By on May 8, 2019

In a QOTD post last week, we walked down Nineties memory lane. The topics of discussion were the vehicle designs we still found stylish in The Current Year. In that post, conversation was restricted to domestic brand offerings.

Today, we go foreign.

And by foreign, we mean Europe. Let’s hear your selections for gracefully aging Nineties rides from across the sea.

Today’s rules are three in number, just like last time:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from a European manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Triumph Acclaim).
  3. Any body style is eligible except for trucks.

My selection today has a personal element to it, as I once owned one of these beauties. It wasn’t too hard on my wallet, but my ownership tenure was not that long — and it wasn’t driven that far.

It’s the D2 Audi A8. Hitting European dealer lots in 1994, the new A8 was the flagship sedan replacement for the dated and unsuccessful (and fragile) V8 Quattro. The A8 started development in 1982, when Audi inked a deal with Alcoa to develop a lightweight chassis with a standard four-wheel drive system. The automaker finalized the A8’s design in 1990, just two years after the V8 Quattro’s debut. Everything else was ready by 1993, and the Audi Space Frame Concept debuted at Frankfurt. Audi initially restricted sales to the European market, meaning the brand went without a large sedan in North America for the ’94 through ’96 model years.

A refresh for 2000 carried the D2 A8 through its final four model years, where it offered short- and long-wheelbase models, engines of 6, 8, or 12 cylinders (an Audi first), and a very sporty S8 version as featured in the superb action film Ronin. Your author’s ride was a 2000 model A8L, equipped with the only North American engine offering: a 310-horsepower 4.2-liter V8. It was Melange Metallic (premium beige).

The A8 has aged wonderfully over the years — it’s a strong contender for graceful Nineties design. Let’s hear your Euro selections.

[Images: Audi]

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58 Comments on “QOTD: Graceful Nineties Aging From Places European?...”

  • avatar

    This is easy, BMW E39, one of the most beautiful sedans to come out of Germany in the 90s.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Can’t disagree with the A8, at least style-wise. I wouldn’t want to have to wrench on it, though.
    I would add the A6 as well.

    • 0 avatar

      The 90’s A8’s were actually pretty reliable. The old 4.2L V8 with the timing belt is one of the best engines Audi ever produced.

      The main issue these older A8’s have is the transmissions don’t seem to last more than 150K. If you’re willing to rebuild the transmission, these cars will go 300K+ miles without any other serious issues.

    • 0 avatar

      I do like the A6, I think it’s more compact dimensions give a slightly more aggressive stance than the A8 while retaining the restrained styling.

  • avatar
    Philippe Pietro

    What else can I say? Your choice is exactly the same as mine. Can’t go wrong with Audi designs from this era.

  • avatar

    Personally, I’d go with the A6 over the A8, but both still look great. In fact, almost anything made by VW or Audi in the late ’90s would be a good choice.

    I’d add two Jags: the ’96 XK and ’94 XJ.

  • avatar

    For sure, the E39 BMW and D2 Audi A8 continue to look great. Let me add to that the classic Saab 900 3-door.

  • avatar

    Oh god yes to the Jags. I still see beautiful examples (rarely) being driven by someone with a lot more money and patience than I have.

  • avatar

    The 1997 – 2003 Jaguar XJ. Still some of the nicest looking cars on the roads today. If I didn’t live in a state where AWD was a requirement, I’d probably own one myself.

  • avatar

    The A6 and A8 were great looking cars, but let down by their quality and reliability.

  • avatar

    Volkswagen Corrado VR6 with stick in Mulberry.
    My brother would disagree and say Acura Integra .

  • avatar

    Jaguar XJ (X300).

  • avatar

    The A8 looks suspiciously Cadillacish.

    Have to agree with the e39 listed above. Some of the Jags were nice as well, but the e39 tops everything.

  • avatar

    E32 7 series (88-94)
    E38 7 series (95-01)
    E39 5 series (96-03)

    All timeless, classic designs with perfect proportions and just the right amount of surface details. The 90’s truly was peak BMW.

  • avatar

    Just barely meeting criteria…there is also the 1999 Mk IV Jetta. Still quite possibly the best compact car ever in terms of design.

  • avatar

    Oh, just thought of another great one!

    The 90-05 Acura NSX. Still looks great to this day. Especially the pre-facelift version with the pop-up headlights. So 90’s.

  • avatar

    A6 Audi wagon, dark green biege inside, great looking car, also the late 90’s Jag convertables in BRG of course.

  • avatar

    I’ll go with a 1995 Skoda Felicia combi. In brown. With the 5-speed manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      Uhhh… I don’t know about graceful ageing, but the closest you’ll come to brown is the maroon they did make them in. If you can find one that didn’t rust from back to front. Felicias would rust incessantly around the plastic trims.

  • avatar

    Audi A6 Allroad Quattro just making it under the wire debuting in 1999.

    There’s actually one sitting in the weeds its airbags deflated on my side of town (which is the poorer side.) It’s next to a church that my wife calls the “hickey church” because the pastor and his wife have a gaggle of their own kids and she’s always sporting hickeys.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    E39 fo eva. More $ in mine than I’ll ever get out but I don’t care. Also love me some A6, particularly the avant.

    Audi ruined it later in the decade with that horrible C5 generation A6, which has not aged well, just like BMW ruined it with the E60 5 series

    • 0 avatar

      Really? I think the C5 A6 still looks great. Never was a fan of the C6 gen though, especially pre facelift.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the E60. The flame-surfacing is maybe a bit much for people that didn’t buy Grand Prixs, but it is still a taut design overall.

