Performance


Behind the Baby-Benz: 30 Years of the Evo II.

5 March 2020

Performance


Behind the Baby-Benz: 30 Years of the Evo II.

5 March 2020

Mercedes-Benz 190 Evolution II

Only 502 units of the Evo II were built, exclusively in blue black metallic. Image: Supplied.
 

A lot happened in 1982. Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released. The first artificial heart was transplanted. And Mercedes-Benz launched its first compact executive car, the W201.

Initially, the vehicle designed by Mercedes-Benz then-chief designer Bruno Sacco and dubbed the ‘Baby-Benz’ wasn’t associated with sporting prowess. Early W201 models (the straight 190 and 190 E) had comparatively low outputs, and it wasn’t until the six-cylinder 190 E 2.3-16 model was released in 1983 that the car began to see results, breaking records first at the Pista di Nardò in Italy, where it endured a 50,000km torture test, and later on the Nürburgring race course in Germany.  

A rally car on a race track

The Evo II had a top speed of 250km/h and could accelerate from a standing start to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds. Image: Supplied.

Meanwhile, motorsport specialists at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart were working on the car’s next phase, developing the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution (which would be released in 1989) followed by the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Just 502 units of each model were built, available exclusively in blue black metallic. The 1989 release, while undoubtedly an excellent vehicle, was somewhat overshadowed by the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (succinctly referred to as the Evo II), which went on to acquire legendary status among racing and automotive fans. 

: Rally cars on a race track

The Evo II in action at the 2014 Spa Race Festival. Image: Supplied.

The Evo II was unveiled in March 1990, 30 years ago, at the Geneva International Motor Show. Due to the success of the earlier Evolution model, it is said that all 502 units had been sold before the event. The Evo II featured a radical body kit, with a large adjustable rear wing, rear window spoiler, and 17-inch alloy wheels with wheel arch flaring integrated into the line of the body. It was aerodynamic, and had been wind tunnel tested to reduce drag to 0.29Cd. Its top speed was 250km/h and it could accelerate from a standing start to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds.

A rally car

Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II DTM touring car, 1990. Image: Supplied.
 

It made its racing debut in DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) at the Nürburgring in 1990, with driver Kurt Thiim finishing third in an Evo II. At the same venue two years later (1992), it was the car that all three podium finishers were driving.

Although production of the Mercedes-Benz W201 series ceased in April 1993, the 190 Evolution and its variants live on in the C-Class and numerous other vehicles Sacco’s ‘Baby-Benz’ influenced and inspired.

By Anna Webster