32 iconic cars after 1985
Just what defines the word “iconic”? If one puts up an online survey or asks a group of gearheads for a list of the top iconic cars, one will no doubt get as many different answers as the number of people who filled up the survey.
For the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s 32nd celebratory issue, this writer compiled a list of 32 iconic cars produced after 1985, this paper’s year of birth.
This writer defines iconic not just as the best-selling, or something that’s very beautiful, perhaps one of the fastest, most powerful, best handling and simply the most awesome production car on the planet, and then some.
Simply put, this writer proposes that iconic means these were cars what the world saw, paid attention to, and fell in love with.
We group these icons into two basic groups: the stand-alone models and the generational models.
Stand-alone models are lone wolves that dared to be pack leaders regardless if a pack was actually following their trailblazing paths or not, while generational models were chosen because the predecessor models and their future generation iterations both deserve iconic status.
Here are 13 generational models.
Production: 1990–2005 (1st generation), 2016–present (2nd generation)
The first generation NSX started life as the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina Xperimental) concept car, and the production model Honda NSX was marketed in North America as the Acura NSX.
The idea was to use a V6 engine mounted mid ship that would rival the performance of a V8 Ferrari engine but with a much lower price point, offering better reliability than European exotics.
There was a decade-long gap between the first and second generation NSX, which was unveiled as the Acura NSX Concept at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show and subsequently at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.
The production model was unveiled at the 2015 Detroit Motor Show but the new NSX acronym has been changed to “New Sports Xperience,” signaling the use of a hybrid drive system.
The new NSX is powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine and three electric motors, with two of these forming part of its SH-AWD all-wheel drive system with a total power output of 600 hp.
Production: 2004 to 2006 (1st generation), 2016 to present (2nd generation)
The Ford GT was actually a tribute model for the historically significant Ford GT40, produced from 1964 to 1969.
The GT40 was a four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966 to 1969.
The 1st generation Ford GT was produced for model year 2005 celebrating the company’s centenary, and although its outside appearance looks similar to the classic GT40, it is slightly wider and taller than the original one with everything modernized internally and structurally including electronics and mechanical features.
In 2015, Ford unveiled its 2nd generation Ford GT at the Detroit Motor Show. Powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbo Ecoboost V6 engine, it is rated at 647 hp, and has one of the best power-to-weight ratios in any production car ever built.
Production volume is very low (about 250 units a year), and the buyer’s beeline is not getting any shorter.
Production: 1999 to 2009
The Honda S2000 was first shown at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show as a concept, and became a production model in 1999 in time for the brand’s 50th anniversary.
It pays tribute to the classic Honda S500, S600 and S800 roadsters, and had a healthy 10-year production run.
Lamborghini LM002 and Urus (circa 2018)
Production: 1986 – 1993
The Lamborghini LM002 is considered the first-ever ultra luxury SUV, and is the first off-roader built by the company.
The LM002 stood out because the brand was known for making sports cars and GT cars. It is also the brand’s four-wheel drive vehicle.
Only 328 units were ever built by Lamborghini. In 2013, Lamborghini announced the introduction of its second SUV, the Urus, and it will go into production next year.
Mazda MX-5 and Mazda MX-5 RF
Production: 1989 to 1997 (1st generation MX-5), 2015 to present (4th generation MX-5), 2016 to present (MX-5 RF)
The Mazda MX-5 was called the MX-5 Miata in the US, Eunos Roadster in Europe, and Mazda Roadster in Japan.
Unveiled in the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the first generation model sold over 400,000 units, making it one of most successful sports cars ever produced.
It was introduced as a small roadster with fairly simple mechanicals, and it had a lightweight body similar to British roadsters but with modern features and reliability.
The later generation MX-5 would become bigger, and eventually have electro-mechanical removable rooftops, making them heavier in the process.
The current generation MX-5 (soft top variant) is a model that went back to its roots. It was introduced in 2014 and released the following year.
Lighter that its predecessor model, it was also shorter and only had a manually operated fabric roof that was designed to open and close in a few seconds.
The following year saw the introduction of the MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) model. It features a retractable rigid power roof and a beautiful rear buttress to give its silhouette a more coupe-like profile.
Production: 2001 to present
After seven versions and some five million units of the original MINI, the last classic Mark VII MINI Cooper Sport left the Longbridge factory on October of 2000.
This marked the age of the new MINI, and since then, all the MINI hatchbacks have been classified as the entry level MINI One, Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (highest variant).
The third generation new MINI was introduced in 2014. Aside from the MINI, its current owner BMW expanded the range to other models including the Coupe, Clubman, Paceman, Roadster, Countryman and Convertible.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution series has firmly established itself with a wide cult following and all its ten generations is revered by car enthusiasts around the world.
It is arguably the originator of the four-door sports sedan genre.
Its Lancer Evolution Final Edition was also the most powerful Evo model with all the racing bells and whistles.
Porsche 964 (1989 to 1994) and Porsche 993 (1995 to 1998)
Production: Porsche 996 (1999 to 2004), Porsche 997.1 (2004 to 2008), and Porsche 997.2 (2008 to 2012), Porsche 991.1 (2012 to 2016), and Porsche 991.2 (2017 to present)
How can we not include the 911 in the lineup of iconic cars? For one, it is the world’s most successful and longest-running production sports car.
