By on October 2, 2019

We return to our Nineties sports car design discussion this week. Previously, we covered America and Europe; this week we end on the continent which arguably provided the broadest variety of excellent car design in the decade — Asia.

The triumvirate of rules this week is the same as in weeks prior:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from a Japanese manufacturer, even if sourced from an import.
  3. Any body style is eligible as long as it’s sporty.

For my selection today, I’ll leave the more obvious answers alone and go for a design with which I have first-hand experience:

It’s the second-generation Lexus GS. The Grand Sedan debuted its sophomore album for the 1998 model year. Sleeker and more aggressive styling done in-house at Lexus replaced the Giugiaro-designed first generation. Like before, GS shared its platform with the Toyota Crown. Wheelbase was up, overall length was down, and inline-six and V8 engines were available as in the first generation. There was also a twin-turbo inline-six for Supra Sedan Action, but those were confined to the Japanese domestic market.

In 2001, a visual refresh front and rear meant tail lamp lenses which no longer faded to pink in the sun. Coinciding with the update, the GS 400 received the new 4.3-liter V8, becoming the 430.

That’s when I bought in — used, naturally. From 2010 through the fourth quarter of 2013, the GS was my daily driver in good weather (in bad weather I drove a ’97 Impreza L wagon). In silver over grey, it had standard everything and pixelated DVD-based navigation. It was an excellent car; I sold it to a man from Michigan at 109,000 miles. He bought it without driving it, loaded it on a trailer, and took it to the land of heavy salt (Ann Arbor).

The GS lived on in second-gen format through 2005, by which time it desperately needed replacement. But it still looks good today, and a clean one that’s been maintained will still catch the eye. These cars came in interesting colors too, like bronze and mist green. A design classic, it’s only let down by slightly chunky door handles.

Let’s hear your Asian selections for sporty Nineties designs.

[Images: Mazda, Lexus]

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38 Comments on “QOTD: Stunning Nineties Sports Car Design From Asia?...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I wanted a GS so bad!

    A car that I thought was amazing – when it came out – was the 1990 Nissan 300ZX (Z32), especially the twin turbo version with 300 hp (woot!). It seemed to sleek and different than anything at the time. Now I think it looks a little dated. They’ve also become very uncommon, at least here in the rust belt.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I still like that generation GS, especially the facelift version above, with the later taillights. I see plenty of them with the faded inboard brake lights – I guess they’re used as rear fogs in Europe? Sometimes I see a GS that has one faded and one not, so then I wonder if one was replaced, or if it’s just two different parts suppliers.

      And yeah, the styling is a little dated now, at least the front. The rest has held up well.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Another one I really like is the second-gen Infiniti M35/M45 (Y34 platform). Smaller than the Q, but still available with the 4.5l V8. A sleeper, that I always imagined being driven by Yakuza members. The only thing I’d change would be the grille – I never was crazy about the bold chrome bars. It’s based on the Nissan Gloria, descended from the Prince Gloria, which gives it a reputation for performance.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    Have to go supra here.

    Also a fan of the late 90s civic si and integra. If they are considered “sporty”.

    This generation of rx-7 is quite pleasing to the eye as well.

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    Plain and simple – the FD RX-7.

    25 years later and the design still looks modern.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    My username really is the answer :)

  • avatar
    jh26036

    There’s the usual suspects like the NSX, 3000GT VR4, RX7

    Then the lesser stuff like the Acura Legend both coupe/sedan, Lexus SC, Honda Prelude, Nissan 240SX

    Some of my favorites, 3rd gen Maxima SE, facelifted 4th gen Maxima SE, later model Infiniti G20, Eclipse GSX, some special edition NA & NB Miatas

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Peak Japan – it’s hard to go wrong with many of the sports car designs, especially up to 1995-96.

    The RX-7 shown above is just stunning. Still looks great today, even with the pop-up headlights. One solid, cohesive design that looks fluid from every angle…something that can’t be said about many designs today.

    1990-96 Nissan 300ZX (including Twin Turbo) – just an overall very clean design with the low, swooping arc that makes up most of the design. The interior is also very 90’s modern with almost no clutter and has aged very well.

    Late 1990’s Integra GS-R/Type-R. Another very clean, no frills, huge glass design that has aged well, looks mean without being over the top, and has the engineering goods to back it up. Also has a very clean Japanese-type interior of that era that has aged well and is dirt easy to use.

