When it first arrived on the scene, the forerunner of the C-Class was dubbed “Baby Benz” by the press because of its unusually economical dimensions – but it performed impeccably and went on to enjoy a great career, for it precisely reflected the spirit of the times. Whilst customers in the Helmut Kohl era still valued the proverbial Mercedes safety and quality just as much as before, they now wanted their cars to be more compact, sportier. Understatement was the order of the day.
In line with these wishes, the 190’s design radically broke existing habits. In spite of some initial scepticism, it sold extremely well, and became one of the most successful models. This was mainly due to the safety standards, which were unusually high for a compact vehicle – indeed, they were every bit as good as the famous S-Class’s. And it was sporty, too: a new wheel suspension – shock absorber strut independent front suspension with anti-dive control, and multi-link independent rear suspension – offered superb handling.
The 190 E 2.3-16 represented a milestone in the model series, bringing new sporty glamour with its 136 kW four-cylinder engine and the characteristic jaunty rear spoiler. It proved its excellent performance with a sensational world record on the high-speed test track in Nardo, Italy: 50,000 kilometres nonstop at an average of nearly 250 km/h.