Special Report

19 Coolest Cars Released in the 1990s

Vauxford / Wiki Commons

For anyone in their late 30s or older, there is a strong likelihood you remember the 1990s automobiles with great fondness. Coming out of a more carefree era of the 1980s, it feels like the 1990s were an opportunity to increase features and specifications. 

It was during this decade that all-wheel drive became widely available and Japanese luxury cars started to really turn up. As technology improved, cars became faster, sleeker, and even more reliable. So, let’s keep reading to see the 19 coolest cars that were released in the 1990s. 

Introduction 

Source: MrWalkr / Wiki Commons
Ferrari released several special models during the 1990s including the vaunted F50.

As the 1990s gave way to the rise of SUVs and greater fuel efficiency, 19 vehicles remain the most memorable. While each vehicle was cool in its own way, vertical doors on a BMW and a giant SUV helped the 1990s usher in a new era of design that still lives on today. 

Acura NSX

Source: Charles01 / Wiki Commons
The Acura NSX was Acura’s only sports car and was a true joy to drive.

Originally released in 1991, the Acura NSX was popularized as part of “Need for Speed” on the PlayStation. The backbone of the Acura NSX was a 3.0-liter V6 with 270 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 5 seconds. With an MSRP of $62,000, the car would have sold for more than $130,000 in today’s dollars. The design of the NSX was said to be inspired by the F-16 fighter jet. The NSX was famously only offered with a 5-speed manual transmission until 1999 when Acura finally offered an automatic option. 

Audi TT

Source: Lother Spurzem
The unique design of the Audi TT made it popular but also led to trouble at higher speeds.

Just making this list with a 1999 release, the Audi TT was a uniquely designed car that was an instant classic. While the initial design suffered from poor handling, the Audi TT lives on to this day as a staple of the company’s lineup. Even though cars like Pagani and the XJ220 live on as the textbook design of a sports car, Audi tried its own thing and succeeded. Audi drivers praised the TT as a fun-to-drive car that felt like nothing else on the road. 

BMW Z1

Source: nakhon100 / Flickr
The BMW Z1 was the first and only BMW to have vertically disappearing doors.

Unfortunately, the BMW Z1 was only sold for a few years but it offered one of the coolest tricks of all. With a set of disappearing doors that retract vertically, the BMW Z1 was different from every other car. BMW focused on aerodynamics and looked to make the Z1 as fun to drive as the doors were to play with. Unfortunately, BMW had a difficult time with production even though it received tens of thousands of orders. As a result, BMW would eventually remove the Z1 from its lineup and it never attempted vertical doors again. 

Bugatti EB 110

Source: Alexandre Prevot / Wiki Commons
The Bugatti EB 110 was an incredible sports car that never really came out of Ferrari’s shadow.

Long before the Bugatti Veyron captured the sports car world, the Bugatti EB 100 captured the 1990s. Produced by Bugatti from 1991 to 1995, this refresh of the Bugatti name was only short-lived. With four turbos, 12 cylinders, and an interesting look, the Bugatti EB 110 is hard to forget. With a top speed of 218 MPH and a 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, the EB 110 should have been more successful. Unfortunately, only 128 vehicles were made before the company was liquidated. 

Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

Source: Michael Barera / Wiki Commons
Long praised as one of the best Corvettes ever, the C4 ZR-1 still commands high prices.

Best known as the Chevrolet Corvette C4 ZR-1, this updated model of the Corvette is regarded as one of the best in the car’s historical lineup. Released in 1990, only 6,900 variants were made of this vehicle after its 1990 release. The car was capable of hitting up to 180 MPH and had a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds. In 1990, these were massively impressive numbers. Throughout its 5-year lifecycle, Chevy famously did little to change the vehicle with only minor updates over its sales period. 

Chevrolet Impala SS

Source: MercurySable99 / Wiki Commons

Built by Chevy between 1994 and 1996, the Chevrolet Impala SS was first unveiled at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show. It was often regarded as a civilian version of Chevy’s Caprice 9C1 police vehicle. The result was that the Impala SS borrowed a sport-tuned suspension and dual-exhaust brakes. While it wasn’t terribly fast at 7 seconds from 0-60 MPH, there was something about the Impala SS that resonated with an audience in a big way. 

