When I first played Automobile Magazine’s ‘Head 2 Head’ video, comparing the Mercedes-Benz 190E to BMW’s dynamo E30 M3, I assumed…case closed – the M3 would surely be the victor. But the company’s west coast editor, Jason Cammisa, went the opposite direction, ultimately favoring the mighty Mercedes 190E.
How could this be?! On paper, the 1988 to 1991 BMW M3 looks a whole heck of a lot more appealing than Mercedes’ original track star 190E. And yet, something about the 190E pulled on Cammisa’s heart strings.
So much so that he literally purchased the tester vehicle and took it back home to California.
The rivalry started way back in 1984, when Mercedes raced 20 identical 190Es on the Grand Prix circuit. After three world records and nine international speed records, BMW decided to respond with the now-legendary M3.
From day one, the M3 has dominated all competitor vehicles in just about any strict performance test out there. Although both the original M3 and 190E had the same 2.3 I4 DOHC 4 valve engine, the M3 was lighter and produced more power (192 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque to the 190E’s 167 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque).
But, even so, Cammisa chose the 190E as the superior vehicle. Partly because of the 190E’s colorful story and partly because of a mystical ‘coolness’ rating, the 190E edged out the original ultimate driving machine.
Sure, both vehicles were priced in the mid to upper $30,000 range when they were first released, but good pre-owned examples go for a lot less in today’s market. And interestingly, the E30 M3’s continuing popularity makes the 190E a bit of a better buy in the modern market. For example, Automobile estimates that a US spec near perfect M3 might top out around $30,000 while a similarly mint 190E comes in at about $20,000.
Considering the baby Benz’s original price was several thousand more than the M3, current market values give a persuasive reason to like the 190E – both for long term investment and current savings purposes.
At the end of the day, though, both cars appear to be worth every bit of their fan fervor. Much like visiting a den of ill repute, comparing the 190E and the M3, boils down to a choice of ‘what you see, is what you get’. If you’re looking for über performance, quick shifting, and fun factor, the BMW is a no brainer.
But if a dash of sophistication and “being a man with da’ masta plan” sounds like a good idea, then you better get a 190 sports sedan.
Source : Automobile Magazine