100 Cars That Matter, Evergreen, Features

1990 Acura NSX: 100 Cars That Matter


By the early 1980s, Honda was ready to break out. The Japanese automaker had its sights set on exotic performance without sacrificing reliability. Buoyed by its entrance into the Formula One championship in 1983, the automaker had resources and ambition—and an idea.

In 1984, engineers targeted prancing horses and charging bulls with a mid-engine, rear-drive sports car—a far cry from the front-engine, front-wheel-drive cars it was building. Deep within Honda’s skunkworks, the company converted a lowly Honda City hatchback compact car into a mid-engine mule to test their theory. The car’s handling was thrilling they said, but the technology wasn’t up to snuff to keep it on the road.

Original NSX Sketch – Acura NSX 30th Anniversary

Shelved shortly after, Honda engineers never forgot the City mule’s dynamic potential. Eager to prove to the world that it could make a “New” “Sportscar” “unknown” (an “X” subbed in as the mathematical “unknown”); the NS-X was born in 1985. Early sketches showed a radical body, inspired by the F-16, with an engine planted midships, behind the driver.

Engineers wavered between sheet steel and aluminum for the early NS-X in 1986—steel was easier for production, aluminum was lighter but more expensive and difficult to use. Ultimately, Honda landed on aluminum for its new sportscar, the first all-aluminum monocoque production car from a mainstream automaker in history.

The lighter aluminum didn’t need a big, heavy engine to hit performance targets, and the company landed on a V-6. In America, Honda’s nascent luxury brand Acura needed a halo car and NSX (American Honda preferred no hyphen) fit the bill.

1991 Acura NSX - Acura NSX 30th Anniversary

1991 Acura NSX – Acura NSX 30th Anniversary

In 1989, the NSX made its debut at the Chicago auto show. Then-president Tadashi Kume reportedly started a prototype fitted with an SOHC V-6 from the Acura Legend. He implored engineers to adapt Honda’s variable valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC) from its inline-4 to the NSX’s V-6 engine. Critics who drove early prototypes also said the car lacked power.

Legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna helped, too. At Suzuka to test Honda’s new F1 car, Senna drove the NSX and pressured engineers to make the body stiffer.

“I’m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car,” Senna told the team, according to Honda. “but I feel it’s a little fragile.”

What arrived in 1990 was a worldbeater. The everyday supercar lasted for 15 years, beyond a recession in Japan that killed several other sports cars but not Honda’s breakout.

Note to readers: Motor Authority has compiled 100 cars that have forever changed enthusiasts. From supercars and sedans to SUVs and muscle cars, these are the cars that have sparked our love for cars. Think we’ve missed something? Leave a comment below or contact us here.



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Evergreen

BMW made a V-16-powered 750iL named “Goldfisch” in 1987


The 1980s were a time of excess, and brought with them the rise of BMW and Mercedes-Benz as the cars of choice to project success.

It should come as no surprise, then, that German automakers and excess overlapped more than once. This V-16-powered 1987 BMW 750iL is one of the best examples of the intersection between “Why would they build that?” and “Why not?”

Dubbed the Goldfisch (yes, it means goldfish), this one-of-a-kind 7-Series featured a 6.6-liter V-16 engine derived from BMW’s existing V-12, BMWBlog reported in November. The resulting mill was so large it wouldn’t fit under the hood of BMW’s long-wheelbase sedan without significant modifications. 

1987 BMW 750iL “Goldfisch”

To find that space, BMW elected to move the radiator to the trunk. In fact, BMW mounted two radiators in the trunk, and fed them with air via two ridiculous fiberglass ducts fitted to the rear quarter panels. 

That got the heat out of the engine’s coolant, but not out of the car. For that, BMW’s engineers built in a complex trunk-lid-mounted air extraction system that pumped the unwanted heat into the car’s slipstream. 

The result? A 408-horsepower executive sedan. While that may not sound like a lot by today’s standards, it was a monster 32 years ago. For context, the infamous Mercedes-Benz AMG “Hammer” boasted a 6.0-liter V-8 making 375 horsepower, and that was super sedan royalty at the time.