Dodge Viper

Source: MrWalkr / Wiki Commons
The Dodge Viper was one of the best muscle cars ever produced in the U.S.

Arguably one of the best muscle cars in the U.S. produced in the last few decades, the Dodge Viper is absolutely a cool car. The 1992 Dodge Viper was well known for not coming with a roof, only a canvas-like material that could be positioned on the roof in case of bad weather. However, the 8-liter V10 engine was able to push out 400 horsepower and go from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. The Viper was fun to drive but never quite hit the numbers Dodge had hoped for. 

Ferrari F50

Source: Mr Walkr / Wiki Commons
The Ferrari F50 was released as a celebration of the manufacturer’s 50th anniversary.

The 1995 release of the Ferrari F50 was considered a watershed moment for the Italian manufacturer. A celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary, the two-door vehicle was powered by a 4.7-liter V12. Only 349 vehicles were ever made with the last one rolling off Ferrari production lines in 1997. With a top speed of 202 miles per hour, the Ferrari F50 hit 0-60 MPH in 3.8 seconds. 

Honda S2000

Source: Rich Riewiroski Jr. / Wiki Commons
The Honda S2000 came out in 1999 and was popularized by the Fast and Furious movies.

Manufactured by Honda starting in 1999, the Honda S2000 was a highly regarded member of the Honda family. Popularized by The Fast and the Furious movie in 2001, the Honda S2000 was an instant success for the Japanese brand. First unveiled in 1995 at the Tokyo Motor Show, the S2000 was a celebration of Honda’s 50th anniversary. While the car would live on for another decade, the most beloved is the first iteration of the S2000. 

Hummer H1

Source: Brian Snelson / Wiki Commons
The Hummer H1 was a ridiculously large version of a military vehicle that was made street-legal.

You might think a list of the coolest cars released in the 1990s would be all sports cars, at least until the Hummer H1 enters the chat. This four-wheel drive utility vehicle was a civilian release of AM General’s famous military vehicle. Produced from 1992-2006, the Hummer H1 was famously promoted by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was very much a car built for going anywhere and doing anything and was a staple of the celeb world. 

Jaguar XJ220

Source: Matti Blume / Wiki Commons
The Jaguar XJ220 once held the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest street-legal speed.

A two-seat sports car made by British luxury manufacturer Jaguar, the XJ220 is one of the best-looking sports cars ever. After its release in 1991, the XJ220 would set a Guinness World Record at 212.3 MPH. At the time, this was faster than any other production car ever. Eventually, Jaguar would break its record at 217.1 MPH in 1994. While only a few hundred models were available and early reviews of the vehicle were mixed, the Jaguar XJ220 remains one of the most interesting sports cars ever. 

Lamborghini Diablo

Source: Fake Shemp / Wiki Commons
The Lamborghini Diablo was a famously fun drive and was nicknamed “devil” to stick with bull names.

Released by Lamborghini in 1990, this was Lamborghini’s first car to achieve a top speed of over 200 MPH. For the next 12 years, the Lamborghini Diablo was one of the best-recognized sports cars on the planet. Named for a famous bull raised by the Duke of Veragua in the 19th century, Lamborghini continued its trend of naming its cars for fighting bulls. The Diablo was as fast as it looked, hitting 0-60 MPH in 4.5 seconds. 

Lotus Elise

Source: Brandon Lim / Wiki Commons
The Lotus Elise was a small sports car that inspired the first Tesla Roadster.

While the Lotus brand never had the name cache of Ferrari or Lamborghini, it still made some great cars. The Lotus Elise is a prime example. The 1996 release of this car was a two-seat roadster that could hit 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. Weighing right around 1,800 pounds, the Lotus Elise was just pure fun to drive. Only 17,000 were ever produced and its design would go on to inspire the first Tesla Roadster in 2008. 

Mazda Miata

Source: Heritage Images / Hulton Archive via Getty Images
The release of the Mazda Miata quickly created a rabid fanbase that lives on to this day.

