QOTD: Most Overpriced Non-luxury Vehicle of the 1990s?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

For the past couple of weeks, Wednesday’s QOTD posts have asked a simple question: What was the most overpriced non-luxury vehicle of a given period of time? The first inquiry dealt only with 2019 vehicles, and last week we covered the 2000s — where I picked on the overpriced, retro Ford Thunderbird. Many of you thought I was wrong (I wasn’t). Today, we’ll head back to the decade we all like to discuss — the one that’s popular right now with youths.

It is, of course, the 1990s. I’m already wearing my blazer and shoulder pads.

I mentioned last time how the 2000s was a time when a Golden Age of cars faded away. The Nineties represented a high point in safety, design, quality, and manufacturers trying to make good cars. Could we say the same here in The Current Year? I’m not so sure. In any event, the increase in quality corresponded to an increase in asking price for a lot of vehicles when compared to their late-Eighties offerings just a few years prior. Interest rates were as heavy as the denim jackets of the day. I’ve got a particularly overpriced ride in mind.

Look at it — it’s beautiful. Subaru introduced the big and sleek SVX coupe as a successor to the departed and angular XT model. Aiming to be a bit more mainstream than its departed older brother, the SVX had a lot going for it; maybe too much. Being a big coupe, the SVX was designed as flagship of the Subaru brand. Subaru hired heavy hitter Giugiaro to pen the shape at his ItalDesign studio, and the resulting concept debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. Its most notable feature was a unique window-within-window design on the doors.

The 1992 production version kept the window weirdness, looking very different from other Subaru offerings at the time (or since). Under hood, the company shoehorned its 3.3-liter H6 engine, the largest power plant produced to date. Without a manual transmission to handle all the power, Subaru stuck in a four-speed automatic from the Legacy. And there’s where things started to go wrong.

Being a Subaru, heavy all-wheel drive was mandatory (it became optional in 1994). Without it, the SVX was a front-drive “sporty” vehicle much like Mitsubishi’s 3000GT. The drivetrain and additional weight threw cold water on sporting pretensions, as well as the interest of the Subaru loyalists — who all wanted a manual transmission and all-wheel drive. And by the way, the earlier transmissions weren’t reliable, and tended to chew themselves to pieces. While Subaru intended to chase the Nissan 300ZX and 3000GT with its offering, it was slower than everything else in the class. 60 miles per hour arrived in a glacial 7.3 seconds. All this lack of performance came at a big ask — $24,445 for the most basic 1992 model; roughly $44,000 adjusted for inflation.

The big, heavy, soft coupe was aimed above what even the most loyal Subaru buyer was willing to pay. As a result, the SVX sold poorly, finding just over 24,000 buyers globally. Production ended in 1996. See ya, SVX.

What other vehicles from the Nineties were priced above their station?

[Images: Toyota, Subaru]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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3 of 54 comments
  • Ptschett Ptschett on Mar 21, 2019

    Dodge Stealth / Mitsubishi 3000GT. Honorable mention: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Per my copy of Consumer Guide's "1995 Cars" the Stealth R/T Turbo retailed at $37,905 when you could get arguably better bang for the buck with a $21,000 Trans Am. That Stealth retailed actually a little higher than a base Corvette; adding ZR1 to the Corvette was another $31,258 just for that package. Adding the ZR1 package to a base Corvette cost more than buying both a base Corvette and an Impala SS.

    • Ptschett Ptschett on Mar 21, 2019

      (I meant to say a ZR1 Corvette cost more than a base Corvette + an Impala SS)

  • Ryoku75 Ryoku75 on Mar 21, 2019

    My votes still on Saabs, the basic 900 was $28k in 90's money which is a lot of money for what was essentially just a European economy car, thats several grand above the arguably better Camry. Then theres the Volvo 850 turbo which sold for darn near $37k, I cant think of a single part of that car that warrants that kind of money. I doubt that inflation was an issue either.

  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)
  • 1995 SC I'm likely in the minority, but I really liked the last Eldorado best. That and the STS.