BMW’s impractical monster was never meant to see production, which is just fine. Things this weird should be unique. A showroom-spec Goldfisch would have come without the ridiculous engineering solutions that make this car so interesting.



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Evergreen

Spun off, spun out, spun and done: The 19 worst spin-off car models ever


Spin-off models are the easy way to make big money in the car industry. Build one car that’s a hit and after a few years, it recoups its investment. Build three cars off the same kit—now you’re talking profit, or at least heaps of credibility.

But not every new spin-off vehicle can be clown-shoe BMW or a Lincoln Navigator. Some spin-offs are just meh—and some are outright failures of imagination, of execution, or of sentience. If those cars were a text message the only rational answer would be “TF?!”

These are the worst car spin-off models ever, according to us. Looking for classics like the Dodge LaFemme or the Porsche 912E? Nope, we’re going with stuff in recent memory, stuff that still makes us wonder if product planning is still a Six Sigma process or if it’s literally just a game of darts.

Your list has something else? Give us your worst in the comments below.

2011 Acura ZDX

Acura ZDX

Where to begin with this one. The idea of a sport-backed luxury SUV was before its time, but the then-current MDX was a poor organ donor for the poor ZDX. Look, it’s not all bad—there’s Honda running gear underneath, after all. But there’s no cure—not even more cowbell—for the bottle-opener grille, the cramped back seat, or the incomprehensible center stack of controls. 

Aston Martin Cygnet Launch Edition

Aston Martin Cygnet Launch Edition

Aston Martin Cygnet

A Scion iQ with Aston Martin badging, the Cygnet was a sort of carbon offset for people who couldn’t have cared less about carbon at the time, unless it was compressed and heated into the form of a diamond.

2016 Cadillac ELR

2016 Cadillac ELR

Cadillac ELR

Can you still buy one of these “Chevy Volts at twice the price” new? Asking for a frenemy.

2004 Chevrolet SSR

2004 Chevrolet SSR

Chevrolet SSR

A Chevy TrailBlazer pressed like Play-Doh through a Roger Rabbit die plate, the Chevy SSR satisfied a lot of Boomer retro-rodder dreams. So why go cartoonish when you can go full cartoon character? All the SSR was missing was its animated sidekick.

1986 Ford EXP (Escort EXP)

1986 Ford EXP (Escort EXP)

Ford EXP

An Escort-based Fiero for people who wanted less performance, the EXP could only have been worse if Ford had tried to sub-brand it a Mustang. Ford actually made a few convertibles and electric-car conversions and sunroof-equipped EXPs—and a Mercury LN7, which helped the EXP live up to the experiment implied by its name. 

GMC Envoy XUV

GMC Envoy XUV

GMC Envoy XUV

The sky was the limit in this half-retractable-hardtop GMC Envoy, but everything else was limited. The rear fold-away roof caused more problems than it solved: It was heavier, not particularly eager or useful, and unreliable. Call it me in college. No respectable SUV powered by an awesome inline-6 (!) should have fallen this far from glory, but if any company could accomplish such a feat, it would have been late-1990s GM.

2012 Honda Crosstour EX-L

2012 Honda Crosstour EX-L

Honda Accord Crosstour

Here’s what a good idea looks like when it gets ahead of itself. The idea: Capture some fastback glamour on the then-current Honda Accord. The getting-ahead-of-itself part: An unsuitable base for that tall, tapered, elegant rear end. The Accord Crosstour eventually would spawn the beautifully drawn Accord and Civic of today, but it started with a stumble and a fumble, and a stinkbug rear end that hasn’t grown more lovely with time.

1997 Honda Civic del Sol S

1997 Honda Civic del Sol S

Honda Del Sol

Take a Honda Civic, remove the usable room behind the front seats, snip off the roof panel and throw in a bunch of body groans and creaks. Del Sol! I hustled one of these around for a year with an aftermarket MiniDisc player jacked into its dash, and if that doesn’t tell you enough about how the 1990s went for me, buy me a drink some day.

hummer h3t 06

hummer h3t 06

Hummer H3T

How far was GM willing to scrape its parts bin for something commercially viable? This far.

