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Cars today are subject to various rules that necessitate larger bodies and additional tech, taking away from designs that could have been quite pleasing to the eye, as well as creating complexities in servicing said vehicles. Modern compact cars can look downright cartoonish with their tall doors and high hoods in order to meet side-impact and pedestrian crash safety regulations. It's almost necessary to put larger wheels on today's cars just so they look proportionate.
But what is life without progress, right? Regulatory bodies are looking out for the greater good, or at least one hopes so. Still, nothing wrong with reminiscing and daydreaming about some of the classics. In particular, I have a hankering for some Japanese sports cars from the 1990s.
Below is a list of my top three vehicles from the '90s. I'm not saying these were the best, just the ones I admire the most and would love to get my hands on if the opportunity arises.
The newly released NSX has electric motors in addition to a turbocharged V6, weighs about as much as a muscle car, and costs well over six figures. It's a far cry from the original NSX. In fact, I would argue that the new model should have been named something else, but I digress.
The original model which went on sale in 1990 offered a naturally-aspirated V6, weighed only around 3000 lbs, and began its life with an MSRP of about $60K. Not cheap, but certainly more affordable than some of the European exotics it competed against. Oh, and it offered a 5-speed manual transmission, whereas the reincarnation comes with a dual-clutch automatic.
The NSX had a very sleek design. If you've ever stood next to one, you know how low the car is in terms of overall height. The long rear-end with integrated spoiler gave it an interesting look, somewhat similar to the Ferrari F40, albeit more subtle. I especially loved the front-end of the original, pop-up headlights and all; it screams classic Japanese. This design combined with the high-revving V6 and mid-engine handling made for one heck of a sports car.
If Toyota does release a successor to the Supra (possibly developed jointly with BMW), my guess is that it will follow a recipe similar to that of the new NSX: hybrid powertrain and automatic transmission only, not to mention a hefty price tag. Sigh.
From 1993 up until production ended, Toyota got serious about this car's performance. The Supra of this era could be had with a naturally-aspirated inline 6 providing reasonable power, or better yet, a twin turbo version of this engine. Despite having a higher curb weight than the NSX, the Supra was no slouch. The turbocharged version could do 0-60 in 5 seconds or less, which for the time period was amazing. What's more, with a few overnight parts from Japan, the Supra could potentially decimate all competitors.
Design-wise, Toyota moved towards a more rounded shape versus older models. The Supra's long front end and short sloping rear gave it sort of a race-car look (think Ferrari 250 GTO). I'm not a huge fan of big wings, but the one on this car just looked right thanks to the fastback shape of the vehicle. The projector headlamps looked sharp, and I also liked the circular taillights within the racetrack oval housing. Overall, this car had a smooth, yet relatively simple, design.
Subaru Impreza 22B STi
Okay, this one is more rally car than sports car, but as a Subaru fan, how could I leave out the 22B? It's essentially the holy grail of Subarus.
In recent years, Subaru has offered special editions of the WRX and STI in North America, such as the 2015 Launch Edition, but these models primarily received aesthetic enhancements like orange paint or gold wheels rather than performance upgrades under the hood. We don't get the good stuff like the S207. Such was also the case with the 22B STi; only 400 examples were produced in 1998 for Japan, along with a handful for the UK and Australia.
What was so special about the 22B? Aside from the more aggressive looks and water-spray for the intercooler, Subaru increased engine displacement from 2.0 liters to 2.2, allowing for better torque. Horsepower was around 280, although some have suggested it was actually higher. Either way, 280 HP is plenty for a car weighing only about 2800 lbs, allowing it to run 0-60 in under 5 seconds.
This was a mean-looking car. Whereas the standard Impreza was the good kid who studied hard, the 22B was the brother who worked out and gulped down protein shakes, transforming itself into a little hulk. The widebody coupe combined with larger wheels, signature blue paint, and big wing made for a car that stood out in a crowd. And, it had the performance to back up its looks.
There are other notable cars from this decade that come to mind, such as the striking third-generation Mazda RX-7, the fast-and-furious second-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the nimble second-gen Toyota MR2. In my opinion, the '90s churned out the best-looking generations of each of these vehicles.
What cars from the '90s do you miss? Or, is this a decade you'd rather forget altogether? Share your comments below.