The Mercedes-Benz W201 E190 2.5-16

The Mercedes-Benz W201 E190 2.5-16

Following our journey from the previous Storytime, where we uncovered the history of the Mercedes-Benz 2.3-16 and 2.5-16 models, it’s time to venture into the evolution of the 2.5-16, affectionately referred to as Evolution I. Interestingly, back then, there were no immediate blueprints for a second generation. Technically, this car was just called the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution.

Let’s begin in the year 1985, during the second season of DTM. Midway through that season, Leopold Gallina made his entrance into the race series behind the wheel of a Hartmann Mercedes-Benz 2.3-16 W201. Unfortunately, he faced formidable competition in the form of Volvo 240 turbos and Ford Sierra 500s, and success never came.

However, in 1986, with the upgraded 2.5-16, things took a turn for the better. This time, the car secured two impressive victories. A talented driver by the name of Volker Weidler achieved an admirable second-place finish overall, piloting a W201 2.5-16 for Helmut Marko’s “Marko RSM” team.

During that same Paris Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz also unveiled the successor to the 2.3-16. Production of the original model had concluded in June 1988. As detailed in the preceding Storytime story, the 2.3-16 had been developed as a Group A homologation vehicle, necessitating the construction of a minimum of 5000 units within a twelve-month period. Mercedes-Benz effortlessly achieved this target, with production closing at nearly 19,500 units. At the core of the 2.3-16 was an engine featuring a specialized cylinder head developed in collaboration with the British company Cosworth. With dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and mechanical valve lifters, the car delivered impressive performance, positioning Mercedes-Benz as a strong contender in the high-performance Group A segment alongside rivals like the BMW E30 M3, Lancia Delta HF Integrale, and the Ford Sierra, which had also received the Cosworth treatment.

After years of entrusting the 2.3-16’s motorsport endeavors to privateers, Mercedes-Benz made the decision to officially enter the 1988 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) season. While initial results showed promise, the need for greater competitiveness prompted the pursuit of a larger engine. This initiative led to the development of the 2.5-16, serving as the foundation for the subsequent enhanced Evolution model, the basis for Mercedes-Benz’s 1989 DTM cars. Further exploration into the Evolution and Evolution II will be featured in upcoming Storytime installments.

The outgoing 23/2 unit was replaced by the new Type M 102 E 25/2 engine, notable for an additional 199 cc achieved through an extended stroke, from 80.25 mm to 87.2 mm, while maintaining the cylinder bores at 95.5 mm. This transformation increased the cubic capacity from 2299 cc to 2498 cc. A significant change was that cylinder head production shifted in-house at Mercedes-Benz as opposed to being handled by Cosworth in England. Nevertheless, the engine retained its dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and mechanical valve lifters.

Transitioning to the 2.5-16 brought several changes, including new inlet and exhaust manifolds. Mercedes-Benz also reengineered the throttle bodies, valve sizes and lift, timing chain, and crankshaft. Similar to the 2.3 motor, the 2.5 incorporated wet-sump lubrication, maintained a 9.7:1 compression ratio, and utilized Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection.

In the middle of the 2.3-16’s production run, Mercedes-Benz introduced RUF and KAT engines. The RUF engine operated on unleaded fuel, while the KAT unit was tailored for unleaded fuel and a catalytic converter. Unlike the original ECE motor, which required leaded fuel and lacked a catalytic converter, the 2.5-16 did not offer such an option. Instead, it exclusively provided a choice between RUF or KAT engines. The RUF version produced 204 hp at 6750 rpm (up from 177 hp at 5800 rpm) and 177 lb-ft at 5000 rpm (up from 170 lb-ft at 4750 rpm). The KAT version developed 194 hp at 6750 rpm (up from 170 hp at 5800 rpm) and 173 lb-ft at 5000 rpm (up from 162 lb-ft at 4750 rpm). The 2.5-16 engines delivered power at slightly higher revs and exhibited a somewhat more relaxed performance due to the increased stroke.

