30 years ago - the record drive in Nardò.
A new star is born.
August 1983: shimmering heat hangs heavily over the world’s fastest car circuit, the Pista di Nardò in southern Italy. Drenched in sweat, a driver clambers out of a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16. After the record drive at an average speed of 247.939 km/h, the ground under his feet feels almost unreal to Robert Schäfer. This is a historic moment. The jubilant engineers, test drivers and technicians of the “Red” test team are in each other’s arms. Covering a distance of 50,000 km in 201 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds, Mercedes-Benz had set three world records and nine class records in the previous few days. The star of the event was undisputably the “190”: this moment marked the international breakthrough for the predecessor to the C-Class.
A tradition of innovation.
The 190 E 2.3-16 marked Mercedes-Benz’s entry into the segment of sporty compact vehicles. The new development – soon to become known affectionately as the “Baby Benz” – was designed to be more economical than previous models – while adopting core brand values such as safety and comfort without any compromises. Six years of the most intensive and far-reaching development work ever undertaken by the premium brand spawned a true bastion of innovation: four-valve engine technology, newly developed encapsulated diesel engines and a streamlined body defined its dynamic character. With ABS and a driver airbag available from the start of production, the W 201 model series was ten years ahead of the compact class competition.
And the multi-link independent rear suspension developed for the 190 E 2.3-16 continues to be used in current models from Mercedes-Benz. In short, as a flagship for the comprehensive introduction of innovative technologies to this day, the C-Class is continuing the legacy of its predecessor, the “Baby Benz”.
Provocateur with charisma.
The “Baby Benz” represented a new departure on a design level, too: being targeted at a young clientele, it aimed to provoke. Under the direction of multiple award-winning designer Bruno Sacco, the new model acquired a distinctive aesthetic appeal that attracted the public’s attention. Precise contours, angular lines, a strikingly high rear end and trapezoidal surfaces. This so-called “diamond cut” finish lent the archetype of the C-Class a special allure. Its lines are so charismatic that even later vehicles belonging to the luxury segment, such as the 140 model series, cite features of the “Baby Benz”. Bruno Sacco himself was moved to acknowledge his admiration on the anniversary of the record-breaking feat in Nardò: “When I look at this car today, I must say it is still a beautiful vehicle”.