We've achieved a lot of things since the ‘90s. From fashion to music to politics to how we spend our time, all has changed. To name a few things, technology has completely revamped our lives. I mean, I’m not even talking about you being able to track your package on Amazon. I'm talking about you being able to park your BMW 5 Series perpendicularly at the click of a button—no need to drive it. I’m talking about seeing the Tesla Model 3 function almost entirely from a 15-inch touch-screen system, with so many semi-automatic capabilities. The only thing we haven’t quite achieved yet is a fully autonomous production vehicle.
But there are still a lot of things that cars from the ‘90s offered that none of these could provide. Some offer one-of-a-kind design, some economic feasibility, and some simply cherished memories. And economic viability is a big one. When you buy a house, you're certainly expecting the value of the property to continue increasing in the market. Sometimes, people buy properties just to be able to sell them at a higher price later. But that's generally not the case with cars. It’s completely opposite. The moment you drive off the lot, you lose 11 percent of the car’s value. Stick with it for a year, and the value depreciates by 25 percent of the original. All these compel one to look back to some of the ‘90s cars.
So, let’s look at some of the ‘90s cars we’d still drive today, no matter how cheap or expensive they may be.
20 Subaru Impreza Turbo
This one really transformed the image of Subaru through and through. And it wasn’t even through the usual way of advertisement and anticipation; it was through the victories in the races. In fact, when it came out in the ‘90s, it was rather unnoticed by most. Only when it started winning races around the world did it come to the attention of the public. And when that happened, the Turbo became a coveted prize, forcing Subaru to make more, which it was happy to do so. While Subaru started making the Impreza WRX very early in the ‘90s, it wasn't until the mid-‘90s that the Impreza Turbo saw its way to Australia. The initial Turbos were painted blue and came with a fancy hood and a sunroof.
19 Nissan GTR R32
When the GTR R32 came out in the early ‘90s, it wrote history. It was developed to compete in Group A racing, for which Nissan had been using the GTS-R until then. While being designed, it went through a lot of trial and error, ultimately being equipped with a 2.6-liter twin-turbo I6 engine coupled with an AWD transmission and four-wheel steering. While a lot of things were leading to its success, from the affordability to the power output, the four-wheel-drive system was the chief reason for its success. Standing for "Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All terrains and Electronic Torque Split," the ATTESA E-TS, was able to provide power to every corner through numerous sensors and an advanced computer. Despite not being produced anywhere else but in Japan, the GTR R32 is famous worldwide.
18 Porsche 993 GT2
How can one forget about the Porsche 993 GT2 on a list of the best cars from the nineties? We haven't, so please welcome the 993 GT2. Designed in 1993 to satisfy the racing world of the GT2 class, the 993 GT2 featured plastic fenders and large rear wings. This was the last air-cooled generation, with 70,000 units being produced from 1993-1998 before the 996 hit the market. These cars look beautiful—even the wings are elaborately designed. Unlike the straight wings of the Plymouth, the 993 GT2 features curves in the wing that suit the car’s overall design. It’s only one of a few cars that can look nice with a curvy top and a wing. You don’t have to take my words for it. The market reiterates what I just said—a recent one sold for $2.4 million.
17 Aston Martin DB7
The grand tourer DB7 is arguably the car that made the company what it is today: the exceptional Aston Martin. The successor to Aston Martin Vantage, the DB7, was meant to be the entry-level car for Aston Martin enthusiasts. Aston Martin being the luxury sports car makers they are, it was hard to believe this idea would fly. But it did. A whopping 7,000 of these were produced, compared to the just 71 of the Vantage in the ‘70s. That was thanks to the ownership of Ford and then Jaguar. Both the coupe and convertible look fantastic, although I like the convertible better—just seems more exotic and seamless. While subsequent versions and model are more refined, the initial DB7 model is a true possession to cherish.
16 Porsche 911 (996)
The Porsche 911 (996) started being produced in the ‘60s. While it's undergone continuous development, the basic concept of the sports car remains the same since its inception. Before this bad boy, the engines were air-cooled, which, if you're not familiar with the term, essentially means what it sounds like—natural air cooled hot parts of the engine. That was the Porsche 993. But the 996 was designed with a new chassis and a water-cooled engine in 1999—a liquid coolant cooled the engine by absorbing the heat—something that was novel. You might remember the 996 from the movie Cars. In fact, car-builder Eddie Paul created a modified 996 Porsche, which meant shaping a smile-like gesture on the front of the car.
15 Alfa Romeo GTV
Produced by the Italian automaker Alfa Romeo, the GTV (Gran Turismo Veloce, meaning, "Fast Grand Touring") is a model that you’re probably reminiscing. The GTV was produced from 1994 to 2004, starting just a year after the Spider hit the market. The GTV had several engine options throughout the 10 years. The car looks totally fabulous. The exterior is calm, in my opinion, yet looks well-designed—it’s probably the small headlamps (which are height adjustable, by the way) on the austere hood. The interior was all laden with over-the-top technology, though, with the heated seats and an electric sunroof, to name just a few features. As one of the owners said, the engine of the car is pleasing to the ears, and the exterior, a sight for the eyes.