      The F10 generation is when the 5-series turned into a blob. And it’s continuing with the G30.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Ramrod

        Honestly I like the rear of the E60, it’s the front with those eyebrow headlights that are too much. The interior has aged poorly IMO, particularly the pre-LCI doors…just weird. Actually we had an ’00 Grand Prix SE but I never liked it, maybe that’s my issue.

        • 0 avatar

          The E60’s had that awful peeling rubber coating on the interior plastics. Not sure if BMW fixed it for the later models. The vinyl in my 90’s BMW still looks brand new, not sure why they had to re-invent the wheel.

  • avatar

    While Audi and BMW are allright, my choice would be the B5, pre-facelift Passat. Or, on the other end of the boring-vs-individualistic spectre, the Citroen XM.

  • avatar

    Early 90s Porsche 911 (964), especially the Targa versions, though the Turbos are almost certainly more popular (and unquestionably more valuable).

  • avatar

    I believe the Audi TT was available in Europe in ’99, though it did not get to North America for another year.
    I did not find it particularly beautiful, but it was certainly stylish.
    And yes, I owned one. Stylish is my thing.

  • avatar

    I’m partial to the 1994 or 1995 (face lifted) Mercedes W124. That would be the E320 / E420 / E500. The W126 S-class ended life in 1991, so that would fit the bill too.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Will you could get the E30 over there until like 94 (I had a 1992 “touring” model) so I’ll nominate the E30 wagon.

  • avatar

    The Peugeot 406 coupe and sedan still look sharp to me.

  • avatar

    When you’re a kid, you have kid fears.

    The monster under the bed. The bully at school. Dad.

    But when you grow up, you trade in your kid fears for adult fears.

    The IRS. Gingivitis. Off-lease A8.

    Still, I’d love to get a first-gen A8 as a project.


  • avatar

    Ferrari 550 and 456.

    I’ll take the 550 in red, and the 456 in dark blue.

  • avatar

    I’m still a fan of the Goldeneye era Z3. You still see some garage beauties on the road and they still look good, especially with the top down. I also have the second the Audi TT. They were in Europe by 1999 and I think North America deliveries started later that year. I still credit that one car for changing people’s perceptions about Audi, especially their styling.

    Everyone took my other picks – the peak BMW sedans/coupes when they could do no wrong.

    Don’t see any Mercedes-loving going on…

  • avatar

    The Bentley Turbo R. It may be a brick, but it’s a quick brick, and the shape has held up well for being a product of its time.

    Second choice: Renault Sport Spider. There is absolutely no mistaking it for what it is, or what it’s for.

  • avatar

    The Renault Twingo Mk.I.

    It is so simple in design that it ages much better than most contemporaries. Entered production in ’92, kept going in France ’till ’07 and ’12 in Uruguay.

    Granted the facelift did help to modernize it somewhat and the generally funky and no-nonsense nature did not leave it stuck in any particular time.

    It could take much more of a punishment than immediately apparent and would turn into a queen size bed with all the seats down. Just… don’t bring too much luggage.

    I wanted one with a canvas top very much, but… you know. Miata is always the answer.

    • 0 avatar

      Had a girlfriend that had one.

      You haven’t lived until you had to drive with the windows down in the dead of winter, because your breath was causing a layer of ice to build up on the inside of the windshield, and the car hadn’t warmed up.

  • avatar

    My favorite decade and favorite continent!

    E39. Aged gracefully and still looks modern. The handling and highway ride are superior to most new cars today. This was Peak BMW, who in turn was Peak Sports/Handling-Oriented Sedan. After this one, the good things mostly stagnated while the bad (reliability) got worse, having already fallen when compared to…

    E34. Also aged gracefully but looks its age. I’ve been daily-driving one (well, a succession of three, two of them wagons, one of which a 4.4L 6-speed) for 14 years. More often than not, after parking I still turn around and look at it. Along with the very similar – but in my eyes not half as pretty – E32 and the remains of the E30, these probably score the highest for maintainability of any US-market European car from the 90’s. To work on, they’re less complex than a Mercedes and nowhere near as idiotic as a VAG product.

    Speaking of which, the A4 Golf and Jetta (not to be confused with Audi A4), B5 Passat, and later A6 and A8 are high on my list to look at and drive. But having made a living for some years working for a VW indy, I can attest to the horror show that maintaining these, in increasing order, often entails. Apart from US-market diesel availability and AWD, they do little or nothing a BMW can’t, and are far worse to live with out of warranty.

    E38. Blend an E34 and E39, blow it up ~10%, dollop on a steaming alphabet soup of unnecessary electronic crap and flimsy plastic… and you get one of the most elegant-looking sedans ever made that drives as well as it looks, but eats cupholders and can surprise you with its variety of warning/error lights and messages. Not the easiest to maintain but nowhere near as bad as its complexity would suggest.

    The X300 and 308 Jags manage to pull off styling cues from the 1940’s while still looking good in 2019. No experience driving or working on either, though.

    IMO, Mercs from this decade just haven’t aged as well, stylistically. A W140 is still competitive among the luxury barge segment, but styled as conservatively as this motorcade flagship was, it looks as staid now as then.

  • avatar

    It’s not actually my favorite, but I’ll nominate the Mk VII Mini if only to point out, “Holy [email protected]! The original Mini was in production through the 2000 model year!”

  • avatar

    1995-1999 Buick Riviera. I still want one.
    Cool fact: A custom coach builder in FL built 15+ convertible Rivieras. They look amazing!

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