Happy 30th birthday, Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

Published: 09 April 2020

► Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II
► Happy 30th birthday, homologation special
► We salute the brawniest Merc of the 1990s 

The homologation special is an interesting phenomenon. A rare breed of vehicle, sold to be driven on the road, but with its design and function dictated by a motorsport rulebook, and a manufacturer building it to exploit as many loopholes as possible.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the coolest homologation special road cars in history – the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Despite having one of the longest names in motoring history, it’s also a supremely impressive piece of kit.

Revealed at the Geneva motor show in 1990 (below), Benz’s fastest 190E dominated German touring car racing of the era, and became an instant icon.

Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II at its Geneva motor show debut

Just 502 examples were ever built, all painted in the same blue-black metallic hue. They are most easily identified by that sizeable rear wing.

Mercedes 190 Cosworth vs E30 BMW M3: a twin test

Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II: that spoiler

As is usually the case with homologation specials, the aero wasn’t just a visual addition. Mercedes-Benz designed the Evo II’s bodywork with the aid of a wind tunnel, resulting in more than 50kg of downforce on the rear axle, and upwards of 20kg on the front.

Famously, upon seeing the 190E Evo II, BMW’s head of research and development at the time, Wolfgang Reitzle, said: ‘The laws of aerodynamics must be different between Munich and Stuttgart; if that rear wing works, we’ll have to redesign our wind tunnel.’

Turns out BMW did redesign its wind tunnel, as the DTM racer the 190E Evo II was transformed into was an absolute monster, filling Mercedes’ trophy cabinets with ease.

Engine specs

The Cosworth fireworks under the bonnet made the 190E 2.5-16 extraordinarily fast

Powered by the M102 four-cylinder, the Evo II produced 232bhp and 181lb ft (sizeable for the period). In order to produce the extra power compared to the engine in the standard 190E 2.5-16, the engine had a shorter stroke and larger bore.

The rev limit was raised to 7700rpm by reducing the connecting rod weight, cutting crankshaft counterweights from four to eight, and changing the camshaft from a duplex to simplex roller chain. Two metal catalytic converters were added.

Racing versions of the engine took things even further, upping outputs to 367bhp. This would be the last competitive motorsport engine Mercedes-Benz would build in-house, with that responsibility passing to AMG, where it has remained since.

Prices

Getting your hands on an Evo II wasn’t cheap at the time, with the homologation special priced at 115,259 deutschmarks in Germany – and today they sell at auction for around £150-200k. 

A brute on track: the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II monstered DTM in the 1990s

The limited road car supply was just a gateway for the DTM touring cars that would be built from the same platform. Mercedes-Benz’s hard work refining the Evo II netted impressive results. By 1992, the DTM car had been refined to such a point that it won 16 of that season’s 24 races.

What is your favourite homologation special? Let us know in the comments below!

This article originally appeareed on whichcar.com.au

By Cameron Kirby

Online editor of our sister-site, Wheels. Also, self-professed motorsport shoey historian.

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