    I hope what is old becomes new again because these peak Japan designs all have something in common. They are clean, functional designs that have aged very well without needless frills, slashes, gashes, creases, lights, etc that too many cars have today. Maybe the next generation of car designs will tone down the over the top gaudiness we have today.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      An unmolested ‘Teg Type-R went for — are you sitting down? — *** $82,000 *** on Bring-A-Trailer last week! As I understand it, the only better ones around are the ones spirited-away in various museums, Honda collections, etc.!

  • avatar
    ajla

    I know I’m in the extreme minority but I’ve never really liked the looks FD RX-7.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    There is a special place in my heart for the mid-90s Mazdas, espcially the MX6 Turbo. Maybe not the best performer compared to some of the others that will show up on this list, but it a great looking long and lean coupe with real-world usability. No way that my big ass is ever going to be comfortable in something like a 300ZX…

    Mazda was really hitting them out of the ball park in those days. So many great cars – the RX7, the MX3 and the Miata. The RX and the Miata are legands, of course, but its a shame people forget about the MX6 and the MX3.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Hey there!

      I was never a huge fan of the styling of the MX6. I think the front end is too short and the rear lacks styling to match the rest. The Probe on the other hand…

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      That 626 5-door was a looker, make mine Turbo.

      https://consumerguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/91807061990301.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      The second gen MX-6 is still a looker. I think the MX-3 gets overlooked because it only lasted one generation. But it had that tiny V6 that was oh so smooth. It’s too bad more of them didn’t sell. But they’d probably would have been discontinued a decade ago or morphed into yet another soul-crushing crossover appliance.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Good to see you on here — hope all is well with you!

      Was the Mazdaspeed 3 birthed in the ‘90s? If so, that needs to be on the list!

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        Thanks! Wikipedia says the first Mazdaspeed product was the Mazdaspeed Protege in 2003. Mazdaspeed 3 was 2007.

        You know something else we’ve overlooked? The JDM Cosmo. 1990-1996.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    1992 Toyota Celica GT-Four Carlos Sainz Limited Edition

    OR

    1994 Toyota Celica GT Four

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll nominate the Mazda Millenia and/or the Mazda MX-6.

  • avatar

    Supra
    GT3000

  • avatar
    lifino

    Had to create an account to share my answer;

    In order of least desirable to most desirable (to me)

    3) R33 Skyline
    2) Subaru WRX
    1) NA MX-5

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Most folks seem to be focusing on USDM cars but I don’t see any rules against cars not sold here and lifino broke the ice.

    If limited to US spec cars then it’s easily the FD RX7. Absolutely beautiful.

    If not, I’m going with the R33 Skyline, specifically in GT-R V Spec trim (of course). I prefer it to the R32 and while I love the R34, I think the R33 has a subtlety to it that just speaks to me.

    I also really like the Silvia/240sx of the S14 variety.

  • avatar
    hpycamper

    Apparently the term sports car is now as corrupted as coupe.

  • avatar
    Noble713

    1. FD RX-7. I consider this one of the most beautiful cars of all time. Ferrari 250 GTO, eat your heart out. I love seeing these on the road (and they are pretty common here, tastefully modded by middle aged Japanese guys).

    2. MkIV Supra. Classic GT coupe lines. Looks like a Japanese Aston Martin (to me) once you delete the wing. Well-maintained ones still command immense street presence, and doesn’t look dated like the 300ZX (which looks “futuristic for 1990” to my eyes). Also has an even more driver-focused interior than the FD RX-7.

    3. JZX100 Chaser. The svelte Japanese version of a BMW E36 Sedan. Aggressive, sleek, and yet a little bit brutish at the same time. Classic 3-box design in its final Super Saiyan form. The only letdown design-wise might be the interior. Overall, it’s far sexier than the fat, melted Aristo/GS in the opening post. Seriously I think the Aristo is hideous, and I just prey on their carcasses to swipe spare engines for my Supra.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Sorry Corey, whenever I see that era of GS I just see a Mercedes imposter. It doesnt help that several other car companies would go on to copy that look.

    To me, the best looking J-sports cars from that time are the rally spec Imprezza, Japanese spec Integra, Miata, and R32 GTR. The regular street Imprezzas look a bit weird.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Based off of looks alone…

    1) RX7
    2) NSX
    3) Supra
    4) 3000GT

    At the time I was driving a 1991 MR2, which wasn’t a bad looking car either, and arguably more sporty than the larger Supra.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    1. Lexus SC300/400 or the Nissan 300ZX

    The Lexus still looks amazing, not at all dated (I think the Supra hasn’t aged as well).

    The 300ZX is the most 90’s looking car built…It is the decade on wheels yet to this day it isn’t dated.

  • avatar
    STS_Endeavour

    I think my favorite was the Subaru SVX.
    But the Toyota Sera was kinda intriguing.


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