Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16

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Right hand drive versions of the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 are now available though sales will be restricted to 600 cars over the next eighteen months. As most readers will know, this car uses a 2.3 litre injected engine with a dohc 16 valve cylinder head designed and built by Cosworth Engineering. This gives 185 bhp at 6,200 rpm and 168 lb/ft torque at 4,500 rpm.

The car’s level of equipment is impressive, with ABS brakes, limited slip differential, power steering, alloy wheels, electric windows, self levelling rear suspension, tinted glass and central locking. Unforturate, the price has risen from earlier estimates and now stands at £21,045 with items such as leather upholstery and an electrically operated sunroof, fitted to the cars I drove, available as extras.

It was not possible to drive the cars for long enough or fast enough to be able to anaraise them in any detail but Mercedes-Benz’s claimed 142 mph top speed and 0-60 mph acceleration in 7.5 sec seem reasonable. The car is stable under both fast getaways and heavy braking, the ABS system being slightly smoother than Ford’s new system.

The UK launch took place at Donington and James Hunt and John Watson were on hand to drive journalists around the circuit. From the passenger’s seat the road holding seemed impressive but what was really striking was the low wind and engine noise, Wattie and I were able to conduct a conversation without having to raise our voices.

There is a snag with the 190 series and it is one which, for me, takes the gilt off the gingerbread. It is the only imported car I have driven recently which has so obviously been converted from Ihd. The handbrake is by the passenger, the gear lever is biased to the left, and the steering wheel and pedals are poorly positioned in relationship to each other. When I found my most comfortable seating position I found I could not use the clutch without barking my left leg against the steering wheel. A senior Mercedes-Benz engineer accepted these criticisms but suggested one would acclimatise. I am not convinced one should have to adapt to a car for which one is paying over £21,000.

The five-speed gearbox is heavily sprung and even a straightline change is a two-stage operation. I feel many ladies would not enjoy it.

Overall, though, the car is a very desirable machine. It has recently been homologated and has already begun to appear in Group A racing. Mercedes-Benz has no plans to return to racing but it is offering technical advice and assistance to private teams.

M. L.

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