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Funny to think they called this the ‘Baby Benz’. A cursory glance at that rear spoiler is enough to realise this Benz isn’t one suitable for children; it’s the 190 E 2.5 Evolution II, and it’s 25 years old.

Unveiled at the 1990 Geneva Motor Show, this was the most extreme example of the W201 Mercedes, the base model of which was launched as far back as 1982 and given that cuddly nickname to represent its position in the Mercedes hierarchy (yes, it was the smallest one they built back then).

Just two years after this base model launched, the 190 E 2.3-16 arrived on the scene, with 185bhp and motorsport genes. When the new Nürburgring opened in 1984, Mercedes fielded 20 identical 190 E 2.3s for a 12-lap, christening race.

People like Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Alan Jones, James Hunt, Nikia Lauda, Alain Prost and Keke Rosberg all lined up on the grid. And Ayrton Senna. Who, after a tight race, whupped them all.

Top Gear drives Senna’s old Merc

So, Mercedes entered the DTM in 1988 with the 190, but it wasn’t until 1990 that we saw this Evolution II, a development of the 2.5-litre Evo, itself an evolution of the 2.3-litre 190. Power in the Evo II now sat at 235bhp, while 0-62mph was achieved in 7.1 seconds. It’d top out at 155mph, too.

Just 502 versions of this car were made (to let it go racing in the DTM), and featured a race-tuned chassis, 17in wheels, new front and rear bumpers, flared arches and that lovely rear wing.

It gets better, too. The Evo IIs converted by AMG for the DTM featured ‘robust’ plastic bonnets, boot lids and spoilers. Oh, and 373bhp from their 2.5-litre engines. Nice.

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