1. 1989-1994 Ferrari 348tb
The 348tb is mostly unloved by Ferrari enthusiasts. Its 3.4-liter V-8 makes just 296 horsepower—less than a V-6 Camaro. But the Italian Stallion at full tilt will sound like Pavarotti to the Chevy’s Kid Rock, and when you pull up to a stoplight, the 348tb is still a two-seater with a prancing horse badge on its hood.
2. 1990-1997 Mazda Miata
What a Miata might lack in personality, it pays back in reliable fun. Its manual transmission is so precise and satisfying to shift that you won’t mind the constant rowing of gears needed to keep the high-strung little four-cylinder (1.6 liters from 1990-1993, and 1.8 liters from 1994-1997) near the peak of its powerband. With perfect balance and great steering feel, it’s no wonder it’s the best-selling sports car of all time.
3. 1990-1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1/1992-1995 Dodge Viper RT/10
While the ZR-1 was the most sophisticated Corvette to come to market at the time, the Viper was its polar opposite, crude but similarly effective. Both cars are capable of running 0-60 in about four and a half seconds, so the only thing that really separates them is the temperament of their owners.
4. 1991 GMC Syclone/1992-1993 GMC Typhoon
When Car and Driver pitted a Syclone against a Ferrari 348 in an epic drag race back in September 1991, the GMC pickup dusted the six-figure sports car by four-tenths, running through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 99 mph. With all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 4.3-liter V-6 running 14 psi of boost through a liquid intercooler, this 280-horsepower, limited-production sport truck is the quintessential ’90s cult car.
5. 1991 Acura NSX
How good is the NSX? Honda so completely nailed it with the first Japanese supercar that it remained in production, virtually unchanged, for 15 years. The all-aluminum Acura NSX was an amazing feat of engineering for a company known mainly for its engine manufacture. And like every Honda, it was reliable—the first supercar you could expect to drive for 100,000 miles.
6. 1991-1994 Alfa Romeo Spider
This one’s a bit of a cheat, as the Alfa Spider isn’t really a ’90s car. Or even an ’80s car or a ’70s car, for that matter. Alfa’s beautiful little roadster dates all the way back to 1966, and the fact that you could still buy a new one in 1994 is a testament to either the perfection of the original design or the profound stubbornness of Alfa Romeo. While the fourth series of the Spider differed a bit from the original, with cosmetic “upgrades” and an electronic fuel-injection system for its 2-liter, 124-hp four cylinder, it is still the quintessential Italian sports car for the masses.
7. 1993-1996 Mazda RX-7
By the mid-’90s, the Japanese sports car market had gotten out of hand. Turbocharging had sent power through the roof, and prices had gone right along. The top-of-the-line Toyota Supra, Nissan 300ZX and Mitsubishi 3000GT all offered over 300 horsepower, but were all priced well over $30,000. So was the third-generation RX-7, which took its customarily different approach. With a 255-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 1.3-liter rotary, Mazda crafted a smaller, lighter car, as pure a sports car as any Japanese manufacturer would ever dare.
8. 1994-1996 Chevrolet Impala SS
With a 5.7-liter LT1 V-8 similar to the one in the Corvette, this 280-hp engine was tuned for torque, and its 330 lb-ft were just the thing for launching the big, rear-drive sedan. A standard limited-slip differential and 255/50ZR17 tires provided plenty of grip, and the Impala SS received lots of carryovers from the Caprice police package, including its suspension.
9. 1994-2001 AM General Hummer
The original Hummer was everything a car enthusiast could want in a vehicle: wildly impractical, ridiculously expensive, and exceptionally rare. While the sorts of fun you might have in a Hummer aren’t the same as you’d get out of a Mustang, how would you better choose to engage in extreme off-roading and Interstate intimidation?
10. 1995-2000 Acura Integra Type R
There may not be another model from the ’90s that can lay claim to being more important than the Integra Type R, the sports coupe that single-handedly launched the entire import tuner craze. While the Type R isn’t the sort of car that shines on paper — with only 197 horsepower from its 1.8-liter four-cylinder and front-wheel-drive, it stood well outside the performance mainstream in the U.S.—driving one is a revelation.
1995 Mazda Miata–photo courtesy of Mazda