14 Lamborghini Diablo
If you've ever wondered what the predecessor of the Aventador looked like in the ‘90s, here it is. The Diablo, which means “devil” in Spanish (I’m sure you knew that from the hot sauce, as it does do some devilish stuff to your body), was in production from 1990 to 2001. While its roots go even deeper in the depths of history—all the way to the mid-'60s, when the Lamborghini Miura came out—the Diablo was special because it was the first Lambo capable of going more than 200 mph; the standard hood configuration was a 5.7-liter V12 mated to a five-speed manual. The initial design was by Marcello Gandini, but when Chrysler bought the parent company of Lamborghini, it thought the design was too rough. So, Chrysler had it redesigned to give it a more “comely” look.
13 Ferrari F355
Arguably one of the best cars made in Maranello, Italy, the F355 looks fantastic. The car was meant to outdo the previous Ferrari, which it did with its new aerodynamic design. Ferrari spent over 1,300 hours on just figuring out how wind affected the speed of this car. To reduce the drag force, the F355 is equipped with a fairing on the underbody. To increase the speed, it has a nolder on the tail. The hood hides an engine capable of going 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds, which was quick back in 1994. And all this isn't to say it became more exclusive because of its new design: 11,273 units of the F355 were sold. It was meant to be a high-volume seller for Ferrari, and it did that well.
12 Honda NSX
Want to drive Honda’s first supercar? Get the NSX from the 90s. Standing for “New Sportscar eXperimental,” Honda was looking to defeat the V8 engine of Ferrari during the ‘90s. Not only did it leave the Ferrari in the dust, but it produced a more reliable and affordable car for those looking for an alternative to Ferrari. Honda was on top of its game when it came to the NSX—it had a facility dedicated just for the production of the supercar NSX. After all, Ferrari’s dwindling reliability reputation wasn’t exactly helping Ferrari in being good at its own little Italian game. However, while production lasted for a good 15 years, NSX couldn’t keep up with the competition near the end. But 11 years later, Honda came back with the NSX.
11 Lexus LS
This entire concept of the LS was carried out secretly by the Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda in the mid-‘80s. No deadlines were to be met, no budgets to be followed. Only one aim was evident: to create a world-class luxury sedan for everyone. Specifically, it just wanted to surpass the aerodynamics, cabin quietness, overall top speed, and fuel efficiency of rivals in the market. And boy, did Toyota deploy any and all means to achieve these goals. Sixty designers, 1,400 engineers, 2,300 technicians, and 200-plus support workers in 24 teams worked to build 450 flagship prototypes and 900 engine prototypes. A little more than 1.5 million miles were driven for testing in all sorts of locations, including the snowy winters of Europe, the bone-dry deserts of Arizona, the tumultuous terrains of wildernesses, and the crazy roads of the US highways. The first year of the LS was a success.
10 VW Corrado
Debuting with two engine choices—a 1.8-liter 16-valve I4 and a 1.8-liter eight-valve I4 engine—the car did an exceptional job when it came to performance. Production of this hatchback began in 1988 and lasted until 1995. It was meant to be the European sports car, filled with VW characteristic. Some of the characteristics included a raised bonnet and a rear spoiler. The spoilers rose automatically at speeds above 45 mph and stowed away automatically below 15 mph. (A switch was always available to manually control the spoiler.) From the engine to technology to looks, the car did quite an amazing job at winning the hearts of people and critics alike. The one with a VR6 engine was even listed by the Brits as one of the “25 Cars You Must Drive Before You Die."
9 BMW Z3M Coupe
If you’re a fan of shooting-brake-styled cars, you’ll like the Z3M coupe. In fact, even if you’re not a fan of the shooting-brake appearance, the fact that it’s a BMW might sway you. The high-performance car was made from 1998 to 2002. It was developed to provide more torque and strength to the Z3M roadster. Though initially hesitant, the board of directors eventually acceded to that idea. Now, it had some criticism back when it came out; “clown’s shoe” was the nickname given to it by the critics, despite it winning several awards. But as with a lot of things, when you can’t have it, the value goes up all of a sudden. Scarcity is one of the best reasons to buy this, as not a lot of people own it.
