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Retro Drive: Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Retro Drive: Mercedes-Benz 190E
We borrowed an old 190E from Mercedes-Benz for some perspective, and fell in love.

 



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| Retro Drive | 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

This Merc maybe a lot older than the usual new cars we feature, but we like a bit of retro here. Most of us grew up seeing the 190E and its relatives as the archetypal 'Benz, the three-box shape with the star on its grille something so much better than our dad's Fords and Vauxhalls. Which is why, when Mercedes told us it had one we could borrow, we couldn't resist it. The modern equivalent is the C-Class, but park the 190E alongside the current car and it looks tiny in comparison. It's not: the space inside is ample, the cabin light and airy thanks to slim pillars and lack of modern-day crash protection throughout.

Simple, understated, tidy and extremely solid. That about sums it up inside; it's comfortable too, the seats feeling as firm and supportive as they did when they left the factory. The steering wheel doesn't adjust though, which, given the size of it, makes getting in a bit of a squeeze, but once in it's a nice driving environment. It feels narrow - supermini slim - which makes it a doddle in traffic, while the boot is massive, even if you have to drop your stuff in over a high loading lip. The dual-zone heater is a surprise, though there's no air conditioning.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

A manual gearbox is always a surprise in a Mercedes, this 190E featuring a five-speeder. Although the company is often criticised for the quality of its manual transmissions the 190's is slick enough, especially given the 200,000 or so miles that have rolled under its wheels. The engine is lovely too, the 2.0-litre unit not powerful, but smooth. It delivers 116bhp, but it's the 126lb.ft of torque that really defines its personality. The easy pull from low revs makes the 190E a graceful driver, it particularly impressive cruising on the motorway. Part of that is undoubtedly down to its 1,170kg kerb weight, which is featherweight by today's standards in this class. Economy isn't great with a combined consumption figure of 24.8mpg, but CO2 emissions aren't bad at 156g/km - the equivalent of a three-door 1.6-litre Ford Focus.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

Not so much ride and handling, more ride or handling. In the case of the 190E it's very much tuned to ride rather than handle. That's no complaint, as the 190E rides beautifully. The huge sidewalls on the tyres help, with the Mercedes gliding down any road as if it's perfectly paved. The steering isn't the sharpest though, the amount of slack leaving you to saw away at the wheel to keep it straight, and the brakes, while working, do require a bit more planning than a modern set up.

That soft ride means body roll can be a bit pronounced if you're caught out by a sharpening bend, but the 190E isn't about smoking its tyres, it more of a smoking jacket kind of machine. You quickly tune in to its old-school ways and adopt a more relaxed driving style, it actually being a lovely antidote to more frenetic, must-get-there-in-a-hurry modern driving. The 190E will get you there, smoothly, calmly and with real dignity.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Back in the day this 190E was quite the thing with its ABS brakes, heated door mirrors, colour-coded mirrors, tinted glass, five seatbelts, electrically operated passenger mirror, central locking and height adjustable seats. You'll get all that on a supermini these days. You might not get the optional cruise control or the fire extinguisher though. When it was new this car cost 19,920 as standard, the on-the-road price at the time being 20,484 with a couple of options. Today? You could pick it up for anything from a few hundred pounds for a runner, to around 1,000-2,000 for the very nicest, late model examples. That's a lot of car for not much money.

Overall: star star star star star

We rather fell in love with the old 'Benz in its time with us. We covered over 500 completely stress-free miles in it, and always arrived fresh and relaxed. If we needed a cheap, classy and capable machine for very little money we'd be very tempted indeed. It might demonstrate how far things have moved on, but not always for the better. What was classy then remains so now, though with more than a small portion of cool added in for good measure.

Kyle Fortune - 26 Nov 2009









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1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E specifications:
Price: 19,920 on-the-road when new - test car had optional extras.
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Top speed: 120mph
Combined economy: 24.8mpg
Emissions: 156g/km
Kerb weight: 1170kg

Full technical specifications

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.



Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

Mercedes-Benz 190E. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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