Chrysler hit its stride in the 1990s. Coming out of the K-car era, Chrysler had money to innovate, tune and upgrade the cars that came out of their factories. Revolutions such as the modern pickup truck, cab-forward design and factory sleeper cars were spearheaded by Chrysler in the last decade of the 20th century.
The 1990s were the last decade Plymouth was a major player in Chrysler’s lineup and saw the growth and decline of Eagle, now known for the Talon TSi. Jeep changed the SUV market and Dodge continued to build performance cars. Some might say that the 1990s were Chrysler’s last heyday. From rock hard muscle trucks to revolutionary fuel-efficient cars, here are some of the best Chrysler cars from the 1990s.
9 Avoid Intrepid
Dodge launched the Intrepid to replace their outdated and fairly basic K cars in the early 1990s. What followed was a semi-truck design, in which the cab of the vehicle was moved forward, along with the wheels and engine. This provided significantly more space for passengers while still maintaining a compact design. However, this wouldn’t be the last time Dodge would draw inspiration from large platforms.
The Intrepid could be powered by a wide range of V6 engines, with the most powerful 3.5 liter delivering just 220 horsepower. The car was offered in two trim levels: the basic trim and the sporty ES trim. The ES could be equipped with all the ’90s gadgets your heart desires, such as a CD player, leather seats and traction control. If the Intrepid isn’t quite what you want, there’s an even sportier version of Eagle called the Vision and several Chrysler luxury cars based on the Intrepid.
8 Dodge Daytona IROC
The Dodge Daytona may have started in the 1980s, but the car reached its peak in the early 1990s. IROC racing was still quite popular because NASCAR was at its peak and fans wanted to see their favorite drivers even after the season was over, so they looked to IROC (NASCAR equivalent of the NFL Pro-Bowl or NBA All-Star- games). In 1990, NASCAR chose Dodge to be the manufacturer for IROC cars, after the Chevy Camaro IROC-Z raced in the series for 15 years. IROC Racing has cemented the Daytona in racing history.
For 1993 the car could be equipped with the IROC package, which gave the small Dodge a 3.0L V6 and a five-speed manual transmission. 0-60 times were in the low 6 second range, respectable for 1993. NASCAR continued to use Dodge for the IROC cars even after the Daytona IROC was discontinued.
7 Plymouth Prowler
The Prowler was Plymouth’s latest attempt at a return to the sports car segment, and unfortunately it was the final nail in the coffin. The 3.5 V6 was not popular with fans and the price was much higher than most Plymouth buyers were comfortable paying. So is there anything good about the Prowler? Actually, yes. For starters, the performance wasn’t terrible. A 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds was quite fast by 90s standards… comparable to the same model year Camaro and Mustang.
More importantly, the Prowler revolutionized automotive design throughout the early 2000s and even today. The Prowler started the retro design trend, starting with small fuel-efficient cars like the PT Cruiser and VW Beetle. Soon, muscle cars began to resemble their ancestors, including the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and the Chevrolet Camaro. Today, even Lamborghini has noticed and styled the new Countach after its 80s counterparts. So no, Lamborghini wasn’t as revolutionary as you thought… Plymouth did it 25 years before Lamborghini.
6 Dodge/Plymouth Neon
Dodge and Plymouth share the credit for this little pocket rocket. Dodge introduced the Neon to compete against foreign legends such as the Honda Civic, VW Golf and the Nissan Sentra. There were a few domestic competitors in the Chevy Cavalier and Ford Escort, but Dodge/Plymouth trumped them in reliability, price and performance. The Dodge Neon ACR was fast enough to compete in SCCA Autocross and even had its own class in the SCCA.
Although the Neon is an economical car by modern standards, the Neon gave buyers performance that could not be found in comparable cars in the late 1990s. At the time, the Neon had the second-highest horsepower and torque rating, triumphed only by the heavier and more expensive Honda Civic EX. The Neon also set the frame for the iconic SRT-4… no honor to be taken lightly.
5 Dodge Durango
Dodge introduced the Durango in 1997, based on the popular Dodge Dakota pickup. The Durango was a mid-sized SUV, in the same vein as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercedes ML320. The Durango had one of the most powerful engines in the segment, a 245 hp 5.9L V8. A 4-speed Torqueflite with heavy duty suspension kept the Durango on the road, with optional four-wheel drive. The 3-row seats made the Durango a popular choice for every mom in the 1990s.
In fact, Carroll Shelby was a fan of the Durango, doing its own hot-rod with a supercharger and new suspension. The Durango brought Dodge back into the SUV market after a 4-year hiatus when the Dodge Ramcharger was discontinued. Fans of both muscle cars and tough off-roaders have something to offer in the first generation Durango. The Durango survives to this day, still in use by hot rodders and soccer moms. Now we only wish the Ramcharger would make a comeback.
4 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ
The Grand Cherokee ZJ was Jeep’s entry into the luxury SUV market, in an effort to sell cars like the Land Rover Discovery, Oldsmobile Bravada and the Ford Explorer. The Grand Cherokee proved to be the best performer on and off the road, pulling 245 horsepower from its 5.9L V8 and destroying the terrain with its rugged full-time four-wheel drive. A 1996 Motorrend test proved that the Grand Cherokee was superior to the Ford Explorer in every way except price… but the Ford didn’t have four-wheel drive and the same luxury as the Jeep.
Jeep could be credited with starting the muscle SUV movement when they created the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 5.9L. The Limited used the 5.9L V8, 3.73 gears and sporty earthworks. Until Jeep made the Grand Cherokee SRT8, the Grand Cherokee Limited 5.9 was considered the fastest SUV in production.
2 Dodge Viper
The Viper is synonymous with achievement, rashness and danger. Dodge designers Bob Lutz and Tom Gale wanted a “modern Cobra” and were willing to produce it. Gale and Lutz called in Carroll Shelby, who was already employed by Dodge, and they began work on their supercar. Dodge used a V10, based on the small block 5.9L V8 with some help from Lamborghini. The finished product delivered more than 400 horsepower and could put the Viper at 60 in 4 seconds.
In the same vein as the Cobra, the Viper had little comfort and safety equipment. The exhaust pipes could burn the driver’s leg if they weren’t careful when exiting the car. The massive horsepower coupled with no driving aids made the Viper extremely difficult to handle. Running for 25 years, the Viper found success on race tracks around the world, making automotive history in the process. Legend or not, we’re still terrified to drive it.
1 Dodge Ram (2nd generation)
Secure. Dodge has been manufacturing trucks for nearly 100 years, so what makes a 90s Dodge Ram so special? Take a look at the same Chevy, GMC and Ford model year trucks. Notice the square and fairly simple design motif? Dodge broke the mold by introducing a “big rig” styling that can now be found on pickup trucks around the world. However, Dodge was the first, not afraid to break the rules. Other conveniences, such as a comfortable and quiet interior, in-cab workspace and power outlets, revolutionized the way merchants used their trucks.
The Ram was powered by a range of small block V8s, a V10 and the iconic 5.9L Cummins Diesel. The Cummins had more pulling and pulling power than its competitors and made it out of 6 cylinders, not 8. No other company offered a V10 in a civilian pickup truck, so Dodge already got market share in the V10 truck segment. Avoid promo material from the time that said “the rules have changed”, and we don’t agree anymore.