The transmission once again utilized a Getrag five-speed manual dog-leg gearbox complete with an oil cooler, a single plate clutch, and Mercedes-Benz’s electronically controlled anti-slip differential (ASD). The ASD was a hydraulically locking differential that maximized traction, allowing variable amounts of differential lock from 15% to 100%. However, it wasn’t a traction control system, as it didn’t prevent wheel spin. Activation of the ASD system was indicated by an illuminated amber triangle within the speedometer.

The only other mechanical difference in the 2.5-16 compared to its predecessor was a shorter differential ratio (now 3.27:1 instead of 3.07:1). The front suspension employed a MacPherson strut and separate spring setup, while the rear used the familiar five multi-link layout. Both ends featured anti-roll bars as well as anti-dive and anti-squat geometry.

Similar to the 2.3-16, the 2.5-16 was equipped with shorter and stiffer springs, firmer dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, harder bushings, and a self-leveling rear axle. The ride height was reduced by 15 mm at the front and 12 mm at the rear. Additionally, a quick steering rack was installed. Original 15-inch Fuchs ‘Gullideckel’ alloy wheels were paired with Pirelli P6 tires. The front featured 284 mm ventilated discs, while the rear featured 258 mm solid discs. The 2.5-16 was also equipped with a bigger 70-liter tank situated over the rear axle.

When the 2.5-16 made its debut, the Bruno Sacco-designed 190 had already been in production for six years. Despite its restrained styling, emblematic of Mercedes-Benz during that era, the design retained a fresh appeal. While the 2.3-16 was initially available in only two exterior colors (Blue-Black and Smoke Silver), Mercedes-Benz expanded the palette for the latest version by adding Almadin Red and Astral Silver. Inside, similar to the 2.3-16, the 2.5-16 featured a small-diameter leather steering wheel, a bespoke rev counter, additional center console-mounted gauges, and more generously cushioned sport seats with robust side support both in the front and rear.

The curved instrument cluster behind the four-spoke steering wheel seamlessly integrated with the dash. The speedometer was accompanied on the right by a slightly smaller rev counter inset with an analog clock, while to the left, a combined gauge displayed fuel level, water temperature, oil pressure, and fuel economy. The center console, located underneath the ventilation controls and audio system, housed an ammeter, digital stopwatch, and oil temperature gauge. All models included a Zebrano wooden insert on the transmission console. The sport seats were upholstered in black leather, while the seat centers matched the door panels in checked fabric or leather. Throughout the rest of the interior, a mix of hard-wearing, soft-touch black plastic and vinyl was predominantly used.

As was customary for Mercedes-Benz from this era, standard equipment was relatively basic. Optional features encompassed anti-lock brakes, full leather upholstery, air conditioning, electric windows (front-only or front and rear), an electric sunroof, tinted glass, an outside temperature gauge, a driver’s airbag, an electric aerial, rear headrests, headlight washers and wipers, a higher-capacity battery, and rear speakers. Buyers could also choose electric front seats, electric front seats with memory functions, or electric heated seats. Compared to the 2.3-16, the 2.5-16 carried an additional 50kg, weighing 1400kg instead of 1350kg. Nonetheless, the RUF and KAT versions achieved slightly quicker 0-100 km/h (0–62 mph) times than before, at 7.2 and 7.3 seconds, respectively. Both variants reached top speeds of 238 km/h (148 mph) and 233 km/h (145 mph), representing an increase of 10 km/h (6 mph).

Debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1989, the 2.5-16 Evolution 1 was accompanied by an AMG Power Pack, which also became an option for the standard 2.5-16, albeit at a 30% premium over the base price. This enhancement allowed customers to enjoy an upgraded engine generating 225 hp at 7200 rpm and 177 lb-ft at 5500 rpm, along with a tuned exhaust. In the 1990 model year, Astral Silver was replaced by the new shade, Brilliant Silver. Production of the 2.5-16 spanned from July 1988 to June 1993, resulting in a total of 5743 units, in contrast to the nearly 19,500 examples of the 2.3-16.

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