1992 Camry Wagon

Most Overpriced Non-luxury Vehicle of the 1990s?

For the past couple of weeks, Wednesday’s QOTD posts have asked a simple question: What was the most overpriced non-luxury vehicle of a given period of time? The first inquiry dealt only with 2019 vehicles, and last week we covered the 2000s — where I picked on the overpriced, retro Ford Thunderbird. Many of you thought I was wrong (I wasn’t). Today, we’ll head back to the decade we all like to discuss — the one that’s popular right now with youths.

It is, of course, the 1990s. I’m already wearing my blazer and shoulder pads.

I mentioned last time how the 2000s was a time when a Golden Age of cars faded away. The Nineties represented a high point in safety, design, quality, and manufacturers trying to make good cars. Could we say the same here in The Current Year? I’m not so sure. In any event, the increase in quality corresponded to an increase in asking price for a lot of vehicles when compared to their late-Eighties offerings just a few years prior. Interest rates were as heavy as the denim jackets of the day. I’ve got a particularly overpriced ride in mind.

Look at it — it’s beautiful. Subaru introduced the big and sleek SVX coupe as a successor to the departed and angular XT model. Aiming to be a bit more mainstream than its departed older brother, the SVX had a lot going for it; maybe too much. Being a big coupe, the SVX was designed as flagship of the Subaru brand. Subaru hired heavy hitter Giugiaro to pen the shape at his ItalDesign studio, and the resulting concept debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. Its most notable feature was a unique window-within-window design on the doors.

The 1992 production version kept the window weirdness, looking very different from other Subaru offerings at the time (or since). Under hood, the company shoehorned its 3.3-liter H6 engine, the largest power plant produced to date. Without a manual transmission to handle all the power, Subaru stuck in a four-speed automatic from the Legacy. And there’s where things started to go wrong.

Being a Subaru, heavy all-wheel drive was mandatory (it became optional in 1994). Without it, the SVX was a front-drive “sporty” vehicle much like Mitsubishi’s 3000GT. The drivetrain and additional weight threw cold water on sporting pretensions, as well as the interest of the Subaru loyalists — who all wanted a manual transmission and all-wheel drive. And by the way, the earlier transmissions weren’t reliable, and tended to chew themselves to pieces. While Subaru intended to chase the Nissan 300ZX and 3000GT with its offering, it was slower than everything else in the class. 60 miles per hour arrived in a glacial 7.3 seconds. All this lack of performance came at a big ask — $24,445 for the most basic 1992 model; roughly $44,000 adjusted for inflation.

The big, heavy, soft coupe was aimed above what even the most loyal Subaru buyer was willing to pay. As a result, the SVX sold poorly, finding just over 24,000 buyers globally. Production ended in 1996. See ya, SVX.

What other vehicles from the Nineties were priced above their station?

[Images: Toyota, Subaru]

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