The 1983-1988 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 was a somewhat unexpected version of Mercedes' entry-level W201 compact sedan -- a "factory hot rod" to counter the sportiest small BMWs and to win some business back from aftermarket concerns that had been cashing in by turning ordinary Mercedes into high-performance "sports sedans."

Starting with the everyday 190E 2.3, M-B installed a new twin-cam 16-valve version of its four-cylinder injected engine (developed by Cosworth in England), added "aero" rocker skirting and decklid spoiler, upgraded the suspension, enlarged the tires and antilock brakes, and spruced up the cabin with extra gauges, a bucketed two-place back seat, and standard leather trim.

The result was a car that could manage 0-60 in under 8 seconds with the five-speed manual (a four-speed automatic was ostensibly optional) and tear through slaloms with balanced, forgiving responses and plenty of stick.

Alas, it wasn't cheap -- nearly $12,000 more than the ordinary 190E 2.3. That, plus its specialized nature limited sales -- so much so in the U.S. that the 2.3-16 was withdrawn after just two years (1986-1987). But the concept continued for Europe, first in late 1988 with a replacement 2.5-16 packing 204 horses, followed in 1990 by an even wilder-looking "Evolution II" with 235 bhp.

It is highly desired by U.S. enthusiasts as a "short-timer" in this market, but those European continuations ultimately diminish the 2.3-16's collector-car luster -- and maybe values, too.

Pluses of the 1983-1988 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16:

  • Superb acceleration, handling, braking
  • Quite refined for a "factory hot rod"
  • Sedan practicality
  • Easy parts/service even in U.S.

Minuses of the 1983-1988 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16:

  • Some dislike "boy racer" styling
  • Same small 190-series trunk and back seat
  • Specialized engine, so repairs costlier than already high M-B norm
  • Ultimate collector status unclear

Production of the 1983-1988 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16:
Approximately 5,000

Specifications of the 1983-1988 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16:
Wheelbase, inches:
104.9
Length, inches:
174.4
Weight, pounds:
2,770-3,030
Price, new:
Approximately $37,200 in the U.S.

Engines for the 1983-1988 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16:

Type Size Horsepower Years
dohc I-4 140 cid 185/167 1983-1988

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