190E 2.6 Sportline with 5 Speed Manual

For September 2, 2020, our used car find is this 1993 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 with 60k miles and not only the rare Sportline package but also an almost unheard of 5-speed manual gearbox. This unicorn is listed for sale on eBay in Traverse City, Michigan, for $17,900.

Here’s what makes this one special.

Introduced in 1984 (in the US), the W201 generation 190E was a revolutionary debut for Mercedes-Benz. With a massive engineering budget and a timeless design by the legendary Bruno Sacco, the all new “Baby Benz” launched to much fanfare. But could it live up to the reputation of the marque’s famous large sedans? In a word, yes.

In its first drive, Car and Driver called the 190 “a meticulously crafted new breed of Mercedes so complete, so refined, so tightly integrated, so totally Mercedes-Benz that they present the impression that they have been hand-carved out of an ingot of chrome-molybdenum steel.”

Perhaps the best known version of the W201 is the 2.3-16v variant that Mercedes co-developed with British tuner Cosworth. It landed on US shores for the 1986 model year, slightly preceding its even more famous rival, the BMW E30 generation M3. Like the M3, the 2.3-16v took a high-revving four-banger and other mods from the racing world and placed them into a production car that you could buy at your local dealership.

Today, E30 M3s sell for crazy money (like this one that went for $250k recently on Bring a Trailer), while well-kept “Cossies” as they are affectionately known are also starting to command serious collector money.

While we love the 2.3-16v — and especially its later and more powerful iterations, the Evolution 1 and Evolution 2, which were not sold in the US — there is another W201 version that we like even better, and that is what we have here.

For the final year of production (1993), Mercedes brought 700 examples of the 190E to America in Sportline trim. Fitted with Benz’s sturdy and smooth M103 inline six, putting out 158 hp and 162 lb ft of torque, the 190E 2.6 Sportline added goodies like a beefier shocks and springs, wider wheels, a lower ride height, quicker steering, plus massively-bolstered Recaro sport seats front and rear.

Like most Benzes of the era, the vast majority of these cars were equipped with an optional 4-speed automatic slushbox, which saps quite a bit of the fun. However, a rare few, like this one, managed to sneak in with the 190E’s standard 5-speed manual gearbox, allowing drivers to make the most of the M103’s power.

This particular version appears to be one of the nicest remaining examples, with barely more than 60k miles, an accident-free history report, and a close to showroom appearance inside and out. The only faults we see are door cards that are starting to pull away around the armrest (very common for these cars) and slightly tatty headlight doors (an easy fix).

The asking price here of $17,900 is a huge sum for a 190E, even a very nice one. But considering the rarity of the spec here, it seems pretty reasonable, especially if the condition is in reality as good as it seems to be from the listing.

A 2.3-16v in similar condition would cost about the same, but we think this car, with similar performance and even more of a sleeper look, is the one to get.

We’d go so far as to say it’s one of the coolest Benzes ever made.

Vehicle Details

  • 1993 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 Sportline
  • 60k miles
  • 2.6 liter inline six cylinder engine (158 hp)
  • 5-speed manual transmission
  • Black exterior on black leather
  • for sale by dealer for $17,900
  • Traverse City, Michigan
  • link to eBay listing HERE
  • WDBDA29D8PG057949

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