Micropost: W-201 Mercedes 190E Driver’s Ashtray

How come the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190E was W-201 and the 1984 200E cars were coded W-124?

Mercedes-Benz 190E

We see in this quite small car the effect of the well-evolved centre console. The ashtray is situated in an undercut of the fascia and it’s a decent sized ashtray too. The ashtray is a chromed metal item, with a cigarette lighter built into the drawer. Under that is a cubby for bit and bobs.

Like the famed 1983 3-series, this car put the frighteners on Ford and Opel and others. It’s is not hard to imagine the Cortina and Rekord owner pulling on the ashtray and noting the slight give in the surface of the high-quality soft-touch plastic. Then they note the well-oiled action of the drawer compared to the zincy abrasion of their own car. And once fully open they see the shiny reflections on the steel tray. This, they say, is what S-class owners experience every day. None of it is very complex: the feature count is the same as a Cortina but the execution is impeccable. Every thing is so goddam heavy and solid, even the blasted ashtray.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “Micropost: W-201 Mercedes 190E Driver’s Ashtray”

  1. The longevity of the W201 is simply astounding. They’re still a regular sight on German roads, and not necessarily in the form of waxoiled single make owners’ club cars, but grubby €500, barely TÜV-approved motors. These cars have definitely stood the test of time.

    1. In contrast, they are about as common here as similar-age 3 series. That is, less numerous than either W-123 and W-124 cars. I presum a lot of 190Es found customers in Germany whereas in Denmark customers bought more of other cars.
      My personal opinion of the 190E is indifference. I respect the huge ashtray and austere seriousness. However, it’s charmless. The larger cars have more warmth. If we’re talking mid-size durability champs the Volvo 240 and Saab 900 walk all over the 190E and they are both better packages. There are Audis from the same period that are as impressively austere. Mercedes threw all its might at making a car that did pretty much what Volvo had been doing since the start of the Holocene with the 140 and 240 cars.

    2. With each passing year the W201 grows in stature. To my eyes – as an piece of contemporary product design – I simply do not think it can be bettered or improved upon. It might seem a little po-faced for some tastes, but in my view nothing’s even within the same playing field.

    3. Adjustable steering wheel: most likely available as an option. Better rear legroom: limited by the 190’s rear wheel drive layout/compact dimensions/sophisticated five link rear suspension, but was improved when the model was facelifted. Decent gearshift: Get the automatic – a manual Mercedes never made sense to me when the M-B auto was so good. Better steering: Fitting a smaller diameter steering wheel would probably make a considerable difference. M-B steering wheels were ridiculously oversized during this era. Nicer fabrics: Lighter, more cheerful colours were available and unlike today, customers did specify them.

      I can go on in this vein for some time…

    4. Eoin: that crunching noise is the sound of straws being clutched. There wasn’t an adjustable steering column (for rake or reach), not everyone wants an automatic and several “lesser” marques managed slick manual shifts (Honda, Toyota, Nissan) so it was possible. A nudge of 10 cm to the wheelbase would have improved legroom a lot without spoiling the look. The only fabrics I have seen in this car are oat, grey, black and navy. I forgot to mention that the seats are hardly comfortable, far from it. I hate to say this but a VW Jetta CLX is probably a nicer car and a Trevi a better drive. That said, the 190E is durable and well-detailed and that’s why they are still here.

    5. Not so fast Mr. Herriott. I fear that crunching sound might well be the ice cracking around your little island of certainty…

    6. Yes, this fast: my careful examination of 190E interiors showed them predominantly grey or dark and just a few oat versions and special editions with coloured hide panels. Benz didn’t give the 190E more rear legspace because doing so would show up the W-123 and even W-124. It had a great ashtray.
      Did Setright like the 190E?

    7. I have seen blue, beige and even burgundy interiors on these cars, however a great many are drab. You can hardly blame M-B for striving not to cannibalise the upper echelon models – to do so would have been commercially unsound. The 190 was about as compact a Benz at it could reasonably be while retaining all the qualities of the larger models. The manual issue is a non-issue for me as I’d never own a manual Mercedes – or any Mercedes that suited one. I won’t dignify the Jetta comment (I’ve driven them) but I’ll concede the Trevi is more charming, while striving (and failing) for a similar degree of rectitude.

      LJKS had ideological issues with the five link rear suspension, which he considered conceptually unsound. Nobody else agreed – an outcome I imagine dear Leonard was happy enough with.

      How is it on the Ice floes these days…?

  2. Perhaps a Mercedes-Benz aficionado can clarify, but to answer Richard’s question, I would posit the following. The mid-sized saloon was an ongoing M-B programme, so work on the W123’s replacement would probably have begun before or shortly after the former was actually released for public consumption. In Mercedes’ case, probably before, hence the linear nomenclature.

    The 190-series was an entirely new model, so was given the next available project number, in this case, 201. In a similar manner, the Series III Jaguar XJ was known as XJ50 within the factory, while the car which was to supplant it was dubbed XJ40. As here, I imagine it was all about when the programme was initiated.

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