Chrysler took off in the 1990s. Emerging from the K-car era and strapped for cash, Chrysler had the cash to innovate, tune and improve the cars rolling out of their factories. Revolutions such as the modern pickup truck, cab-over design, and factory sleeper cars were spearheaded by Chrysler in the last decade of the 20th century.
The 90s was the last decade that Plymouth was a key player in the Chrysler lineup and saw the growth and decline of Eagle, known now for the Talon TSi. Jeep was changing the SUV market and Dodge continued to build performance cars. Some may say the 1990s were Chrysler’s last golden age. From pavement-pounding muscle trucks to groundbreaking economy cars, here are some of the greatest Chrysler cars of the 1990s.
9 Dodge the fearless
Dodge introduced the Intrepid to replace its aging and rather plain K-cars in the early 1990s. What followed was a design taken from tractor-trailers, moving the cab of the vehicle forward, along with the wheels and engine. This created a lot more space for passengers while maintaining a compact design. It wouldn’t be the last time Dodge took inspiration from big rigs.
The Intrepid could be powered by a host of V6 engines, with the most powerful 3.5-liter making just under 220 horsepower. The car was offered in two versions: the basic version and the sporty ES version. The ES could be outfitted with all the ’90s goodies your heart could desire like 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 luxury cars from Chrysler based on the Intrepid.
8 Dodge Daytona IROC
The Dodge Daytona may have started in the 1980s, but the car hit its peak in the early 1990s. IROC racing was still quite popular as NASCAR was in its heyday and fans wanted to see their favorite drivers even when the season was over, so they watched IROC (NASCAR equivalent to NFL Pro-Bowl or NBA All-Star games). In 1990, NASCAR chose Dodge as the manufacturer of the IROC race cars, after the Chevy Camaro IROC-Z’s 15-year hold on the series. IROC racing cemented the Daytona in racing history.
For 1993, the car could be optioned with the IROC package, giving the little Dodge a 3.0L V6 and a 5-speed manual transmission. 0-60 times were in the low 6-second range, respectable for 1993. NASCAR continued to use Dodge for IROC cars, even after the Daytona IROC was discontinued.
seven Plymouth Prowler
The Prowler was Plymouth’s latest effort to get back into the sports car segment, and sadly, it was the final nail in the coffin. The 3.5 V6 was not popular with fans and the price was well above what most Plymouth buyers were comfortable paying. So, is there anything good in the Prowler? In fact, yes. For starters, the performance wasn’t great. A 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds was pretty quick by ’90s standards…comparable to the same model year Camaro and Mustang.
More importantly, the Prowler revolutionized car design from the early 2000s to today. The Prowler started the retro design trend, starting with small economy cars like the PT Cruiser and VW Beetle. Soon muscle cars began to resemble their ancestors, including the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Chevrolet Camaro. These days, even Lamborghini has taken notice, styling 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 credit for this little pocket rocket. Dodge introduced the Neon to battle foreign legends like the Honda Civic, VW Golf and Nissan Sentra. There were a few domestic competitors in the Chevy Cavalier and Ford Escort, but Dodge/Plymouth surpassed 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 SCCA.
Although the Neon was a stripped down economy car by modern standards, the Neon offered buyers performance not found in similar cars in the late 1990s. the highest, only triumphed by the heavier and more expensive Honda Civic EX. The Neon also established the framework for the iconic SRT-4…not an 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-size SUV, in the same vein as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Mercedes ML320. The Durango had one of the most powerful engines in the segment, a 5.9-liter V8 developing 245 horsepower. A 4-speed Torqueflite and heavy-duty suspension kept the Durango on the road, with optional all-wheel drive. The 3-row seats made the Durango a popular choice for all moms in the 1990s.
Carroll Shelby was even a fan of the Durango, running his 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 tough muscle cars and off-roaders have something to enjoy in the first-generation Durango. The Durango survives to this day, still used 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 premium SUV market, trying to take sales of cars like the Land Rover Discovery, Oldsmobile Bravada and Ford Explorer. The Grand Cherokee proved to be the top performer on and off the road, pumping out 245 horsepower from its 5.9L V8 and shredding terrain with its rugged full-time all-wheel drive. A 1996 Motorrend test proved the Grand Cherokee to be superior to the Ford Explorer in every way except price…but the Ford lacked 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, 3.73-speed V8 and sporty bases. Until Jeep made the Grand Cherokee SRT8, the Grand Cherokee Limited 5.9 was considered the fastest SUV in production.
2 Dodge the Viper
The Viper is synonymous with performance, recklessness and danger. Dodge designers Bob Lutz and Tom Gale wanted a “modern-day Cobra” and were ready to produce it. Gale and Lutz brought in Carroll Shelby who was already employed by Dodge, and they started working on their supercar. Dodge used a V10, based on the 5.9L small block V8 with help from Lamborghini. The finished product developed over 400 horsepower and could take the Viper to 60 in 4 seconds.
Along the same lines as the Cobra, the Viper had few comforts and safety equipment. The exhaust pipes could actually burn the driver’s leg if they weren’t careful when getting out of the car. The huge horsepower figures combined with the lack of riding aids made the Viper extremely difficult to handle. The Viper raced for 25 years and found success on tracks around the world, and made automotive history by doing so. Legend or not, we’re still terrified to drive one.
1 Dodge Ram (2nd Generation)
Sure. Dodge has been producing trucks for almost 100 years now, so what makes a 1990s Dodge Ram so special? Well, take a look at trucks of the same model year from Chevy, GMC and Ford. Notice the square and rather simple pattern? Dodge broke the mold by introducing a big-rig style now found on pickup trucks around the world. Dodge was first though, unafraid to break the rules. Other conveniences like a comfortable and quiet interior, in-cab workspace, and power outlets revolutionized the way tradesmen 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 towing and hauling power than its competitors and made it from 6 cylinders, not 8s. No other company offered a V10 in a civilian-use pickup, so Dodge got all the market share in the V10 truck segment. Dodge promotional material from the time said “the rules have changed,” and we couldn’t agree more.