Porsche 911: Considered by many automotive enthusiasts to be the purest sports car ever made, the 911 has been a gold standard in sports car design since the 1960s. So much so that design changes have come with great care. In fact, the car’s overall profile, including the rear engine, has changed little over the years and has stayed as the flagship of the German brand’s line-up. The first major redesign was in 2005 and the newer turbo-charged models are not just faster, the new suspension technology has also made the 911 one of the best-handling sports cars in the world.
Ford Mustang: Easily the most iconic design to come out of Ford’s factories, it became an American automotive cult. Dubbed “retro futurism”, the mixture of retro and futuristic design elements—such as round head lamps paired with flared wheel arches—triggered off an industry-wide trend. Ford completely redesigned the classic “pony car” in 2005, and came up with a radically restyled vehicle that cemented its status as an American idol.
Mini Cooper: The cheeky, retro car we drive today was the successor to the classic design originally produced by British Motors in the 1960s. The Mini (now owned by BMW) maintained the basic lines of past models, as well as quirkier features such as old-fashioned toggle switches to operate the cabin’s windows. Its space-saving front-wheel drive layout influenced a generation of car makers. It is considered the British equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle which enjoyed similar popularity.
Volkswagen Beetle: The Volkswagen Beetle, also called the Volkswagen Bug, was actually conceived by Adolf Hitler who wanted a cheap, simple car. It was produced by Volkswagen and was one of the first rear-engined cars. With over 21 million manufactured, the Beetle is the longest-running and most manufactured car of a single design platform worldwide. It lasted 65 years before the original Beetle was mothballed in 2003 and replaced by a model called The New Beetle which kept the original design cues, but was a radical upgrade.
Jaguar XJ: The Jaguar XJ has been an automotive icon ever since the first XJ was introduced in the late 1960s. It exemplified the Jaguar brand’s uniquely British styling. It became the company’s flagship model and evolved into a full-size luxury car. It is one of the official cars of the royal families and the UK’s Prime Minister. A 2003 redesign maintained the two most notable design features, the leaping jaguar hood ornament, as well as the four round head lamps.
Lexus LS400: For decades, the Japanese had built a reputation for reasonably-priced, economical, reliable and comfortable sedans. No one believed they could attempt a luxury car. That question mark was erased in 1989 when Toyota launched the LS400. It was powerful, comfortable and superbly quiet. Above all, it was luxurious and revolutionised the luxury-car market by raising the bar for reliability in the category.
Honda Civic: The 1984 Honda Civic arguably set the stage for the modern compact car. It grew in size and refinement, transcending the image of a cheap “econobox” and becoming a popular choice for families on a budget. Initially gaining a reputation for being fuel-efficient, reliable and environmentally-friendly, subsequent models added refinements to upgrade its mid-range sedan status. By 2012, it had been the top-selling car in Canada for 14 years and its worldwide appeal is testimony to its design and reliability.
Toyota RAV4: Back in 1996, Toyota broke tradition by designing an SUV on a car-like uni-body platform instead of the truck-type body-on-frame design that was commonly used till then. With a fully-independent suspension, it provided more agile handling and a better ride, and ushered in the era of the more civilised SUV.
BMW 3 Series: A contemporary icon, the 3 Series has been the sport-sedan gold standard for decades. Its blend of handling, performance and practicality has influenced the design of many of its competitors, as well as many of today’s mainstream passenger sedans. The second-generation 3 Series, introduced in 1983, was the first four-door.
Toyota Prius: The first hybrid to be commercially available worldwide, the petrol/electric Prius made “hybrid” a household word. Introduced in 2000, it wasn’t the first hybrid to be sold, but its popularity set the stage for a revolution that has caused every major automaker to play catch-up. With oil prices and the economic downturn, hybrids are the new Beetle.
BMW 7 Series: With its game-changing iDrive electronic control system, the 2002 7 Series kicked off one of today’s hottest trends: The move to full-featured infotainment systems. Touch-screens, joystick-like controllers, etc, have become commonplace now, but the 7 series was where it all started.