The 1990s had a fair amount going for it, in terms of both pop culture and automobiles. And while you can argue the merits of Nirvana and Green Day over Duran Duran and White Snake all day, nearly every car on this list is a vast improvement over its 1980s counterpart. Here are five of our favorite forgotten 1990s cars:
1. 1996-99 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi
GM’s H-body platform made for a more than competent front-wheel-drive full-size sedan. It took Pontiac to actually make it a driver’s car. The marketing slogan “We build excitement” was actually true in the case of the Bonneville SSEi, one of the few American sedans to sport a factory supercharger. Although both the SSE and SSEi were available with an Eaton supercharger that raised the output of the GM 3.8-liter V-6 to a massive 240hp, the latter had all of the options and trim. While the Ford Taurus SHO is remembered by nearly everyone, the Bonneville SSEi has sadly been purged from the puny ’90s vintage 1GB hard drives of all but the biggest fans of the era. In theory, less than five grand buys a great one, although we have to confess, our cursory search revealed no decent examples.
2. 1990-95 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Convertible
Oldsmobile got a convertible version of the W-body, and it was somewhat rare with only around 25,000 built. And while front-wheel-drive and its inherent understeer aren’t exactly the first choice of many enthusiastic drivers, the Cutlass Supreme convertible did come with a high-output version of GM’s Quad Four and double overhead cam 3.4-liter V-6, and it was available for two years with a very rare Getrag five-speed manual transmission. Inexpensive four-seater American convertibles with decent performance are thin on the ground at this price point. Around five grand for a good one; a bit more for one with a manual transmission.
3. 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra R SVT:
he Cobra R may have been the ultimate Fox Body Mustang: It was a track day special with stiffer suspension, and power steering, A/C and rear seat were deleted to save weight. It sported about 30 more horsepower than the standard five-liter GT and was capable of near-13-second quarter-mile times out of the box. Sadly, it has been left in the dust by more recent Shelby and Boss 302s. Only the most dedicated Mustang fans remember the ’93 Cobra R, and for now, they’re a bargain.
4. 1992-94 Porsche 968
Porsche devotees have only grudgingly accepted the concept of water cooling. Engines in the front are for those who simply must have a Cayenne or a Panamera. Sadly, this means that truly great sports cars and GTs like the 944 and 928 don’t get much love. Perhaps the saddest case of this prejudice is the 968. Barely remembered by anyone, it combined much of what was great about the 944 and the 928, and was likely the best front-engine sports car that Porsche produced. Built both in coupe and convertible form, these cars are rare and not particularly expensive — at least for now. At some point, the world is bound to catch on. With a small rear seat and the ability to carry more than a toothbrush, between this and a used Boxster, we think there’s no contest for about the same money.
5. 1990-1999 Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4
That this car wound up on a “forgotten” list is painful in and of itself. Perhaps it’s more a function of Mitsubishi’s status in the U.S. market than a commentary on the inherent goodness and cool factor of this car. Twin turbo with all-wheel-drive and four wheel steering with nearly 300hp, it’s essentially a well-built V-6 F-body Camaro or Firebird with all-weather capability. If you can’t deal with the stigma of driving a Japanese nameplate, the same car was sold in the U.S. as the Dodge Stealth.