11th November 2007

Brooklands Motorsport and Aviation Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0QH


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About the Mercedes-Benz 190 (W201)

The Mercedes-Benz W201 was introduced in November 1982 as the Mercedes-Benz 190. £600 million was spent researching and developing this car with Mercedes-Benz acutely aware that a failure of this model could easily bring down the rest of their model range and ultimately the entire company’s reputation. By Mercedes-Benz's own admission, the 190 was 'massively over-engineered'. They were not interested in competing for one or two customers to switch from Ford or Rover, but for hundreds, even thousands, of customers suddenly to find a new side to Mercedes-Benz with a new image of compact executive cars. These new customers were not wrong. The UK market was kept waiting up to 12 months longer than mainland Europe to get the 190s into the showrooms, and as soon as the vehicles arrived in showrooms, they were sold. Local 'red tape' in Bremen prevented MB from building the 190 there as they wanted, so production was started in Sindelfingen at a maximum capacity of just 140,000 units per year. Eventually after just the first year, Bremen was cleared for production of the 190 and these lines replaced the commercial vehicle lines at Bremen which included the first running modifications since its release. The 190 suffered upon the release of the sportier and more powerful, Saab 900, Audi 80 and BMW 3 series in 1987-1991.

The model was a single 4 door saloon/sedan body type which was designed to fill a hole in the model range below the W123 Mercedes E-class series. It was quickly dubbed "The Baby Benz". However, despite being introduced as the cheapest Mercedes passenger car, this did not show in the engineering. Amongst the items that were a first for any Mercedes was the 190's patented 5-link suspension at the rear, used in subsequent E- and C- class models, and developments of which are still in use today in Mercedes road cars. It featured front and rear anti-roll bars, as well as anti-dive and anti-squat geometry. The 190 was also available with airbags, ABS brakes and seatbelt tensioners which were very advanced safety features at the time.