The 1980s brought about a new period in the history of auto making. The U.S. lost its top spot as the largest auto producing country in the world and Japan took over, a position the nation held until just the last decade. Financial shakeups cast uncertainty over auto sales worldwide, yet with the 80s also came much needed improvements to cars that made them safer, more fuel efficient, and more pleasurable to drive. Among the improvements were the electronic ignition, front-wheel drive, disc brakes, and fuel injection systems.
Because some foreign auto imports into the U.S. were limited in the 1980s, Japan notably started producing more luxury cars with high profit margins, including the Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura. U.S. automakers tried to compete and released their own car luxury lines. All of this equaled a slew of sedans with bells, whistles, and amenities that hadn’t been seen before — the decade was definitely an interesting time for car makers and car lovers.
Here are the top ten luxury sedans of the 1980s.
1. 1984 BMW 733i
Those who wanted a car that was seriously upscale in the early 80s often looked to the BMW 733i. It had a full list of amenities and features that were novel for the time, such as cruise control, power windows, a power sunroof, leather seats, and wood trim. The engine in the BMW 733i wasn’t quite as powerful as the version sold in Europe, but it was still a great performer.
2. 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190E
One of the most well regarded luxury sedans of the 1980s is the Mercedes-Benz 190E. This car proved that the superb engineering and performance of a Mercedes could be packed into a small sedan, and the car had all of the style and features one could find in the brand’s larger models. Over time, the Mercedes-Benz 190E morphed into the Mercedes C-class that we have today.
3. 1985 Audi 5000
This Audi 5000 should be known for its many groundbreaking features, fuel efficiency, great performance, and how quiet it was while operating. Instead, it’s mostly remembered because of an erroneous report broadcasted by 60 Minutes on November 23, 1986 that claimed the Audi 5000 had a habit of suddenly accelerating. The truth: the car did no such thing, and any unintended acceleration was a result of drivers using the wrong pedals. Still, the public bought the lie, the damage was done, and the Audi 5000’s sales started to slump along with all of the brand’s models — Audi didn’t rebound until the late 1990s.
4. 1985 Lincoln Mark VII
Lincoln continued its reputation of producing excellent luxury sedans into the 80s with the Mark VII. Its design was very similar to the Lincoln Continental, and it was available with a list of impressive optional trims and features including a GTC performance package and in-car phone. The Lincoln Mark VII also had power windows, locks, seats, and mirrors, four wheel disc brakes, and keyless entry, all of which weren’t standard in most cars at the time.
5. 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL LWB
This car had style, class, and it was among the most noted status cars of its day. The 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL LWB wasn’t just all looks, it was also a pleasure to drive and had the power and performance that the public had come to expect from the Mercedes brand.
6. 1987 Acura Integra
This model was part of the first generation of the Integra, and its clean styling embodied the best of 80s car design. It came in three and five door configurations and had a 1.6 liter four cylinder engine that produced 118 hp. The Integra truly helped cement Honda as a brand capable of reliably producing affordable cars with good performance. Inside the car was a thoughtfully designed interior, an audio system that was top of the line for its day, power windows, and a many other neat features.
7. 1987 Buick Grand National GNX
1987’s Buick Grand National GNX was the highest performing model of the line. Just 547 were produced, and you could only get it in black. The car flaunted a distinguished style, flared fenders, and 16 inch wheels. The Buick Grand National GNX had a 276 hp V6 engine that could go from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds. Today the car is a serious collector’s item, and one in good condition can easily fetch over $150,000.
8. 1988 AMG Hammer
While AMG was still an independent brand it produced the Hammer, the world’s fastest sedan at the time. The model was based on the platform of the Mercedes W124 E-class, but it had a 5.5 liter V8 engine and twin camshafts that produced 355 hp. Aside from its speed, performance, and style, the AMG Hammer is well remembered for the huge price tag that it carried compared to other luxury sedans of its day.
9. 1989 Lexus LS 400
1989 marked the first year that Lexus produced the LS, which is still in production today. The LS 400 was the first generation, and it had a more modern look and feel than other cars in its class, particularly because it wasn’t boxy. It had a 4.0 liter V8 engine that produced 250 hp and was designed to have a cabin quieter than other luxury sedans. The LS 400 was one of the first models to have a steering wheel that had automatic tilt and an SRS airbag, plus it had power seat belts and a high tech rear view mirror.
10. 1989 Alfa Romeo Milano Gold Automatic
Also called the Alfa Romeo 75 overseas, this model was released to honor the brand’s 75th anniversary and was a big hit when it was released for sale. It had a fuel injected engine that produced over 153 hp, and the interior was filled with plenty of deluxe features. The exterior design of the 1989 Alfa Romeo Milano Gold Automatic was typical of luxury sedans of the 80s: distinctively boxy, but rather clean.