Used car buying guide: Mercedes 190E Cosworth


If you ever get the chance to drive or own one, don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed. 

What we said then


4 January 1989: “The 2.5’s substantially shorter in-gear times reflect the power gain over the 2.3, setting it hot on the heels of rivals like the BMW M3 and Audi Quattro. Low-end torque is improved, but the smooth, free-revving engine still works best over 4000rpm. Brakes are powerful. It’s highly responsive but not nervous. The car has extraordinary chassis balance inherited from the 2.3. The limits of grip are high and progressive oversteer is easily countered. Body control is good and the ride never agitated.”

An owner’s view

“Owning a 190E 2.0 introduced me to the world of Cosworth. I stumbled upon a 2.5-16 online: full black leather interior, Blue Black paintwork, slightly lowered with 18in AMG wheels, Remus stainless steel exhaust and 140,000 miles on the clock. Despite its scruffy appearance, I didn’t hesitate to shake hands at the asking price. I have thoroughly enjoyed driving the car ever since. 

“I have subsequently replaced the front struts, discs, calipers, pads, plugs, distributor cap, rotor arm and drive belt, as well as all the engine air hoses. These replacements have vastly improved the engine, which now runs strong and sweetly. I also replaced the ‘Over Voltage’ relay, which cured the annoying ASD light that was constantly showing. 

“The gearbox was a significant problem, with shifts up or down to third gear being extremely difficult. The only solution was to spend £1200 on a rebuild, but it was worth it because the gearchange is now slick.”

Buyer beware


Engine: It’s important to thoroughly check the fuel pump for leaks. Additionally, the engine’s idle should be around 900-1000rpm, with a slight rattle known as ‘cam clutter’ being a common occurrence. However, excessive rattling on start-up could indicate a need for timing chain replacement. It’s also important to ensure that the engine runs smoothly all the way up to the redline, with no hesitations or issues. If the car is not idling correctly, vacuum leaks in the rubber hoses around the injection system could be a potential cause. These issues can be addressed through regular maintenance and careful monitoring of the engine’s performance. 


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