10 Cars that Defined the '90s
The '90s was a decade of growth, new technology, yet tragically some very forgettable cars. You probably haven't thought of a Plymouth Acclaim since 1993. But despite some rubbish and drudgery, the 1990s left us with a few truly iconic drives, and we'd like to share them with you. Take a look at our picks of the 10 cars that defined the '90s. SUV 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ
Nothing embodies the ’90s quite like the Cherokee XJ, mainly because it saw every waking minute of the decade. It debuted in showrooms in 1984 and remained relatively unchanged up until its retirement in 2001. The XJ popularized that famous boxy look and the utilitarian engineering, but also laid the groundwork for today’s unibody SUVs. Kids, meet your granddad.
1992-1996 Ford F-Series
You don’t become America’s best selling truck for 37 years overnight. The ninth-generation F-Series didn’t start the trend, but certainly kept the ball rolling, especially considering tough competition from Chevrolet and Dodge. This generation featured those “we don’t care about aerodynamics” lines that we just love, and was the last series to feature the venerable Windsor V8 powerplant, which had been at work since 1962. Truly the swansong of an era.
RELATED: See more pics of the Ford F-Series
1996-2000 Dodge Caravan
It may be just a humble people-carrier, but the Dodge Caravan defined the 1990s. It yanked consumers out of Generation Wagon, zipped them to soccer practice, filled up with all the groceries, and got everyone back home in one piece. They were far from refined, efficient, comfortable, or pretty; but these workhorses of the American family kept at their noble task, and continue to do so today. Not beautiful, but so ’90s.
1987-1996 BMW 5-Series
You can’t pass through the ’90s without a look at the E34 5-Series. Chances are you’ve seen one lately too; many are still cruising (or hooning) around today. The E34 marked a fantastic mix of BMW heritage and new-millennia emerging technology that cemented the BMW status for a new generation of drivers. It featured a range of iconic straight-sixes and a genre-changing 4.0L V8, sedan and wagon versions, and advanced traction control systems.
RELATED: See more pics of the BMW 5-Series
1989-1993 Honda Accord
This is the car that rescued the American public from the sedan drudgery of the early ’90s. It was well built, notoriously reliable, and quite efficient – three things that the offerings from Ford, GM, and Chrysler weren’t. Its popularity skyrocketed, making it the best selling car in the US from 1990 to 1992. Perhaps you had one back in the day.
1989-1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Miata turns 25 this year, a fitting celebration for the most popular convertible of the ’90s. Of course there have been more powerful, more beautiful, and more luxurious roadsters on the market, but thanks to the MX-5 driving experience, it’s still the choice we’d pick today. And we’re not alone. Go to any SCCA event and you’ll see hundreds of these things racking up laps on any given weekend.
RELATED: See more pics of the Mazda Miata
1994-2001 Acura Integra
If you we’re a teen in the late-’90s, this was the car on your bedroom wall. It was small, quick, rev-happy, and a big affront to the old American muscle crowd. Tuning had been around for a long time before the Integra, but this car and others like it helped push the tuning-craze into the mainstream. Good luck finding one that hasn’t been beaten half to death.
1994-1998 Ford Mustang
After years of the Fox body, the Mustang received a major overhaul in ’94, and brought with it some serious performance versions. The Mustang GT silenced critics in 1994 when it won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award, but the accolades kept pouring in with Ford’s later additions. Ford rolled out the Cobra and Cobra R which kept American muscle firmly in the picture up through the next generation ‘Stang.
RELATED: See more pics of the Ford Mustang
1993-2002 Toyota Supra
This is the car that keeps people talking to this day. When the Mark IV Toyota Supra debuted in the early ’90s, it blew everything else out of the water. It sported turbocharged and non-turbocharged 3.0L straight-six engines, which have been known to handle some legendary amounts of power output. Toyota took a big leap with the Supra, one that hasn’t yet been eclipsed by anything else since.
1992-1998 McLaren F1
The ’80s had the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959, but the ’90s had this – the McLaren F1. Like its ’80s counterparts, it pioneered some space age tech. It was the first road car to feature a complete carbon fiber chassis, it used gold foil as a heat shield, and it flaunted a custom-built 6.1L BMW V12. Even though it ended production 16 years ago, it still holds the record for the fastest naturally aspirated car in the world. It may not be the car that you remember from the 1990s, but it certainly is the fastest.
RELATED: See more pics of the McLaren F1