Here’s a tip for you aspiring auto scribes out there: If you want to see a lot of reader feedback, create a best-looking list.
There’s almost nothing more subjective or arbitrary than an evaluation of something’s aesthetic qualities, and almost nothing more irresistible to readers. With that in mind, I present the 10 best-looking sedans of 1991.
I’d like to note that if I created this list even a day later, it might be slightly different. A few of the cars on this list are locks–there will always be room in my design heart for the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes S-Class of this period. On the other hand, I go both ways on the Bonneville. Today I love it–tomorrow… eh, maybe not so much. Still, as a younger man, I pined for a Bonneville SSE. Would its omission from this list suggest some act of betrayal on my part to a vehicle I once coveted?
As always, we welcome your input. What cars caught your attention back in 1991?
Base Price: $28,505 (100)
For a period in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the editors of Car and Driver played as large a role in shaping my outlook on life as did my parents. For this reason. I took to the simple, purposeful lines of these big Audis as easily as I would take to visions of Kim Delaney a little later in life.
Base Price: $32,5545 (525i)
Contemporary German sedans never got much better looking than this. The “Fives” of this era exuded a simple muscularity that was at once modern and immediately recognizable as a BMW. Though the 5-Series looked good in black, in my opinion too much of the car’s nicely rendered surface detail is lost in darker hues. Make mine silver.
Base Price: $15,479 (LX)
Though just a footnote in the journal of automotive history, the Eagle Premier caught my fancy back in the day, mostly for its crisp lines and decidedly foreign feel. And, indeed, foreign it was. A product of Renault’s fading relationship with AMC, the Premier was an Americanized version of European market Renault 25.
Base Price: $13,382 (L)
The Taurus is one of those cars I go back and forth on. However, in hot-rod SHO guise, this cleanly styled sedan is a little harder to deny. I’d argue the that rocker-panel sculpting is a little fussy, but the monochromatic treatment goes a long way toward helping me forget about that.
This pioneering Japanese luxury sedan is best remembered for two things: selling poorly and not having a grille. I applaud Infiniti for taking the bold approach to this car’s front fascia, though the brand’s stylists eventually backed down: A conventional grille was added when the car was updated for 1994.
Base Price: $40,400 (Base)
I should hate this car, as this generation of the XJ replaced the almost flawlessly beautiful “Series III” sedans that ran until 1988 in the U.S. Yet, I am forced to admit that, taken on its own virtues, this replacement for a classic is pretty great looking in its own right. I also really like these wheels.
Base Price: $54,250 (300SE)
There was no car built in 1991 that looked more stately or purposeful than the mighty S-Class. This big German sedan somehow looked large, luxurious, powerful, and athletic all at the same time. Later iterations of Mercedes’ flagship would often look good, but would never capture the presence of this generation.
Base Price: $24,275 (Regency Elite)
I should dislike this car. Sporting excessive overhangs and vestigial rear “skirts,” the Ninety-Eight pays tribute to the least sporting vehicles in Oldsmobile’s history, even in Touring Sedan guise. Still, the proportions somehow work, and in Touring Sedan trim (see opening photo), the car enjoys a clean monochromatic look that helps pull all the design elements together.
Base Price: $17,359 (LE)
Very much an Eighties holdover, the Bonneville, especially in SSE trim, is easily the most adolescent-looking vehicle on my list. That said, it’s undeniable sporty, and the SSE’s extroverted styling touches hit all the right boy-racer buttons. Plus, I am a sucker for body-colored wheels.
Base Price: $19,680
Every move Volvo made to modernize the look of the 240 made it look a little more Eastern Bloc, and made it a little more appealing to me. More Ruggedly handsome than actually attractive, the nearly indestructible 240 struck a pose that was simultaneously stately and unassuming. If you squint, you can convince yourself this Swedish box with wheels is a distant cousin to the Mercedes S-Class.