The 1990s flooded the auto industry with some of the most iconic sports cars in history. Besides the ultra-high-performance supercars like the McLaren F1 and Ferrari F50, sports cars for the every-man were rolling off the showroom floors. Cars like the RX-7 FD, Toyota SW20 MR2, and the Dodge Viper were redefining what performance meant, especially after the debacle and recovery from the oil crises of the 1970s. Although rear-wheel-drive cars were becoming more prominent, so were all-wheel-drive coupes. These are some of the best and most interesting AWD coupes to come out of the 1990s.
The 1990-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX was a tuner’s dream AWD coupe
The Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX was a coupe with a turbocharged engine that sent 210 horsepower to all four wheels. It was comfortable and fun to drive, but the main attraction was under the hood. The 4G63T engine used an iron block, and in later Lancer Evolutions it made close to 300 horsepower (officially). The Eclipse got this engine in its GST and GSX variants until 1999, and it was (and still is) a tuner’s dream for its ability to hold a lot of boost.
1990-1999 Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo: rare and mysterious
The Toyota Celica started life as a rear-wheel-drive coupe, but by its fourth generation had made the dramatic shift to front-wheel-drive. Along with the base model came the GT-Four, an AWD coupe variant also called the All-Trac. These Celicas got a turbocharged inline-four, which by 1999 was making 250 horsepower in a 3,000-pound chassis. The fact that it was a homologated rally race car speaks volumes of its ability to handle just about every terrain.
1994-1998 Porsche 993 Turbo: the first AWD 911
Porsche broke the mold with the 993 Turbo. Not only was it the first 911 with two baby turbochargers, but it was also the first turbo AWD coupe 911. It had ducts for brake cooling, which the car probably needed as its top speed was a scarcely believable 180 mph. The 993 Turbo got there by way of a 400-hp 3.6-liter flat-six. It was also the first 911 with a six-speed manual transmission. No wonder the 993 Turbo still sells for over $100,000.
1991-1995 Audi S2: the start of something beautiful
For a short while, Audi made the S2, an AWD coupe wielding a 2.2-liter turbocharged inline-five. It made 227 horsepower, and although was released with a five-speed manual transmission, 1993-onward got six forward gears. Audi made the RS2 Avant for the 1994-1995 model years, which got 311 horsepower from the same powerplant. The S2 introduced the world to Audi’s S-class.
The 1990-1999 VR-4 AWD coupe was the only good Mitsubishi 3000GT variant
Mitsubishi’s 3000GT (or GTO in Japan) base came as a front-wheel-drive wedge-shaped car in 1990. Its naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V6 made 220 horsepower, which isn’t much in a car that weighed more than 3,200 pounds. Mitsubishi fixed that with two turbochargers and all-wheel-drive, in the VR-4 variant. It weighed more than 4,000 pounds but made 300 horsepower. The inside was borderline luxurious when equipped with the plush leather seats and the car shifted comfortably, but visibility was lacking, and handling in the non-VR-4 iteration was a serious problem. Regardless, these cars are worth a fortune now and definitely turn heads.
Other AWD coupes from the ’90s that didn’t quite make the grade
An honorable mention goes to the Subaru XT6. It used a hybrid electro-hydraulic-assisted power steering but only had 111 horsepower from its turbocharged flat-six. Thankfully it only lasted a few years before Subaru followed it up with the cult-classic SVX. The 1990s was a magical time for cars, especially these AWD gems.