Used car review
Mercedes 190E 2.0i
It sits their gleaming in the sunlight, from the flank it could be just a few years old rather than a teenager. Its in immaculate condition for a car over 13 years old, but this is not some pampered heated garage pet, the tow bar , P and O sticker in the boot, and closing on 120k miles pay testament to that.
Opinion is divided on the looks, it can be nothing other than a Merc, who
seem to take styling only slightly more seriously than Volvo, yet for a Merc is
really quite slender and subtle . Personally if it was the right colour I would
find it quite attractive, unfortunately this one comes in pearly white which is
a little bit too obvious.
Also fitted other than the tow bar was a colour matched rear spoiler, which hints that this Merc has slightly more sporting pretensions than is normal in a Benz saloon.
Thankfully the rear spoiler is the limit of the plastic body addenda, the
rest of the car is mercifully free of plastic extensions. It also lacks alloy
wheels so there is plenty of scope for the baseball cap poseurs to customize
(spoil) away to their hearts content.
Not so easy to change would be the pensioner beige interior, which combined with the white paint and the spoiler led to my wife describing it as the pimp mobile. The entire effect isn't overly subtle and detracts from the classical elegance of the Benz.
Its a peculiar British trait to see low end Mercs as status symbols, when most other Europeans seem to think they are taxis. Even at this motors age it still attracts attention way beyond the reality of its driving experience. The downside of which can be noticed by other motorists somewhat overt aggression towards it. The front end of no less than 3 Benz badges, the lower of which is truly enormous probably doesn't help play down its profile..
The beige trim may be a garish, but you cant argue with the way it was put together or how well its lasted. The previous owner had decided to change the Benz wheel for a sports Item, I first thought this was evidence of a Boy Racer but having driven a later Merc realise its merely to allow access to the Cabin (see C180 review) . The wheel itself is nice enough but its downside is it obscures all the clocks bar the first 50mph of the speedo. All in all its a bit a of a farce and would be solved far easier is Mercedes could make a little less profit and fit an adjustable steering column to all models.
People were happy to tell me that this is actually quite well speced for a Merc of the Time. Personally I find just electric windows and near-side only mirror and bugger all else a bit of a let down in what supposed to be a premium car. Strangely it also has a single piece of wood which I could certainly do without and looks a little lost on its own around the gear stick. It also has a econometer which rather remarkably shows you when your pressing the accelerator and when your not and I would happily do without the useless object. It probably just as well the equipment is quite limited because frankly what few switches there are, are spread in rather eccentric fashion. Adding more I imagine would only become an ergonomic nightmare.
The whole Merc driving experience is really quite unique. The seats seem unfeasibly hard at first acquaintance as if made of conti board. The key sticks into the dashboard and has a strange restart sequence if you stall it. The floor hinged Accelerator needs a lot of ankle movement to invoke revs out of the engine. The clutch pedal was a bit baggy but the clutch was holding firm, and the brake pedal is quite soft but invokes decent response when used hard.
Lots of people prefer their Mercedes as automatics many even claim the Merc auto is the pinnacle of self shifting, the manual shifter certainly isn't a pinnacle though. The gate is very narrow side to side but long and heavy back to front and its also heavily off set to the left. Its the kind of shift that requires a very precise form of brutality to get quick shifts out of.
Your going to have to practice the shifting if your going to get decent performance out of the 190E. The engine is a bit flat below 3000rpm and that combined with long legged gearing means lots of stirring to keep up a decent rate of knots.
Though the motor is high mileage and displayed a little pinking under extreme load, it was very quite at low revs , strong revving toward the top and smooth throughout so I don't think it was too far from the original experience.
The steering is nicely weighted and On A and B roads the steering is accurate enough to inspire a solid sense of reassurance back to the driver. Combined with suspension that's just the right side of firm and well damped enough to quell any body roll through corners, whilst still giving a decent ride. The chassis feels so well sorted down wider roads that the car feels really quite slow. Back to back drives with other more mainstream saloons shows that the Mercedes goes ten mph faster than you think it does. The calm tranquility at 45mph feels just like 30 mph and makes the car feel slower than the reality. On tight back roads better suited to minis and hot hatches the Merc begins to struggle, the main problems being the steering's relatively slow action and the motors lack of torque cause you to work much harder than you would expect too. The Autobahns are more of a natural home to Mercedes, and when you get the Benz on to a Motorway it begins to feel much more at home. The faster you go the more stable and planted the car starts to feel at 80 plus it feels positively glued to the road, with arrow straight stability. At this speed the engine is just starting to work but hasn't reached the noisy patch above 4 -5000revs.
Seemingly idling At this speed you tend to become transfixed by the 3 pointed star which leads your way like a gun sight. Even more hypnotic is the single cam action wiper which constantly draws your attention from the road. The other thing which wont help in keeping your eyes on the road is the rather watery dipped lights, though main beam is fairly illuminating.
As a practical proposition a small Merc should be fairly useful, the boot is usefully deep if not massive . Interior wise it will swallow 4 passengers fairly well though heavily loaded the rear suspension dips alarmingly and it wouldn't be my first choice for towing..
The whole point of a Merc is the longevity which is promised by buying into the Merc ethos, Any minor niggles about the way a Merc functions can be described as character, but the way its built overrides any minor irritants that are built in. For the right kind of driving ( the relaxed type ) it produces a quality modern feeling ride which belies its age. Its not really the drivers car that the 190E has gathered the reputation of being but a decent car to travel in, a nice ride rather than a good drive.
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