Geneva or bust.

Mercedes-Benz went all out with their 201 model series at the Geneva Motor Show from 8 to 18 March 1990: the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II – soon referred to as the “EVO II” by fans – celebrated its premiere there some 30 years ago. The 173 kW (235 PS) saloon was the so-called homologation model for the identically badged DTM touring race cars of the famous brand with the star. 

Debut in Geneva: the “EVO II” (left) debuted at the 1990 Geneva Motor Show.

Big-time aero: the rear wing and front spoiler underscore the sporty aerodynamics of the “EVO II”. 

What a wing.

The super sports car made a dazzling entrance, whereby the rear wing alone visually cued the “EVO II” as the brand’s top-tree offering when it came to its sports car line-up. The rather box-shaped aerodynamic piece was developed by Rüdiger Faul (Mercedes-Benz) and Professor Richard Läpple (Stuttgart University of Technology). A front spoiler was also fitted and could be adjusted.

Sporty entry-level saloon.

At its debut in 1982, the Mercedes-Benz compact class (W 201) extended the traditional product range of the Stuttgart brand to include a third main line that was positioned directly below the upper and upper mid-size segments. The compact and economical “190s” soon made it possible to enjoy high levels of safety and comfort in the compact segment as well.

The W 201 also appealed to a younger audience. Take the 190 E 1.8, for example, which was powered by the newly developed 1.8-litre injection engine and debuted shortly after the “EVO II” in April 1990.

The super sports car of its time, however, played ball in an entirely different league. This not only held true with respect to the car’s driving performance, but also its price: coming in at a minimum of DM 115,259.70, the model cost over three times as much as the 190 E 1.8! Today, “EVO II” models are coveted classics that are traded at very high prices. In mid-January, for example, car #256 was sold at an auction price of US $ 434,000 with only 7,600 kilometres on the clock.

The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II was among the new models offered in the Mercedes-Benz compact segment of the 201 model series in spring 1990.

Exclusive small production run.

Mercedes-Benz built only 502 units of the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II out of a total of some 1.9 million saloon cars from the 201 model series. This rarity, coupled with the sports car’s exclusive equipment configuration, makes it a particularly coveted classic.

The reason for the small production run had to do with the “EVO II” serving as the homologation model for the DTM touring race cars of the same name. Homologation rules specify that a minimum of 500 vehicles of the respective model configuration must be delivered to customers.

Star guest.

The performance saloon has long been a celebrated guest star at automotive classic events. As of 2020, “EVO II” cars that entered the market in 1990 are eligible for a vintage car certificate and can be registered with a classic car number plate. 

The “EVO II” production high-performance saloon is powered by the 173 kW (235 PS) four-cylinder M 102 engine. The drivetrain was derived from the engine used in the predecessor model – the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution (1989) – which also only had a small production run. Unlike the latter, however, the power plant used in the “EVO II” was developed based on the 190 E 2.3-16 (1984), not the 190 E 2.5-16 (1989), despite the similar type designation. 

Alpine champion: Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Ambassador and retired racing driver Klaus Ludwig and influencer Shareen Raudies in the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II at the Silvretta Classic Rallye Montafon 2019.

In the first event of the Diepholz Airfield Race on 5 August 1990, Kurt Thiim (start number 6) won in an AMG Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II DTM touring race car. This was the first race victory for this very successful car.

Champion car.

The AMG Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II touring race car based on the “EVO II” is rated to 274 kW (373 PS) at 9,500 rpm. The “EVO II” made its DTM racing debut on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife on 16 June 1990. In that same year, Kurt Thiim won the first run of the Diepholz Airfield Race, while Roland Asch won the invitational race in Kyalami (South Africa) on 27 November 1990.

The vehicle proved extremely successful: in 1991, Klaus Ludwig won the DTM Championship driving an “EVO II” and in 1992 became DTM Champion with his team-mates Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider finishing as the runner-ups. In 1993, Roland Asch became runner-up ahead of Bernd Schneider piloting the “EVO II”.

Image gallery.