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50 Notable Cars for Edmunds' 50th Anniversary

From Edmunds.com

Since 1966, Edmunds has helped people find their perfect cars. To carry out that mission, our editors have reviewed thousands of trucks, SUVs and cars. There have been winners and losers, econoboxes and luxury rides, cars to love and cars to shun. We think there's no better way to celebrate our anniversary than to bring you 50 notable cars — one from each of our 50 years.

In our video and list, you'll see big engines and even bigger engineering innovations. There are breakthrough trucks, game-changing SUVs, muscle cars and green cars (and at least one green muscle car), along with multiple model makeovers, flashes of design genius, Hail Mary marketing passes and some detours into the weird.

Let's make this road trip last another 50 years — or more.


1966: Dodge Charger — Leader of the Dodge Rebellion

50 Notable Cars

  • First year of the Charger nameplate
  • First year for 426 Hemi in a production car
  • Easily one of the most influential cars in Dodge's history

1967: Chevrolet Camaro — Chevy's First Pony Car

50 Notable Cars

  • The Camaro had a sporty, aggressive appearance, and was available with a 396-cubic-inch 325-horspower V8
  • Starting price in 1967: $2,466
  • Camaro production ended in 2002, and was revived in 2009 as a 2010 model

1968: Toyota Corolla — Best-Selling Car Ever

50 Notable Cars

  • From its Japanese introduction in 1966 to December 2015, 43 million Corollas have sold worldwide, making it the best-selling car of all time
  • First sold with a 1.1-liter, 60-horsepower engine
  • First arrived in the U.S. in 1968; first car Toyota made in America (1986)

1969: Ford Mustang — Final Act for the Original Mustang

50 Notable Cars

  • Ford redesigned the Mustang for 1969, adding an aggressive, four-headlight grille and more muscular rear haunches
  • The Mustang was an undisputed hit by 1969, with well over 2 million units sold since its debut as a 1964.5 model
  • For many Mustang fans, 1969-'70 models represent the final iteration of the "real" Mustangs

1970: Datsun 240Z — The Japanese Car Goes Sporty

50 Notable Cars

  • First successful Japanese sports car sold in America
  • Exotic style and great performance for just $3,500
  • 16,000 units were sold in 1970, and jumped to 46,000 in 1973

1971: Plymouth Barracuda — Muscle Car Poster Child

50 Notable Cars

  • Corporate twin was the Dodge Challenger
  • Last year for the production Hemi, and the last year for the convertible; only year the 'Cuda would have four headlights
  • Produced from 1964-1974

1972: Mercedes-Benz 350SL — The Ultimate Personal Luxury Icon

50 Notable Cars

  • All-new model and first year for the V8-powered SL
  • Represented the epitome of success for nearly two decades
  • The letters "SL" come from the German words "Sports Leicht" which means "sporty and light"

1973: Honda Civic — Bursting Into the Four-Wheeled World

50 Notable Cars

  • Honda's first successful U.S. automobile
  • Introduced as a 1,500-pound, 50-horsepower car that got 40 miles per gallon
  • The Civic hit the U.S. market as both a sedan and hatchback

1974: Porsche 911 — Defining the European Sports Car

50 Notable Cars

  • First year for the U.S.-specification Carrera model
  • First year for the 2.7-liter engine and aluminum suspension
  • The 1973-'74 Carrera RS models are considered 911 classics

1975: Volkswagen Rabbit — The Bunny That Supplanted the Beetle

50 Notable Cars

  • The Rabbit was the new basis of Volkswagen's product line, replacing the Beetle
  • Called the Golf in Europe, where it went on sale in 1974
  • An effective combination of utility, value and fun

1976: Honda Accord — Thinking Outside the Econobox

50 Notable Cars

  • First year for Honda's perennial bestseller
  • Weighed in at 2,000 pounds, and had a whopping 68 horsepower
  • Sales skyrocketed from 16,000 in 1976 to 120,000 by 1978

1977: BWM 3 Series — Birth of the Modern Sport Sedan

50 Notable Cars

  • A tremendous success for BMW, nearly doubling the company's total worldwide sales just four years after its introduction
  • Initially offered as a two-door coupe
  • The four-door 3 Series followed eight years later

1978: Dodge Omni — The Car That Saved Chrysler

50 Notable Cars

  • Led Chrysler's comeback from the brink of bankruptcy
  • Sister vehicle was the Plymouth Horizon
  • The Omni's original 1.7-liter engine was sourced from VW

1979: Toyota Compact Truck/SR5 — Setting the Small-Truck Standard

50 Notable Cars

  • Toyota's compact truck was comfortable and carlike, making it easy to drive even when there wasn't something large to haul around
  • First year for SR5 and 4x4 versions of Toyota's compact truck
  • First year for the torsion bar front suspension and five-speed manual transmission

