At the time of the Mercedes-Benz 190SL unveiling, the manufacturer had just re-entered the world of racing with its 300SL which took the world by storm and put the marque right at the top of the most desirable list after WW2. Expensive and exclusive, the 300SL caused a sensation and set new standards for high performance sports cars. Introduced at the same time was a cheaper, less exotic but no less refined sports roadster: the 190SL, which shared the same wheelbase and bore a distinct family resemblance to its more expensive cousin.
Mounted on a detachable sub-frame together with the four-speed manual gearbox, front suspension, and steering, powered by a 1 897 cc straight-four SOHC engine that was the first such engine to feature in a Mercedes-Benz. Breathing through twin Solex downdraft carburettors, this W121 unit produced 80kW at 5 700 rpm, an output sufficient to propel the 190SL to 100 km/h in 13.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 170 km/p. The 190SL was relatively economical. Out on the highway the 190SL cruising speed was extremely comfortable.
With its four-speed, all syncromesh gearbox making gear shits quickly while boasting hydraulic drum brakes and fully independent suspension, the 190SL was both refined and more comfortable than any contemporary British sports car. Its’ been described as offering an exhilarating drive with long distance comfort a cinch.