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Personal picks: Our favorite 1990s sports cars

Consumer Reports News: September 02, 2011 02:23 PM

Recent water-cooler conversations have had the Consumer Reports Cars team talking about cool cars from the 1990s that they drove, or even would consider buying today. That decade brought a wide range of cars with outlandish looks and the performance to back it, especially in contrast with the more tepid 1980s performance machines. So what cars do we remember fondly?

Jeff Bartlett: It seemed at every turn, exciting new performance cars were arriving on the scene in the 1990s. Like the hair, it all kept getting bigger and wilder. Japan seemed to be the strongest source for extroverted hardware, with the Acura NSX, Mazda RX-7, Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, and Toyota Supra all providing numerous, memorably high-speed thrills. Props must be given to the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 for being true checkbook temptations at the time, and the wilder Corvette ZR-1 and Guldstrand Corvette for creating tire-smoking memories. Upon reflection, the twin-turbo Supra may have impressed me most, with its uncanny balance of Toyota livability, forgiving performance, and aftermarket readiness—the Supra could be tuned into a true supercar. And consequently, it can be hard to find in low-mileage, stock condition today. For today’s money, a Vette or Trans Am would be my most likely indulgence, though the decidedly more tame Honda Prelude could be fine, fun commuter.

Gordon Hard: I always liked the Mazda RX-7. The 1993 twin-turbo version made 255 hp, which was more than sufficient, as they say. It looked great, had that unique Wankel rotary engine, and was a pleasure to drive around curvy country roads. It rode like a farm wagon, but who cared? Ladies loved it.

Tom Mutchler: I voted with my dollars here, recently buying a 1995 Mazda Miata M-edition. Curiously, I never really wanted a Miata when they were new. I wanted a 1991-1994 Nissan Sentra SE-R, a 1988-1991 Honda Civic CRX Si or Civic Si, or a 1992-1994 Volkswagen Corrado SLC. But as time marched on, the charms of the Miata’s top-down design and simple robust nature won me over. It also helps that while nice older Miatas abound, it’s nearly impossible now to find a clean, non-rusted SE-R or Civic/CRX Si and old VR6 Corrados are money pits.

Acura-Zanardi-NSX.jpgMike Quincy: I used to think that the Mitsubishi 3000GT was pretty cool. Turbocharged, 320 hp, all-wheel drive, and Ferrari-esque looks…I mean, I thought this car had it all. I also loved this era’s RX-7 - especially its curvy body. But then I drove an Acura NSX. It was the car’s last year (2006), and I had it for about 30 minutes in the early part of a press event. It was one of those times when a car actually lived up to all the hype. Even though the NSX was introduced in 1991, it owed zero apologies to more modern cars. The steering was spot-on, the shifter was like butter, and the engine sang a sweet tune. I’d own one today if I had the resources.

Cliff Weathers: My definition of a sports car might be more strict than that of most. It must be either a two-seater or at least its rear seats have to be no more than vestigial. And while handling must take precedence over acceleration, the car should deliver g-forces upon its passengers in a variety of ways. So my pick—a car that did it all for me back then—is a 1993 Toyota MR2 Turbo. This mid-engined, two seater was offered only with a 5-speed manual transmission, a T-top that could minister an alfresco driving experience, and fog lights that were not found on the normally-aspirated Mister Two. Acceleration was nothing to sneeze at; various road tests cited the Turbo’s acceleration to be about 6 seconds and quarter mile times were reported to be under 15 seconds. This paradigm of driving excitement would only set you back about $7,000 today, which is a good deal in my blue book.

Jeff Bartlett

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