1980: Ford F-Series — The Best-Selling Vehicle on the Planet

50 Notable Cars

  • First full generation (1980-1986) of the best-selling F-Series
  • This generation included six-cylinder, V8, and even diesel options
  • In 1984, the base "F-100" model was replaced with the "F-150"model

1981: Ford Escort — Ford's First World Car

50 Notable Cars

  • The Ford Escort was the best-selling car in America for much of the 1980s
  • Designed to compete with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Rabbit
  • For the next two decades it would represent Ford in the economy-car segment before ultimately being replaced by the Focus

1982: Pontiac Firebird — A Pony Car With Muscle to Spare

50 Notable Cars

  • First year for full unibody platform, MacPherson struts, rear coil springs and fuel injection
  • Major redesign, and handled much better than its predecessor
  • Flip-up headlights

1983: Toyota Camry — Raising the Bar for Family Sedans

50 Notable Cars

  • First year for what has become Toyota's perennial bestseller
  • Offered as a sedan and a four-door hatchback
  • Available with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual

1984: Dodge Caravan — The Station-Wagon Slayer

50 Notable Cars

  • An instant hit with family shoppers; more than 200,000 Caravans sold in its first year of production
  • First modern vehicle of its type, the start of the "minivan" movement and the disrupter of station wagon supremacy
  • First offered with a 100-horsepower engine

1985: Nissan Maxima — The Four-Door Sports Car

50 Notable Cars

  • Effectively, the first Japanese sport sedan available in the U.S.
  • Zero-to-60 time was just a bit above 8 seconds
  • Also offered as a wagon

1986: Ford Taurus — Going Toe-to-Toe With Japanese Sedans

50 Notable Cars

  • A game-changer for Ford: Between 1992-1995, it was the best-selling car in America; that's a title no domestic car has held since
  • The Taurus was available as a sedan or a wagon
  • The Mercury Sable was its corporate twin

1987: Dodge Dakota — The First Midsize Truck

50 Notable Cars

  • Groundbreaking in its offering of features from both compact and full-sized trucks
  • More than 100,000 sold during first year
  • Offered carlike drivability and near-full-size functionality

1988: Chevrolet C/K Truck — GM Modernizes its Full-Sized Truck

50 Notable Cars

  • First appearance of extended-cab body style
  • The full redesign brought new names: the 1500, 2500 and 3500
  • First use of the five-speed manual transmission and shift-on-the-fly transfer case

1989: BMW 5 Series — The Ultimate Performance/Luxury Sedan

50 Notable Cars

  • All-new platform, suspension and exterior design
  • An incredible combination of performance and luxury for the time
  • Initially offered with two engines: 2.5-liter, 168-horsepower (525i) or 3.5-liter, 204-horsepower (535i); in 1991, the 310-horsepower M5 was added to the lineup

1990: Mazda Miata — The Rebirth of the Roadster

50 Notable Cars

  • The best-selling roadster on the planet for more than a decade
  • Revived the convertible market, and has inspired many of today's drop tops
  • The Miata offered refinement, dependability and a thrilling ride

1991: Ford Explorer — Here Comes the SUV

50 Notable Cars

  • Replaced the Bronco II, becoming the basis for an industry-wide movement away from station wagons, minivans and even large sedans
  • More than 7 million Explorers have been sold in the U.S. since its launch in 1990
  • The Explorer was the basis for the Mazda Navajo, Mercury Mountaineer and the Lincoln Aviator

1992: Dodge Viper — Return of the American Exotic

50 Notable Cars

  • First application of Chrysler's V10 engine in a performance roadster
  • A smoking zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds
  • The first in a series of modern-day "dream cars" that became production vehicles

1993: Mazda RX-7 — Purity of Form, Extremity of Function

50 Notable Cars

  • The third-generation RX-7 was a radical shift in design, performance and price compared to the first two generations
  • A twin-turbocharged, two-rotor engine produced 255 horsepower at 6,500 rpm
  • Often referred to as the "Japanese Ferrari"

1994: Dodge Ram — A New Full-Size Truck Class Leader

50 Notable Cars

  • First year for V10 engine and optional four-speed automatic
  • First year Dodge offered a driver-side airbag standard. Four-wheel antilock braking system was an additional available option
  • In one year, the Dodge Ram went from footnote to a major player in the full-size truck segment

1995: Mitsubishi Eclipse — An Icon for the New Hot-Rod Generation

50 Notable Cars

  • Had a starring role in 2001's The Fast and the Furious
  • Top-of-the-line GSX sprinted from zero to 60 in less than 7 seconds. Not bad for a car that cost less than $23,000
  • Convertible version with a power top and glass rear window debuts in 1996

