The Mercedes-Benz W201 was the first compact executive car from Mercedes-Benz introduced in 1982, positioned below the E-Class—and marketed under variants of the Mercedes-Benz 190 nameplate. The W201 featured a patented rear 5-link suspension, subsequently used in E and C class models, front and rear anti-roll bars, anti-dive and anti-squat geometry—as well as available airbags, ABS brakes and seatbelt pre-tensioners. In the late 1970’s, Mercedes competed in rallying with the big V8-powered Coupés of the R107 Series, mainly the light-weight Mercedes 450 SLC 5.0. Mercedes wished to take the 190 E rallying, and asked British engineering company Cosworth to develop an engine with 320bhp (239 kW) for the rally car.
This project was known as project “WAA’ by Cosworth. With a continued desire to compete in high-profile motor sport with the 190, and also now an engine to do it with, Mercedes turned to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) (German Touring Car Championship) motor sport series instead. Cars racing in this championship, however, had to be based on a road-going model.
Mercedes therefore had to put into production a series of 500 homologation 190’s fitted with a detuned version of the Cosworth engine. This high-performance model was known as the 190 E 2.3-16, and debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1983, after its reputation had already been established.