The 10 most reliable European high-performance cars from the 1990s

The 90’s brought many technological advances that made driving cars more fun, faster and more efficient. Power steering, ABS and fuel injection all became mainstream and improved dramatically from ’80s technologies.



These cars had a wonderful on-road feel and allowed drivers to enjoy the mechanical connection. In terms of raw speed, most of the vehicles on this list would be annihilated by most high-performance cars today. However, modern cars are just too fast and easy to drive, making them less appealing than any of the cars on this list.

10 Renault Clio Williams

From the 1960s, many manufacturers included hot hatches or sporty compact cars in their model portfolios. This tradition reached its peak in the 1990s when compact cars with high engine power became available.

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


9 Lotus Carlton

The Carlton was one of the most unique cars in the Lotus range. It was produced from 1990 to 1992 and was available with a 3.6-liter twin-turbo inline-6 ​​engine. The Carlton had another name, Omega, which helped differentiate between left- 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 intake manifolds, cooling manifold, intake system, crankshaft and pistons in its redesigned GM inline 6 engine.

Related: Here’s Why Gearheads Should Drive the Lotus Emira GT4

8th Lotus Elise S1

The Elise was a sports car that took the world by storm. It helped showcase Lotus engineering and made it a great handling car that was fun to drive. The Elise went into production in 1996 and was a car intended to be enjoyed by the driving enthusiast.

It introduced a range of technologies including lightweight composite body panels, an energy-absorbing composite crash structure and an extruded and bonded aluminum chassis. Lotus also added one Rover K-Series 1.8-litre quarter engine capable of 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds.


7 Porsche 968CS

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

The 968 CS was a lighter, sportier version of the 968 and was produced from 1993 to 1995. This was a focused and tenacious sports car, as Porsche sacrificed some comfort extras to drop its weight by 100 pounds. The 968 CS retained the massive 3.0-liter inline-4 naturally aspirated with 237 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque.

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

6 Mercedes-Benz 500 E

The 500 E was a combination of sports car performance and the comfort of a touring sedan. Born out of a collaboration between Mercedes and Porsche, it was an amazing 90’s car. Porsche helped redesign the W124 chassis to make the sedan feel like a true sports car performer.

They did this by fitting the 5.0-liter V8, the same in the SL, into the engine bay. The team also improved the powertrain and suspension system. The engine installed in the 500 E was a real performer, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds.


5 Volvo 850 T-5R

The Volvo 859 was introduced in 1991 with the GLT sedan. A few years later, Volvo launched the GLE, a station wagon and a turbo. Management constantly looked for new ways to bring the 850 into the limelight. 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 has equipped the standard T-5 with accessories such as sporty 17-inch wheels, an all-new color and lowered suspension. They also adapted the T-5’s engine for the T-5R, but produced more power and torque by changing the ECU software. This gave the T-5R 243 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel it from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Also see: What makes the Volvo 850 Turbo an underrated performance car

4 E39 BMW M5

The E39 M5 was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1998 and was considered a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It won the hearts of enthusiasts and was the best sedan chassis of its time. Some enthusiasts consider this M5 to be the greatest ever.

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

3 Porsche 911 Carrera

The 1995 911 introduced advanced performance and technology while staying true to the rear-engined sports cars of the ’60s. The Carrera was the basis for the more powerful and racing versions of Porsche. One of these models was the 1992 RS 3.6.

It was powered by the 3.6-liter naturally aspirated 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. In addition to being a lightweight variant of the Carrera, the Carrera RS produced 300 hp and was easily identifiable by a non-retractable rear wing.

Related: This is why the 996 is the most hated of all Porsche 911 generations


2 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evolution II

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

This extreme specification hot hatch had 480 hp but was canceled for racing in 1986. After that, Lancia returned to the drawing board and developed the HF Integrale, which won six straight victories. The Evoluzione II was the only car that did not compete, but was created in honor of the delta.

1 E36 BMW M3

In 1992, the next generation of the high-performance BMW M3 sports car came onto the market. It impressed with its modern design, increased comfort and significantly higher performance. Upon closer inspection, high-performance car enthusiasts noticed that the E36, like its predecessor, carried some M-specific DNA.

It was the first M3 with a 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine. For some, the M3 had become a thoroughly cultured gentleman, leaving behind the rebellious sports sedan mantra of its predecessor. Although this was a low-key M3, it took everyday usability to a new level, achieving a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds.

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