1996: Mercedes-Benz E-Class — A Trendsetter for the Next Century

50 Notable Cars

  • The "four-headlight" look that debuted on the E-Class would come to represent the bulk of U.S.-bound Mercedes products for more than a decade
  • The E-Class offered the only diesel engine in the midsize luxury sedan segment
  • Side-impact airbags were a standard feature on all E-Class models

1997: Chevrolet Corvette — Ready for an Exotics Smackdown

50 Notable Cars

  • Aluminum 5.7-liter V8 engine produced an impressive 345 horsepower
  • First use of rear-mounted transmission to improve weight distribution
  • "America's Sports Car" offered exotic-car performance at a third of the price

1998: Mercedes-Benz ML-Class — Built by Americans, for Americans

50 Notable Cars

  • First Mercedes-Benz product built in the U.S.
  • The ML was designed from the ground up as a luxury SUV, unlike the Lincoln Navigator or Lexus LX 470 which were rebadged Ford and Toyota products
  • Initial quality issues plagued the ML, but capable off-road abilities and a luxurious on-road demeanor led to strong sales

1999: Lexus RX 300 — The SUV Crosses Over

50 Notable Cars

  • The car-based midsize SUV that started the luxury crossover craze
  • Single-handedly turned Lexus into America's top-selling luxury brand
  • Based on the Camry and Lexus ES 300, the RX 300 brought the ride quality of a sedan to the rough-and-tumble personality of an SUV

2000: Honda Insight — Heralding the Hybrid

50 Notable Cars

  • First hybrid model available in the U.S.
  • The tiny two-seater offered up to 70 mpg on the freeway
  • It shut off its engine at stoplights — common now, but a novel concept in 2000

2001: Chevrolet Avalanche — Half Truck, Half SUV

50 Notable Cars

  • Popularity peaked in 2003 with sales of 93,000
  • Cadillac marketed a version of the Avalanche as the Escalade EXT
  • Subaru had the same general idea as Chevrolet and introduced its Baja, a half-SUV/half-pickup, as a 2003 model

2002: Mini Cooper — Birth of the Retro Brand

50 Notable Cars

  • Sir Alec Issigonis' original 1959 Austin Mini was a tidy 120.2 inches long overall, while the 2002 Mini was a relatively gargantuan 142.8 inches long
  • Beloved icon of the empire though the Mini may be, the best-selling car in Great Britain is currently the Ford Fiesta
  • While the original Mini was never offered as a four-door car, the majority of Mini models sold today in the United States have four doors

2003: Toyota Prius — The Hybrid Juggernaut

50 Notable Cars

  • The first-generation Prius was boxy and only tepidly received
  • The second-generation car, with its polliwog-shaped body, had U.S. sales that more than doubled between 2003 and 2004; in 2005, U.S. sales shot up to 108,000
  • The Prius name is so powerfully associated with hybrid technology that there are now three Prius models: Prius, the smaller Prius C, and larger Prius V wagon; the plug-in Prius Prime is on its way

2004: Chrysler 300 — German Engineering and American Muscle

50 Notable Cars

  • First ground-up result of the merger between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler, using many components that were first used on Mercedes' E-Class sedans
  • First rear-drive Chrysler since the 1989 Fifth Avenue left production
  • The 2004 300C was the first car to use the new-generation 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine

2005: Ford Fusion — A Midsize American Contender

50 Notable Cars

  • Introduced 20 years after the Ford Taurus, it reinvigorated the company's sales of midsize sedans
  • When the Fusion went on sale, it was only slightly larger than the Focus and slightly smaller than the Five Hundred
  • Built on the CD3 platform, which is a widened and lengthened version of the structure originally designed by Mazda for its Mazda 6 sedan

2006: Toyota FJ Cruiser — Retro Charm and Off-Road Capable

50 Notable Cars

  • Toyota styled the FJ Cruiser to resemble the legendary FJ40 Land Cruiser models
  • Left the U.S. market at the end of the 2014 model year, but is now one of the most sought-after used vehicles; a 2014 model is worth almost as much as it sold for when it was new
  • The FJ Cruiser remained in production in other markets, but stops production completely in August 2016

2007: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X — Rally Car Supremacy

50 Notable Cars

  • The turbocharged, all-wheel-drive car — Evo for short — was built specifically to campaign in the FIA World Rally Championship
  • This 10th iteration of the Evo was the only one not powered by Mitsubishi's 4G63T turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Evos that were used for the drifting scenes in 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift were modified so that only the rear wheels were driven