2008 Jaguar X-TYPE

2008 Jaguar X-TYPE

Jaguar X-Type

Once upon a time, there was a reasonably interesting Ford Contour sedan. It begat a Mercury Mystique, which obviously got dubbed the Mistake. Then there was the X-Type—the plasticky-wood-trimmed, goggle-eyed, ribbed-hood Contour-alike with no discernible advantage over the Ford other than a short-lived wagon model. Nothing good Jaguar ever did factored into the X-Type, and lots of bad things it did, did.

2011 Kia Forte Koup

2011 Kia Forte Koup

Kia Forte Koup

Sometimes a bad name can kill good intentions. The Koup wasn’t remarkably inferior in comparison with the Forte on which it was based, but “Koup” foretold a decade of Silicon Valley start-up apps with ridiculously altered names, all in the interests of standing out. Brought to you by the company that dubbed some trim levels with an “!”.

2011 Lexus HS 250h

2011 Lexus HS 250h

Lexus HS 250

Us: “How about a Lexus with a Prius price tag?”

Them: 

Us: 

Them: “Here’s a Prius with a Lexus price tag.”

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

Lincoln Blackwood

Sometimes timing is everything. A modern-day Blackwood could work. It might have a normal pickup bed, a twin-turbo V-6 with 500 hp, and a swank blue-leather cockpit. Instead this one had a weird tailgate, zoot-suit pinstripes, and no discernible advantage over a top-end F-150. If you’re gonna come for the King (Ranch), you gotta come correct.

2016 MINI Cooper S Paceman ALL4

2016 MINI Cooper S Paceman ALL4

Mini Coupe/Paceman

Can we just not.

2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

This one was signed off on during the Carlos Ghosn administration. Ghosn, in case you haven’t heard, is now the world’s most famous crate engine and the only person ever interviewed by Motor Authority to later flee legal prosecution. So far. Hell, we’d buy one of these now just for the backstory.

2009 Pontiac G3

2009 Pontiac G3

Pontiac G3

Any car built under license in Tehran can’t be great.

2005 Subaru Baja (Natl) Sport

2005 Subaru Baja (Natl) Sport

Subaru Baja

Even Subaru devotees pointed fingers and snickered at this one—and yet, the Baja still commands top dollar used. The short pickup bed did a fine impression of the Subaru Brat, while the front end did its Outback part. The jarring combination of the two predated the Lil Nas X/Billy Ray Cyrus pairing by nearly two decades, so let’s politely call it ahead of its time and leave it at that.

2017 Tesla Model X

2017 Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

A Greek myth made literal in car form, the Model S grew wings and flew too close to the sun in the form of the Model X. Don’t get me wrong: As an electric car, it’s the bee’s knees. As an SUV, it’s a bit of a question mark. As a pointless indulgence of a billionaire who put his own ego ahead of what customers really wanted to drive—a vehicle with doors that opened all of the time—the Model X deserves last place here.

2004 Pontiac Aztek Rally

2004 Pontiac Aztek Rally

Bonus: Pontiac Aztek

Bob Lutz told me once: “There’s nothing the Honda Element does that the Aztek can’t do.” I think about that a lot.



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100 Cars That Matter, Bugatti Veyron, Evergreen, Features, Hypercars

2005 Bugatti Veyron: 100 Cars That Matter


Keen to toy with its latest purchase, Volkswagen Group planned to return Bugatti to its glory days. The original Bugatti folded in the mid-20th century, only to be revived for fewer than 10 years in 1987. In 1998, VW Group rescued Bugatti when it purchased the brand.

Flush with cash, VW tinkered with Buggati’s mission. Would it be an ultra-luxurious automaker? It could have been, based on two concept cars shown in 1998 and 1999. Instead, Bugatti revealed a different kind of car in late 1999 called the 18/3 Chiron.

