(Image/Nissan)

The 1990s had several significant milestones that could easily cement it as the best decade in automotive history.

For starters, Ford launched its new Explorer, which kicked the SUV market into high gear. (If your commute didn’t already tell you, SUVs are pretty dang popular.)

Chrysler was on-point too—with a dramatically restyled Ram truck, throwback Plymouth Prowler hot rod, and….ahem…a certain snake-themed supercar.

The 1990s also brought us the GM LS engine, introduced in 1997 with the C5 Corvette. The LS has since become the go-to swap powerplant for anything from ’32 Fords to Datsun Z cars.

But perhaps the biggest automotive trend in the 1990s was the rise of import performance.

Sure, the Japanese weren’t newcomers to the racetrack, but they significantly upped their game in the 1990s.

The twin-turbo Nissan 300ZX Z32 hit North American shores in 1990, followed by Mazda’s rotary-powered third-gen RX7 in 1992. Toyota brought its 320-horsepower Supra Mk IV to the party in 1994.

Mitsubishi’s 3000GT had available all-wheel-drive and came with a Mopar stablemate, the Dodge Stealth.

Acura, meanwhile, built the NSX—a Ferrari fighter that you could take to any Honda dealer for service.

It was the low-buck scrappers however, that had the most impact—re-energizing the sport compact scene originally started by the Volkswagen GTI 20 years earlier.

Fueled by cars like the Honda Civic Si, Nissan 240SX, Toyota Celica, and Mitsubishi Eclipse, sport compacts propelled car culture into the 21st century.

Toss in the original Corvette ZR-1, Viper GTS, SVT Cobra and it’s easy to see why the 1990s represent the Best Decade in Automotive History.

Or, in the parlance of the era, the 1990s were “all that and a bag of chips.”

Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or watching a 1972 Corvette overheat. An avid motorcyclist, he spends the rest of his time synchronizing carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.