Asuka Kawashima’s husband had always wanted a Mercedes 190E. In any color, so long as it was black. After becoming engaged in the early 1990s, a new 190E was not in the couple’s budget. “Knowing 1993 was the 190E’s last year, we tried to lease one but couldn’t swing the payments. He had committed a brochure we had on our coffee table to memory, and his appreciation of them never faded,” recalls Asuka.
After a last-minute idea to surprise her husband on their ten-year anniversary in 2005, Asuka purchased a used one on ebay for $5,200 – beating out 18 other bidders. “I was prepared to pay up to $7,000 because it was just what I was looking for; a 1993, black, six-cylinder cream puff. But I didn’t realize at first how unique it really was.”
The car her overjoyed husband received was a 190E 2.6 Limited Edition model, one of 700 built near the end of the 1993 model year to commemorate the end of the 190E’s ten-year production run. The original owner was a Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz dealership secretary who maintained it thoroughly there. “This car had no disappointments when it arrived”, recalls Asuka.
Introduced as 1984 models in the United States, 190Es represented an economical answer to 1970s energy crisises. While the first two model years offered four-cylinder diesel (2.2-liter) and gas engines (2.3-liter), more powerful power plants soon joined the lineup. A five-cylinder diesel (2.5-liter) replaced the four-cylinder diesel for ’86, and a six-cylinder gas engine (2.6-liter) was introduced for ’87. Prices new ranged from $23,510 for an ’84 190D 2.2 to $34,900 for a 1990 190E 2.6. Competition from Japanese upstart luxury brands Lexus and Infiniti in 1990 forced Mercedes to freeze prices through 1993.
Painted in black only, Limited Edition 2.6 models distinguish themselves with carbon fiber interior trim instead of wood, and Recaro two-tone racing seats with red and black leather patterns. Although engines, transmissions, and brakes are identical to base 190Es, Limited Edition 2.6’s received stiffer springs, shocks, roll bars as well as a quicker-ratio steering box, lower-profile tires, and wider wheels. Priced the same as base models, they were equipped with every available option. “190E” and “2.6” badges were left off of Limited Edition models – only the Mercedes star emblem adorned trunk lids.
A friend of Asuka’s supplied a standard 1993 190E 2.6 for comparison during our photo session, making it easier to see how special wheels and lower ride height subtly differentiate the Limited Editions. Both engines fire with the same burble, and a back-to-back drive shows similarly respectable acceleration and braking. Ride quality from both is supple, with drivers noticing slightly sharper handling in the Limited Edition. Blindfolded passengers would not be able to tell any difference.
Values for Limited Editions have held well, typically remaining close to Asuka’s purchase price four years ago. “Even when we enter it in all-Mercedes shows, judges accuse us of modifying it. I keep that ’93 brochure around to remind them it’s 100% factory-issue!”
Of Note: 700 Limited Edition 190E 2.3s were also built. Painted emerald green, their wood-trimmed, beige leather interiors pursued a luxury theme rather than the 2.6’s sporty interior look.