While the public gazed at a mid-engine supercar with sweeping lines and a massive W-18 engine, VW had set the course for the reborn brand and previewed what would come six years later: the Bugatti Veyron.

ALSO SEE: Witness the $21,000 Bugatti Veyron oil change

Bugatti EB 16/4 Veyron

The 18/3 showed the potential for a mid-engine supercar, and Bugatti followed up with the EB 18/4 that began to show the shape of the Veyron yet to come. In 2000, the EB 16/4 concept bowed, which cemented the Veyron’s future powertrain: an 8.0-liter W-16 quad-turbocharged engine.

VW committed to produce the EB 16/4 one year later, which began the race to usher in a new era for Bugatti.

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

After lengthy production holdups, the first Bugatti Veyron was delivered in 2005. The specifications were out of this world. The original Veyron made 987 horsepower, featured a permanent all-wheel-drive system, and clocked a top speed of 253.81 mph—fast enough to make it the fastest production and street-legal car in the world.

The world took notice almost immediately. The Veyron quickly became an essential part of a high-dollar collector’s garage, for bragging rights if nothing else. On bedroom walls around the world, the Veyron joined other hot metal as the latest poster car for children.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse - Image via Manuel Carrillo III

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse – Image via Manuel Carrillo III

Five years after the original’s debut, Bugatti doubled down and introduced the Veyron Super Sport with 1,184 hp. The car was limited to 30 units and was capable of going 267 mph. Twice in one decade, Bugatti made the fastest production car in the world.

In 2015, Bugatti ended Veyron production and prepared to pen a new page in history with a forthcoming supercar. The Chiron bowed in 2016 to succeed the record-setting Veyron.

Bugatti Chiron test with astronaut Jon A. McBride

Bugatti Chiron test with astronaut Jon A. McBride

Yet, the Chiron has hardly garnered the hype and enthusiasm the Veyron did. It’s difficult to frame, but the Veyron captured enthusiasts and the public alike with something special—a rare ingredient. The Chiron is hardly forgettable, but the path Bugatti forged with the Veyron will forever make it a trailblazer.

Note to readers: Motor Authority has compiled 100 cars that have forever changed enthusiasts. From supercars and sedans to SUVs and muscle cars, these are the cars that have sparked our love for cars. Think we’ve missed something? Leave a comment below or contact us here.



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Evergreen, Videos

Godzilla’s biography: The 50-year history of the Nissan GT-R


For the better part of four decades it was only a Japanese legend. Unobtainium here in the United States, the Nissan Skyline GT-R was a high-tech, high-performance coupe we could only get a glimpse of in Japanese magazines or experience virtually through video games. Outfitted with all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, and a twin-turbocharged inline-6, it was understandably a car we drooled over, but only from afar. And that nickname: Godzilla. How cool was that?

And then it came here in 2008, and it hasn’t disappointed. The power is sudden, and the all-wheel-drive system puts it to the pavement to create supercar performance. The experience is a little bit digital and the looks are almost Japanese to a fault, but this is one of the best performance values on the market, despite annual price increases. 

But without a long domestic history, many readers may not be all that familiar with the story of the GT-R. With the nameplate having turned 50 in 2019, we’re here today to remedy that problem one generation at a time. Nissan has a video out of all six generations of the GT-R, and you can read up on their history below. And while we’re plenty happy with the current car, we’re looking forward to the seventh generation.

1969 Nissan Skyline GT-R

1972 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R coupe, Nissan Heritage garage, Zama, Japan

1972 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R coupe, Nissan Heritage garage, Zama, Japan

1972 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R coupe, Nissan Heritage garage, Zama, Japan

1972 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R coupe, Nissan Heritage garage, Zama, Japan

First generation, 1969-1972

The Skyline sedan had been around since 1957, but the GT-R made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in fall 1968 and launched in February 1969. The beating heart of the beast was the S20 dual-overhead cam 2.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine, which produced 160 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. The first-generation GT-R was known internally as code KPGC10 and carried the “Hakosuka” nickname, which was an amalgamation of the Japanese words for box and skyline. The car was 173 inches long with a 104-inch wheelbase, and it weighed 2,469 pounds. It could cover the quarter mile in 16.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 124 mph. It could corner, too, as it proved by winning the JAF Grand Prix in its debut race. The car became available as a coupe in 1971. All told, 1,945 of the first-generation cars were produced.

