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by Marcus B. Fitzhugh

From time to time we read about project cars. Some work, others don't.
This article differs in that it's a Mercedes-Benz factory project car.
Basically, a Baby-Benz with a modern C-Class diesel engine

Outwardly, this looks like every other 190. A little more well preserved than some, but there is no mistaking it for anything other than a 20 year-old 190. Pressing the accelerator is the first clue that something special is going on. This car is equipped with the ultra-modern OM 651 Mercedes-Benz diesel. This engine produces a peak of 204 hp and has 369 foot pounds of torque on tap between 1600 and 1800 rpm. That's more than twice the torque of the 190E Evolution II and more than three times the output of a 190D.
The idea for this vehicle came about during a discussion about the vast improvements in diesel technology over the past 25 years. The question was: "How might one make this progress directly tangible, in isolation from the equally profound changes in the safety and comfort of the car as a whole?" The result was a factory- tuned car called the 190 D BlueEFFICIENCY. As expected from a factory effort, this car accelerates like a modern vehicle. The 190 D BlueEFFICIENCY accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds. This is 11.9 seconds faster than the original 1983 190 D.
The differences between the two diesel engines are even more impressive when it comes to fuel consumption. The 1988 OM 601 in a 190 D consumed 7.3 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. The new engine in the old body consumes 4.9 liters per 100 kilometers. That's a 49% increase in fuel economy. The EPA rating for the 1988 190 D was 31 MPG. In the same test, the 190 D BlueEFFICIENCY would be rated at 46 MPG.
Comparing the current C250 CDI to the original 1988 190 D, the Euro-Mix consumption of the current C 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY is 4.6 litres per 100 kilometres, and 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres (using the current NEDC method). In addition to the reduced exhaust emission levels, the C 250 CDI has a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy.
The fuel economy improvements of the current C 250 CDI are despite the fact that the Mercedes 190 D is 385 kilograms lighter. The C 250 CDI has more interior space, is 16 centimetres longer, around nine centimetres wider, and taller than a 190. This is all due to the higher standard of comfort, and additional safety features of the newer car.
The factory's drive train transplant does improve the car, but the 190 D BlueEFFICIENCY really can't be compared to the C 250 CDI. The C 250 CDI has an extensive array of passive and active safety systems that simply were not available 25 years ago. The C 250 CDI has features such as seven airbags, adaptive AGILITY CONTROL suspension, and assistance systems such as ESP® and ADAPTIVE BRAKE. There have also been improvements in the area of comfort and usability. The vastly improved ergonomically advanced multi-adjustable seats and electrically adjustable and heated mirrors are two examples. Another area where the C 250 CDI excels is noise. Naturally, the new cars are quieter. Cd has a lot to do with that. The 190 had a Cd of 0.34. The new C-Class has a Cd figure of 0.27.
Although the C 250 CDI is greatly improved in a number of areas, I think I'd personally prefer the 190 with the OM 651 transplant. Maybe it's the uniqueness. Or maybe I'm just a tinkerer.

Photos courtesy of Daimler AG


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