Was 1994 the best year for new cars?

Cars
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Confidence to drive this 911 the way you’d always wanted to drive a 911. But it was better even than that, because it was also quieter and more comfortable than the 964, so playing to that other eternal 911 strength: its day-to-day usability. Which is why, today, 993s are far more desirable not only than the 964s than came before but the 996s than came thereafter.

If anything, the F355 was an even bigger step forward over its predecessor. Ferrari, recognising the threat posed by the Honda NSX, realised it could sit on its laurels no longer and reacted. The F355 looked quite like the 348, but everything was different: it had more power, a slick six-speed gearbox, lovely steering and suspension that made it as indulgent and rewarding to drive as the 348 was, well, bloody terrifying at times.

I remember as if it were yesterday the sense of trepidation I felt as I headed to the hills above Maranello in a yellow F355 to do the obligatory oversteer shot required for the cover of the mag. My fear stemmed from an exercise we’d conducted with the 348 that we’d taken to a big safe test track to see if it could be made to behave. It could not: beyond a certain modest slip angle, the back would go and stay gone. But the F355 would have skidded contently all day, or at least until its tyres were down to the canvas. Its engine, with its 8500rpm redline, was fabulous and even all the old Fiat bits had gone from its interior.

It was wonderful to become reacquainted with two of my favourite cars not just from the mid-1990s but the 30 years I’ve been doing this job. And while neither feels remotely modern any more, both retain that power not only to thrill the driver but reassure too. And I love their clean looks, modest dimensions, superb visibility, naturally aspirated engines and manual gearboxes.

These cars serve to provide further evidence, as if it were needed, that while there has been immense progress in the near quarter-century that’s passed since their introduction, not all of it has been uniformly in the right direction. 

Matt Prior: modern opinion:

I’m pretty old for a young bloke in this company because when I started in this game, in 1997, some of the cars were still on sale.

I’ve also cheated by driving the 993 before, so I’m aware of just how responsive, light and compact it feels. Relatively comfortable, too, and strong, with a very tidy exhaust. You probably wouldn’t, but you could, drive it daily.

But it’s the F355 — which I collect from, and return to, Slade’s Garage — that I spend a serious amount of time in and which makes a bigger impression.

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