On the list of cool car releases in the 1990s, the Mazda Miata has an almost cult-like status among its owners. The Mazda Miata 5 was unveiled in 1989 for the 1990 model year at the Chicago Auto Show. This first-generation Mazda Miata resonated so quickly with U.S. audiences that it sold 228,000 vehicles during the 1990s. While it wasn’t particularly fast or sporty, the Lotus-inspired design featured pop-up headlights. 

McLaren F1

Source: charles79 / Flickr
The McLaren F1 was quirky for its ability to seat three people with the driver seated ahead of passengers.

One of the best-known names in the history of modern sports cars, the McLaren F1 needs little introduction. Originally released in 1992, only 106 units of the first McLaren F1 were ever produced. Interestingly enough, the F1 was able to seat 3 people in the cockpit with the driver propper up a little for a better view of the road. Using a V12 engine, the F1 goes from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. At the time, the F1 was easily one of the fastest street-legal cars on the planet. 

Nissan 300ZX 

Source: Charles01 / Wiki Commons
The twin-turbo version of the Nissan 300ZX was an incredibly fun drive during the 1990s.

While the Nissan Z lineup was first introduced in 1983, the Nissan 300ZX took an already great vehicle and made it better. Better known as the Z32 model, the release of the updated Nissan 300ZX was sold between 1990 and 1996. In its twin-turbo version, the Nissan could hit a 5-second 0-60 MPH time. Best of all, it was sold as either a two-door convertible or a 3-door two-seater coupe. This level of choice helped attract anyone looking for a less expensive way to go fast without having to spend Ferrari money. 

Pagani Zonda C12

Source: MarcelC / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
The Pagani Zonda C12 is arguably the best-looking sports car released during the 1990s.

Just barely making this list with a 1999 release, the Pagani Zonda C12 offers some of the best looks of the decade. Powered by a 760-horsepower Mercedes engine, the Pagani would blast from 0-60 in right around 4 seconds. Only 5 models were built with the Mercedes 6.0 liter engine with only 3 models being delivered to customers. Surprisingly, one model was used for crash testing while another was solely used as a show car. 

Porsche Boxster

Source: alexprevot / Flickr
To help save Porsche, it released the Boxster which gave buyers a less expensive way to purchase a Porsche.

Amid financial concerns with poor sales of the Porsche 928, Porsche looked to create a successor that would help support sales of the 911. Released in 1996, the two-seat Porsche Boxster was a vehicle the company had wanted to build for decades. With Porsche’s signature handling and precision driving, the Boxster is regarded as saving the company. It was created as a more affordable Porsche, and the lower price tag attracted a whole new group of potential buyers. 

Plymouth Prowler

Source: kenmo / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
The Plymouth Prowler is believed to be a follow-up to the Dodge Viper with more comfortable features.

The 1998 release of the Plymouth Prowler is largely forgotten, but it was one cool car at the time. The futuristic look stems from Chrysler engineers being given the freedom to design their idea of what they would want to see in a “hot rod.” The Prowler was initially considered a follow-up to the Dodge Viper with a 214-horsepower engine. Thankfully, it was more of an everyday driver compared to the Dodge Viper with the Prowler including keyless entry, power windows, dual airbags, and air conditioning. 

Conclusion 

A vintage cassette tape (obsolete music technology), orange on a yellow surface, angled shot, carrying a label with the handwritten text 1990s.
Source: Grenar / Shutterstock.com
While the 1990s was a great time for music and movies, the coolest cars of the 1990s were equally special.

While there were hundreds of cars released during the 1990s, it’s these 19 that stand out as the coolest. Amongst a sea of new SUV releases like the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Explorer, it’s the cars on this list that hung on posters in kid’s bedrooms everywhere.

Sponsored: Want to Retire Early? Here’s a Great First Step

Want retirement to come a few years earlier than you’d planned? Or are you ready to retire now, but want an extra set of eyes on your finances?

Now you can speak with up to 3 financial experts in your area for FREE. By simply clicking here you can begin to match with financial professionals who can help you build your plan to retire early. And the best part? The first conversation with them is free.

Click here to match with up to 3 financial pros who would be excited to help you make financial decisions.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.