For this article, we will classify the 911 into the late model air-cooled 911s from the 1980s to late 1990s ,and the subsequent water-cooled models.
While generally being referred to as the Porsche 911, subsequent models beginning with the Porsche 964 have a type number to distinguish it from generation to generation.
The last two generations of the air-cooled 911 models were the Porsche 964 and Porsche 993. The 964 was the last of the 911s to use the distinctive upright headlamps, while the 993 inherited the slanted headlamps of the 959 Group B rally car.
Then came the water-cooled models. Initially frowned upon by air-cooled 911 “purists,” the Porsche 996 model also had the unsavory distinction of using a pair of odd-looking “fried egg” style headlamps from the entry-level Porsche Boxster which enthusiasts felt cheapened the model.
But mechanically, it out-performed the previous generation models in many, if not all, aspects.
The subsequent 997 and 991 models went back to the bug-eye style round headlamps, and with further refinements, grew the 911 fan base even more.
Volkswagen “New” Beetle
Production: 1998 to 2011, 2011 to present
A new Beetle was introduced by Volkswagen in 1997 that was a modern interpretation of the original German “people’s car” icon.
In 2011, a third generation Beetle, dubbed as the A5, replaced the New Beetle.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Earlier this year, Volkswagen rolled off over 150 million units from its plant in Wolfsburg, Germany.
For over 80 years, two models accounted for more than a third of this high-volume production: the Beetle and the Golf.
Until recently, despite hitting 21 million units, the 7th generation Golf outsold the Beetle, selling more than 34 million units worldwide.
Its top variant, the GTI, is one of the most desirable high performance econoboxes in the market with a pedigree to match.
Here are the Pack leaders.
Production: 2006 to present
Known as Ironman’s ride, the Audi R8 is a practical mid-engine exotic sports car that uses Audi’s race-proven Quatrro all-wheel-drive system.
The R8 has since then undergone several upgrades and facelifts, and the mid-engine layout and sure-footed grip of its Quattro system made six-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx claim that it is the best handling road car on the road today.
Production: 2014 to present
Before the turn of this century, if one turns back time and ask a typical petrolhead if BMW would make awesome hybrid supercars, he or she would probably say it’s “Mission Impossible.”
But the impossible is what BMW did, and it even landed in one of Tom Cruise’s MI movie franchises with a starring role as Ethan Hunt’s ride in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”
With lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell and a miniscule 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine that churns out a mere 231 hp, it can rocket from 0 to 100 kph in just 4.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 250 kph.
Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4
Production: 2005 to 2011
Named after Bugatti race driver Pierre Veyron, it was the car that practically created the hypercar class.
With a top speed of over 407 kph, the beefier Super Sport variant held the Guinness World Record as the fastest street legal production car with a top speed of 413 kph.
Later variants would even surpass these records by a few kilometers per hour. But who’s counting anymore?
Production: 1987 to 1992
Created to commemorate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary, this was the last Ferrari to be approved by Enzo Ferrari himself.
At the time, it was the fastest and most powerful (and most expensive) Ferrari.
With a total production run of 1,311 units, some F40s have reportedly changed hands for amounts over $4 million.
Production: 2002 to 2004
Practically a road-going Formula One race car, no other Ferrari in recent history deserves to be considered iconic. That’s why they named it after Enzo Ferrari himself.
Production: 2003 to 2013
The Gallardo was the brand’s best-selling model and this was the model that made the brand cool again.
With over 14,000 units built throughout its production life, the Gallardo shared the stable with the Murcielago and current top bull Aventador.
Despite its overpowering presence, it carries a modern minimalist design that will age well in the years to come.
Produced in limited numbers (500 units) and developed using parent company Toyota’s Formula One racing technology and expertise, it was the brand’s first supercar.
Production: 1992 to 1998
With just 106 cars made, the McLaren F1 supercar held the world record for the fastest production car from 1998 to 2005, topping at 386 kph.
What’s unique about the McLaren F1 is it has three seats, with the driver’s seat located in the middle and two side passenger seats located on both sides slightly behind to allow driver visibility on both sides.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (coupe and roadster)
Production: 2003 to 2010
Mercedes-Benz and McLaren Automotive created a dream team to produce the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, with the three letters SLR being an acronym for “Sport Leicht Rennsport” (Sport Light Racing).
The project was a homage to the famous Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR of the famous Silver Arrows of the 1950s.
Production: 1986 to 1988 and 1992 to 1993
Originally built as a Group B rally car, it was later on produced to comply with FIA homologation requiring at least 200 units of street legal versions.
Powered by a rear-mounted 2.85-liter twin-turbo flat-6 cylinder engine, it was one of the first supercars to use all-wheel-drive.
It was considered as the most technologically advanced road-going sports car when it was built, and the 959 charted the future direction for Porsche in the evolution of its highly successful 911 models, including the use of all-wheel-drive for its Carrera 4 and future Turbo variants starting with the last of the air-cooled 993 models.
Porsche Carrera GT
Production: 2004 to 2007
The Porsche Carrera GT is powered by a 5.7-liter V10 engine mounted midship, and is considered by many publications as one of the top sports cars of all time built after the year 2000.