October 1, 2022
  • October 1, 2022

10 Most Reliable European Performance Cars of the 1990s

By on August 16, 2022 0

The 90s led to many technological advancements that made cars more fun to drive, faster and more efficient. Power steering, ABS, and fuel injection all became commonplace and vastly improved over 80s technology.



These cars had a wonderful feel on the road, allowing drivers to take advantage of the mechanical connection. In terms of raw speed, most vehicles on this list would be dwarfed by most performance cars today. However, modern cars are just too fast and easy to drive, which makes them less appealing than any of the cars on this list.

ten Renault Clio Williams

From the 1960s, hatchbacks or sporty compact cars were part of the model portfolio of many manufacturers. This tradition reached its peak in the 90s, when even small cars were available with high engine power.

A good example is the 1992 Renault Clio 16V, which the company also used in rallying. To create a competitive rally car, Renault needed to develop a homologated road car. This led to the birth of the 1993 Renault Clio Williams with a 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder engine producing 150 hp.


9 Lotus-Carlton

The Carlton was one of the most unique cars in the Lotus line. It was produced from 1990 to 1992 and was available with a 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 ​​engine. The Carlton had another name, the Omega, which helped differentiate left-handed and right-handed models.

The motivation behind the Carlton came from Vauxhall and Opel, who wanted to improve the image of their cars. To achieve this, Lotus used the Vauxhall Carlton as the basis for the vehicle and improved every component. Lotus replaced the induction bodies, cooling manifold, induction system, crankshaft and pistons in their redesigned GM inline-6 ​​engine.

Related: Here’s Why Gearboxes Should Drive The Lotus Emira GT4

8 Lotus Elise S1

The Elise was a sports car that conquered the world. This helped showcase Lotus engineering, making it a very nimble and fun-to-drive car. The Elise entered production in 1996 and was a car meant to be enjoyed by driving enthusiasts.

It introduced a range of technologies such as lightweight composite body panels, an energy-absorbing composite crash structure and an extruded and bonded aluminum chassis. Lotus has also added a 1.8-litre Rover K-series inline 4-cylinder enginecapable of a 5.9 second 0-60 mph run.


seven Porsche 968 CS

The 968 was arguably the best-built Porsche of all the front-engined versions. It borrowed some of its looks from the 924 and 944, but Porsche claimed the 968 was 83 percent new. It was the last version of the four-cylinder transaxle models and was designed in line with the 928 and 911.

The 968 CS was a lighter and sportier version of the 968 and was in production from 1993 to 1995. It was a focused and uncompromising sports car as Porsche eliminated some comfort extras to help reduce its weight 100 lbs. The 968 CS retained the massive 3.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-4 producing 237 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque.

Related: These are the best European sports cars of the 1990s

6 Mercedes Benz 500E

The 500 E was a combination of a the performance of a sports car with the comfort of a touring sedan. It was born out of a collaboration between Mercedes and Porsche, and it was an amazing car from the 90s. Porsche helped redesign the W124 chassis to make the sedan feel like a real performance sports car.

They did this by getting the 5.0-liter V8, the same in the SL, to fit in the engine bay. The team also improved the drivetrain and suspension system. The engine powering the 500 E was a true performer, capable of 6.0 seconds from 0 to 62 mph.


5 Volvo 850 T-5R

The Volvo 859 was introduced in 1991 along with the GLT sedan. A few years later, Volvo launched the GLE, a wagon and a turbo. Management continually looked for new ways to put the 850 in the spotlight. During this time, two ideas were born; the first was to get back on track with the 850, and the second was a special version of the 850 Turbo, also known as the 850 T-5R.

Volvo fitted the standard T-5 with accessories such as sporty 17-inch rims, an all-new color and lowered suspension. They also adapted the engine from the T-5 for the T-5R but produced more horsepower and torque with a change in the ECU software. This helped the T-5R produce 243 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel it from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Related: What Makes The Volvo 850 Turbo An Underrated Performance Car

4 BMW M5 E39

The E39 M5 was launched in 1998 at the Geneva Motor Show and was considered a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It conquered the hearts of enthusiasts and was the most beautiful saloon chassis of its time. Some enthusiasts consider this M5 the greatest of all time.

Not only did it look fantastic, but it also handled superbly, comfortably and extremely fast. It also came with a six-speed manual gearbox that enthusiasts immediately fell in love with. The E39 M5 was available with a 4.9-liter S62 V8, capable of a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds.

3 Porsche 911 Carrera

The 1995 911 introduced advanced performance and technology but remained true to the rear-engined sports car of the 60s. The Carrera was the basis for Porsche’s higher performance and racing versions. One such model was the 1992 RS 3.6.

It was powered by the naturally aspirated 3.6 liter engine, which was increased to 3.8 liters in the Carrera RS from 1993 to 1994. The Carrera RS served as the homologation basis for the RSR. Apart from being a lightweight variant of the Carrera, the Carrera RS was capable of producing 300 bhp and was easily distinguished by a non-retractable rear spoiler.

Related: This Is Why The 996 Is The Most Hated Of All The Porsche 911 Generations


2 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II

The Delta was one of Lancia’s most successful products. It was in production from 1979 to 1994 and could be used on the road and on the track. In 1985, Lancia was preparing a Delta prototype for Group B racing, the result being the Delta S4.

This extreme spec hot hatch had 480 bhp but was canceled for racing in 1986. After that, Lancia went back to the drawing board and offered the HF Integrale, taking six straight wins. The Evoluzione II was the only car that did not race but was created in honor of the Delta.

1 BMW M3 E36

The next generation of the BMW M3 high-performance sports car was launched in 1992. It had a striking modern design, increased comfort and significantly more power. Upon closer inspection, performance car enthusiasts noted that the E36 carried M-specific DNA like its predecessor.

It was the first M3 to feature a 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine. For some people, the M3 had become a perfectly cultured gentleman, leaving behind the rebellious sports saloon mantra of its predecessor. Even though it was a reserved M3, it took everyday practicality to a new level while achieving a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds.