’s W201 chassis that received the second iteration of Cosworth’s masterfully-tuned 2.5-litre engine, which back then, produced a respectable 185bhp of power. But before that engine ever found its way in the company’s limited-edition road going car that today is one of the most sought-after machines, it was created to destroy Audi in DTM racing.
It was a year of surprise for engine-tuners Cosworth when Mercedes-Benz arrived knocked at their door sometime during the mid-80s, requesting the turner to develop a special engine that the German automaker would take with them into motorsport. Mercedes-Benz at this point had plans to re-enter direct factory racing from which they had retired from after the horrific crash of 1955 that killed 80 spectators when Pierre Levegh’s 300 SLR flew into the audience at high speed. The plan was the create a competitive Group B car based on the Mercedes Benz W201 chassis and had the M102 2.3-litre engine tuned by Cosworth at its heart.
All was looking sharp for the Mercedes Benz 190E to take on motorsport at both rally and the road stage when Audi introduced the Audi Quattro that came with the company’s all-wheel drive technology and turbocharging. The naturally-aspirated 190E 2.3-16v engine was immediately outclassed by the performance of the turbocharged Audi, while at the same time being completely outmanoeuvred by its all-wheel drive Quattro system.
Determined to make their return to motorsport a successful one, Mercedes-Benz turned their attention towards the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft – DTM. In the German Touring Car Championship, every manufacturer was required to participate with a car that had a road going equivalent that they could sell from their showrooms. And so to make this happen, Mercedes-Benz created the 190E 2.3-16V Evolution, that housed a detuned version of Cosworth’s 2.3-16V engine producing 185bhp.
The Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16v that began as a competition to Audi’s Quattro was the beginning in the evolution of one of Mercedes-Benz’s greatest hits. The company continued development of their 2.3-litre engine with Cosworth and later updated it to a 2.5-litre unit that made its debut in the Mercedes Benz 190E 2.5-16v Evolution. But the epitome of the Mercedes-Cosworth partnership was the famed and limited to 502 units, Mercedes Benz 190E Evolution II, that can be called one of the greatest super saloons that the German automaker has ever made. The DTM 190E Evo 2 would go on to win the 1992 championship season, snatching the hattrick away from Audi.