The '90s were an amazing decade for myriad reasons, not the least of which was automotive design. What follows is the absolute best of the best: the supercars, the sports cars, the luxury cars, and even the trucks that made the 1990s such a noteworthy era.
Why it's great: The NSX spearheaded the notion that a supercar needn’t be exorbitantly expensive. It came with exotic looks, great engineering (with feedback from Ayrton Senna himself), Honda reliability, and most importantly, a price tag well under $100,000.
Why it’s great: If you had to pick one vehicle to call the supercar of off-roaders, the obvious choice would be the original Hummer. It’s barely diluted from its military beginnings, virtually unstoppable when the pavement ends, and is about as flashy as a truck has any right being.
Why it’s great: A three-seater with the driver’s seat in the middle and a top speed of 237 mph not enough for you? Try an engine compartment lined in gold to help dissipate heat. Really, more?! Try slowing down the car and sending it to Le Mans...then watching it win the race overall. It’s not merely the 1990s that the F1 is competing with. It’s all time.
Dodge Viper GTS
Why it’s great: From a performance standpoint, the second generation Viper was a pretty stout leap over its predecessor. It was not only lighter and more powerful, but because it had an actual roof, the GTS saw Viper’s ascendence into the world of professional motorsports.
Why it’s great: For starters, the car commemorated the golden anniversary of Ferrari. It also competed with the absolutely iconic F40 for the souls of car-loving children everywhere, so it couldn’t afford to be anything less than spectacular. And a 500 hp V12 certainly didn’t hurt it in its endeavors.
Why it’s great: The XJ220 was a years-in-the-making supercar that draws 540 hp from a turbocharged V6. It was intended to go toe-to-toe with the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40, and when it was done, it was the fastest car in the world. Not to mention one of the most gorgeous cars ever made.
Why it’s great: When you take a mid-sized sedan, give it a nearly 400 hp V8 and a manual transmission with just enough suspension tuning so you don’t kill yourself the first time you hit the track, you’ve got a winner. There are some that still call this the best M5 ever made.
Nissan 300ZX Turbo
Why it’s great: Nissan’s little 300 hp coupe wasn’t just fast, it was high-tech. With options like rear wheel steering to help stabilize the car during spirited driving, and a shape that was formed with the extensive help of a supercomputer, it was a force to be reckoned with.
Mustang Cobra R
Why it’s great: The first truly hardcore Mustang in a generation, the Cobra R was a two-seater with nothing "luxury" about it. Everything from the radio to the fog lights were removed in the name of weight savings. You couldn’t even buy it from a dealership unless you happened to hold a competition racing license, since Ford didn’t want the 107 it made going straight into a collector’s tomb.
BMW M Coupe
Why it’s great: BMW certainly made a lot of waves with the second generation E36 M3, and while many M enthusiasts will be angry that it’s not on this list, the M Coupe was just as good a performer, but with the “clown shoe” profile that BMW hasn’t sold in the U.S. since.
Why it’s great: Mazda’s lightweight, rotary-powered car grew up a lot with the third generation RX-7, and it became so much more than just a sports coupe. It could still hang with the best of ‘em, and could be turned into a wicked track car for the truly dedicated, but it was also the kind of car your doctor would take his wife to dinner in. For a Mazda in the early '90s, that was no small feat.
Why it’s great: At a time when other European grand tourers from the likes of Aston Martin and Jaguar were struggling to regain their form, Mercedes’ SL500 ushered in 1990s styling with aplomb...as well as with some innovative tech like pop-up roll bars, should you happen to flip during a crash. Spring for the V12 in the SL600 and you’ve got a harmonious soundtrack to go with the open air.
Why it’s great: It started out as a side project built by one of the world's premier racing teams that happened to race Jags. Then it became a full factory project with a supercharged straight six, and ultimately a supercharged V8 that took it into this century. Face it, if you were going to rob a bank, what car would serve that purpose better than an XJR?
Why it’s great: The Lightning first dropped in 1994 as a mildly suped-up pickup truck, but when it was reincarnated in 1999, it was an animal unto its own. The supercharged 5.4 liter V8 shared more in common with the Ford GT than it did with any Mustang, and the overall result was a truck that could be driven more like a sports sedan than a truck.