After the excess of the greatest cars from the 1980s, the dial-up decade saw the introduction of the compact MPV – courtesy of the Renault Scenic – and some truly average cars like the Vauxhall Vectra and the Rover 200. However we were also blessed with some staggeringly good cars in the 1990s, some of which have gone down in history as some of the best cars ever made.
In No Particular Order…The Best 90s Cars
The 1990s motoring hall of fame is packed to the rafters with incredible cars, here are some of the very best.
Described as ‘the greatest automobile ever created’ and ‘the most excellent sports car of all time’, the McLaren F1 was a game-changer in every way. It fundamentally altered how we think about performance cars. In 1998, this 6.1-litre V12 supercar set the record for the world’s fastest production car at 240.1mph. It took another seven years before this record was broken, in 2005 by the Bugatti Veyron.
Few thought that anything could top the Countach, the poster boy for 1980s excess and surely one of the coolest car names ever, but the Diablo – longer, wider and lower – was even more outrageous. The 5.7-litre 492bhp devil was the last swansong of Lamborghini’s trademark flamboyance, before Audi calmed things down a little. However, this motoring icon remains one of the most iconic 1990s cars.
Ford Escort RS Cosworth
Thanks to the 80s hot hatches, we got used to seeing everyday runarounds on steroids. The Cossie though, took things to a whole new level of shouty insanity. The huge rear wing stood it out from anything else on the road and combined hardcore performance with the attitude of a heavyweight’s uppercut. It talked the talk but also – crucially – walked the walk.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful of all cars from the 90s, the XJ220 was doomed from the start. Launched in 1992 at the start of a global recession, customers flocked to put down huge deposits for the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V12 all-wheel drive supercar – priced at £470,000 (roughly £1m in today’s money). What they actually got was a two-wheel drive 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 and they were not happy. For a year it was the world’s fastest production car at 217mph, but unsurprisingly sales were poor despite the fact that it was – and remains – unbelievably fast and sensationally good-looking.
Very few 90s cars were as ground-breaking as the NSX. The brief was to match the performance of the Ferrari 348 and – thanks to consultation between the NSX team and Ayrton Senna and throwing in Honda’s legendary 3.0-litre V6 VTEC engine – they had a worthy challenger to the European closed shop of Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Japan’s first true supercar looks like one, performs like one and the fact that McLaren used it as a muse for the F1 speaks volumes.
Sandwiched between the brutal F40 and the F1-inspired Enzo, the F50 is criminally overlooked as one of Maranello’s finest cars. Depending on your personal viewpoint, it is either overly bulky or jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Whatever your opinion, the 4.7-litre V12 Ferrari is considered to be one of the very best – and last – of the great analogue supercars and it is one of the classic 90s cars.
In the mid 90s, Audi was considered a bit boring. A bit middle-management. But that all changed with the introduction of the futuristic, Bauhaus-inspired TT, a modern design classic that turned as many heads then as any Lambo or McLaren does today. The pretty TT was also a hoot to drive thanks to its punchy 1.8-litre turbocharged engine. Even now, it retains a quality that marks it out as one of the best 90s cars, certainly one of the most memorable.
Standout 90s Motors
There are so many fantastic cars from the nineties that it’s hard to select just a handful of standout motors. Beyond the above list of the very best 90s cars, we must also give a special mention to those that almost made the cut: the Aston Martin DB7, the Dodge Viper, the Ferrari 550 Maranello, the BMW Z1 and the Bugatti EB110 to name but a few. All icons in their own right along with myriad other 90s cars that truly defined the decade.