"Big Wing" 190 E turns 30

The car with the biggest rear wing since the Ferrari F40, Mercedes-Benz's rare 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II, turns 30 this month. We think it's aged like a fine red wine...

Thirty years ago, at the Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz pulled the covers off its aggressive-looking 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II, the ultimate incarnation of the German marque's W201 compact car. It was a sensational hit, with most of the attention focused on its dramatic rear wing and race-car like stance.

That stance was no coincidence, as the Evo 2 was essentially the roadgoing version of the brand's successful DTM racer. Mercedes-Benz went on to build 502 examples of the Evo, always finished in blue-black metallic. These were the days before there were AMG versions of just about every model of the Mercedes-Benz line-up, and so the Evo 2 has become highly collectible. It was a raw, hard-edged car, even in road trim.

Racing Heart

Even when it was new the Evo 2 demanded a hefty premium, costing about three times as much as a basic 190 E 1.8. But then the Evo 2 was quite something... Its 2.5L 16-valve 4-cylinder engine (M102) delivered 173 kW in production specification, while the racing cars had up to 274kW! The road version had a top speed of 250kph.

Developed on the basis of the Evo 1 unit the engine in the Evo 2 had a shorter stroke (82.8 millimetres) and a larger bore (97.3 millimetres) than the engine in the 190 E 2.5-16 model series. The maximum engine speed was 7 700 rpm, made possible, by among other things, reduced connecting rod weight, 4 instead of 8 crankshaft counterweights and conversion of the camshaft drive from a duplex to a simplex roller chain. Interestingly, this was the last engine developed for DTM racing by the Mercedes-Benz engine department. After the Evo 2 it was AMG that took over this function.

That Wing

But what about that massive rear wing? The box-shaped spoiler was developed by aerodynamics engineer Rüdiger Faul (Mercedes-Benz Development in Sindelfingen) together with Professor Richard Läpple from Stuttgart University of Technology.

To optimise the stabilising downforce on the rear axle, the spoiler had a retractable flap on the upper crossbar. The lower spoiler strip at the rear could be tilted and the front spoiler was adjustable in 2 stages in the longitudinal direction. There were more changes compared with its predecessor - the Evo 2 was fitted with additional body stiffeners and larger 17-inch wheels, among other things. 

Racing Success

The racing versions of the Evo 2 made their debut on 16 June 1990 on the famous Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. By the last DTM race of the season, on 15 October 1990 at the Hockenheimring, all the works teams were equipped with the Evo 2. Kurt Thiim achieved the first victory for the car on 5 August 1990 in the first run of the airfield race in Diepholz.

In 1991, Klaus Ludwig became DTM runner-up in the Evo 2, and in 1992 he won the DTM drivers’ championship ahead of Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider. In the 1992 championship season, Mercedes-Benz drivers won no fewer than 16 of a total of 24 DTM races with the Evo 2.

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