2008: Nissan GT-R — Affordable Supercar Performance

50 Notable Cars

  • Nissan first used the GT-R name on a sporting version of its Skyline in 1969
  • The first GT-R exported to the United States, it retailed for a hair under $70,000, a deal for a vehicle with supercar performance
  • Edmunds.com's long-term 2009 R35 GT-R rocketed from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds at 118.6 mph

2009: Porsche Panamera — Great Driving, Weird Styling

50 Notable Cars

  • Although the Cayenne SUV is Porsche's first four-door vehicle, the luxury Panamera is the first sedan the company actually built
  • Panamera's much-criticized roof "hump" is said to have been added for extra backseat headroom at the personal insistence of Porsche's taller-than-average chief, Wendelin Wiedeking
  • Though initially equipped with only naturally aspirated or turbocharged V8 engines, the 2016 Panamera can be had with hybrid, diesel and V6 powertrains or the beast of the bunch: a 570-horsepower Panamera S with a twin-turbocharged V8

2010: Chevrolet Volt — Plug-In American Power

50 Notable Cars

  • First shown as a concept car in 2007, GM used the promise of the Volt's plug-in technology to bolster its case for government loan guarantees and company reorganization at the height of the Great Recession
  • NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick paid $225,000 for the second production Volt; the first Volt is in GM's Heritage Center Museum
  • During the year that Edmunds owned a 2011 Volt for long-term testing, the car's average gasoline fuel economy was 35.0 mpg (exactly the EPA rating); the average electricity consumption was 34.1 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles (lower than the EPA rating); the average electric-only range was 37.2 miles (about 2 miles better than the EPA rating)

2011: Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet — Anything Is Possible

50 Notable Cars

  • It's said that Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was responsible for pushing this awkward beast, a drop-top version of a crossover SUV, through to production
  • After selling a mere 4,495 cars, the CrossCabriolet left production after the 2014 model year. It was made in Japan, but only sold in the United States
  • Edmunds.com's Jessica Caldwell broke down its rarity this way in 2012: Over the span of a year, Caldwell saw just one CrossCab in the wild; during that same time, she had three sightings of actress Jennifer Garner

2012: Tesla Model S — Unprecedented Style and All-Electric Performance

50 Notable Cars

  • The Tesla Model S Performance model can go 265 miles on a charge, seat seven passengers, do 130 mph and run the quarter-mile in less than 13 seconds; it can't do them all at the same time, but the fact that it can do all of those things was a first for an EV
  • In the year that Edmunds owned a Model S in its test fleet, editors were able to power solely on the free Tesla Supercharger network for 11,693 miles
  • Two Edmunds editors set a record for cross-country EV travel in the car, covering 3,331.9 miles in 52 hours and 41 minutes; they stopped only to charge the car and paid nothing for fuel

2013: Honda Accord — The Perennial Bestseller

50 Notable Cars

  • The first Accord went on sale as a three-door hatchback in 1976 with a 1.6-liter engine making 68 horsepower; the base 2.4-liter engine in the 2013 Accord is rated at 185 horsepower
  • Honda began production of the Accord at a new plant in Marysville, Ohio in November 1982; today, almost all Accords sold in America are built there
  • The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have consistently been the best-selling cars to retail customers; with the introduction of the 2013 model, Honda reclaimed the top retail sales spot: Car buyers took home 366,000 Accords in 2013

2014: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray — The Best Corvette Yet

50 Notable Cars

  • The all-new seventh-generation Corvette revived the Stingray name, last used during the 1976 model year
  • The Stingray's new 6.2-liter LT1 V8 features such technologies as direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a system that shuts down up to half the cylinders when the car is cruising under a light load
  • The Z06 model with its supercharged LT4 engine rated at 650 horsepower is the most powerful car General Motors has ever produced

2015: Ford F-150 — The All-Aluminum Pickup

50 Notable Cars

  • The switch to aluminum dropped up to 700 pounds out of the average F-150, according to Ford
  • While the F-150's body is mostly aluminum, the firewall is still steel, as is the beefy ladder frame under it
  • Ford sold 780,354 F-Series trucks during 2015, making them the best-selling vehicle in America for the 34th straight year

2016: Mazda MX-5 Miata — Reigniting the Sports Car Flame

50 Notable Cars

  • This fourth generation of the Miata (officially, the MX-5 Miata, though only Mazda calls it that) is closer in size to the original 1990 Miata: The wheelbase is longer, but the overall length is shorter than the original
  • To keep weight down, the new Miata has aluminum front fenders, steering knuckles, convertible top ribs and many other chassis components
  • The Miata has become the entry-level car for worldwide road racing: Mazda took 94 orders for MX-5 Cup race cars by April 2016 at $53,000 each


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