8 Hummer H1
The nineties brought out the Hummer H1 from the Humvees, with production eventually stopping in 2006. Let’s get one thing straight - this car isn't meant to be driven by speed junkies; its 0-60 mph time is over 20 seconds. But if you are an avid off-roader, this is something to consider. The wide track provides imminent stability; the high ground-clearance of 16 inches makes treading any type of terrain a reality—fording has never been easier; the high approach and departure angles mean the tires have the ability to thrive on any erratic boulder. And if you customize it, more power to you; headlight guards and additional lights would look nice. Now, of course, the H1 is probably not suitable for your daily commute if you live in a city (imagine that!), but it can do the trick for everything else.
7 Lotus Elise Series 1
Named after the granddaughter of the then-chairman of both Lotus and Bugatti, Romano Artioli, the Elise has a lot more to it than the name. The first series of Elise had a hand-finished fiberglass body shell that lined the aluminum chassis, providing not only a solid suspension system but also a lightweight car. It was because of the low weight that the car had a then-fast 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds, as the meager power output was nothing to boast about. With the low center of gravity and a nose cone accentuated by the slanted body, the car looks nice. The Series 1 was designed from 1996-2001, and within that time, a couple of limited editions were also produced. The Series 1 was discontinued, though, after Europe had a new crash regulation in place.
6 Ford Ranger
Remember the time when things were simpler? Bigger didn’t mean better back then. You were just out there in your plain, compact pickup that did all the things you needed. I’m talking about the Ford Ranger. Now, the nameplate Ford Ranger has been used by Ford for three separate occasions. One was the name of an Edsel Ranger car, which was around for a short period of time; the second one stood for a styling package in one of the F-Series pickups. Finally, there’s the Ford Ranger compact pickup that I'm talking about. In production since 1983 through 1997, these pickups did the job for handymen, exterminators, and contractors. Need something from the hardware store? Take the Ranger. Need to tow something? Tow it with the Ranger. After 1997, though, the model changed to something drastically different.
5 Peugeot 306
You might not have heard about this car because the company isn't that famous in the US. That’s because unlike Jaguar or even Maserati, the Peugeot doesn’t have much of a foothold in the American market compared to what it has on the European continent. The France-based Peugeot corporation was founded as a coffee mill, then turned to manufacturing bicycles, then to cars, and then to motorcycles, ultimately becoming a separate company that produces cars. Back to the 306, though, it was in production from 1993-2002, with 2.8 million units sold. It was available as a hatchback, a sedan, a station wagon, and a convertible with various powertrain options. This compact car was designed by Pininfarina, an Italian car-designing firm—the same company that has shaped countless Ferraris, among others.
4 Renault Clio Williams
If you're not a Brit or a European, you might not be that versed with this car. But this timeless piece of work isn't in oblivion. The supermini car Renault Clio has been in production since the ‘90s, and it's going strong. The Williams was one of the first few models produced by the French automaker Renault. Winning the European Car of the Year award in 1991, this beauty was the car to have in Europe. Renault tried to keep the Williams as a “limited-edition” type of deal. But the Williams sold out so quickly that parent company Renault ended up producing 1,600 more, partly due to a lot of these being converted into race cars. Williams served as F1’s Safety Car in 1996 but had no direct relation with the F1 racing driver WilliamsF1.
3 Mazda MX-5 First Generation
Much like the Ford Ranger listed above, this was your simple petite sports car - nothing fancy, nothing over the top - just plain beauty. It looks similar to the Lotus Elan. The designers of MX-5 had the Elan, among a few other British cars, in mind. The production of the first-generation front-engine RWD MX-5 began a few years before it made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989. The two-door convertible had two engine options and two transmission options—one automatic and one manual—when it was produced. While rust might be a reality for many owners of the MX-5, it is, nonetheless, a desirable car when driven in factory setting. Sure, you can tune up the engine and the interior, but then you lose the feel of the ‘90s.
2 Honda Type R
You can’t go wrong with any of these Honda’s Type R models. Introduced as the special performance editions of their respective nameplate, you can imagine how rad the design and powertrain of each car is. The weights were minimized, the engines were tuned, and the colors were adapted to match that of Honda’s first F1 winning car: a red Honda badge on a white body. These modifications were a no-brainer, considering Type R cars were designed for the track. But over the course of time, that changed. As Honda became more and more obsessed with its VTEC engines (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control), which allowed it to improve the efficiency of internal combustion, Honda started making the Type R with the general public in mind.
1 McLaren F1
Who wouldn’t want to drive the car that set the record for being the fastest production car back when it came out? In production from 1992-1998, the XP5 prototype produced in 1998 set the record for the fastest speed achieved by a production car by reaching 240.1 mph—and it doesn’t even have wings. It held the record until Koenigsegg CCR beat it in 2005. That’s a solid run. The car looks drop-dead gorgeous from the outside. When all the user-accessible components are opened, it looks like a mean power-producing machine. And that’s what it is. It even had the engine layered with gold for heat insulation. And it’s not like one or two of these were produced; being the production car it was, over 100 were made, which, despite being on the lower side, is still a respectable number for a car that broke a record.
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