1973 Nissan Skyline GT-R

1973 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Second generation, 1973

The second-generation Skyline GT-R, code KPGC110, was offered only as a coupe and only in 1973. The S20 in-line-6 still powered the car, and like the first-generation, the only transmission was a 5-speed manual. The car unofficially became known as the “Ken & Mary” due to a song by a young couple used in the advertising campaign. Unfortunately, only 197 KPGC110 GT-Rs were built due to the oil crisis and the stricter emissions standards that choked performance in the mid 1970s.

Nissan Skyline GT-R R32

Nissan Skyline GT-R R32

1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R

1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Nissan Skyline GT-R R32

Nissan Skyline GT-R R32

Third generation, 1989-1994

After a 16-year hiatus, the Skyline GT-R returned, this time as a showcase for much more performance technology. The so-called R32 GT-R featured the new ATTESA all-wheel-drive system, all-wheel “Hicas” steering, and multi-link suspension front and rear. The RB26DETT 2.6-liter turbocharged inline-6-cylinder spun out 276 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph took 5.6 seconds and the quarter mile passed in 13.9 seconds. The wheelbase was down to 102.9 inches, but the length was up to 180.9 inches. A version built for FIA Group A racing put out about 550 horsepower and won the 1991 Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours race. The total production run was 43,394 cars.

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Fourth generation, 1995-1998

The R33 generation was mostly just an evolution of the R32. It featured the same engine, but torque increased slightly to 264 pound-feet. The 0-60 mph time was down to 5.0 seconds, but the greater achievement was a 7:59 lap of the Nürburgring. A monster R400 model made 395 horsepower thanks to bigger turbos and increased displacement to 2.8 liters. It could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds flat. Launched in 1997, only 44 R400s were built. For most customers, the V.Spec model was the sportier choice, with firmer suspension, a lower ride height, and an active limited-slip rear differential. The R33 race cars earned the Godzilla nickname in Australia for their dominance over the Ford and Holden V-8s. That would soon spread to the production car.

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

Fifth generation, 1999-2002

The R34-generation of the GT-R benefitted from the racing and testing done for the two previous generations. It still made 276 horsepower  “officially,” and turbo lag was reduced, torque was increased, and a new Getrag 6-speed manual replaced the 5-speed. The body was also stiffer, the aerodynamics were improved, and several weight-saving measures were employed, including the use of a carbon fiber rear diffuser. The car was also shorter, as was the front overhang. An R34 GT-R has been featured in several of the “Fast and Furious” movies, giving U.S. car enthusiasts a taste for unobtainable Japanese performance cars.

2009 Nissan GT-R

2009 Nissan GT-R

2009 Nissan GT-R

2009 Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R

Sixth generation, 2008 to present

The first GT-R to be offered in the United States, the R35, dropped the Skyline name. It arrived in Japan in December 2007 and in the United States in July 2008 with a starting price just under $78,000. The new engine was a twin-turbocharged VR38DETT 3.8-liter V-6 spinning out 480 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. The Hicas all-wheel steering system was gone, and so was the 6-speed manual, replaced by a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. The multifunction display was created by the same programmers who did the “Gran Turismo” video game. Performance was much improved, and it has improved steadily since the R35’s release.

The R35 is now entering the 2020 model year, and there’s a special 50th anniversary package to mark the milestone. The base car makes 565 horsepower and the Nismo model churns out 600 horses. The top speed is now 193 mph, and 0 to 60 is as quick as 3.2 seconds. Unfortunately, the base car’s price is $115,235 and if you want the Nismo you’re looking at a minimum of  $212,435. Godzilla has certainly grown up.



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