10 Most Underrated Luxury Cars Of The ’80s

10 Most Underrated Luxury Cars Of The ’80s

For every luxury car that rose to prominence in the ’80s, they were so many others that never got the attention they deserved. The eighties was an interesting decade that saw America’s top manufacturers struggling to survive in the face of rising competition from European and Japanese brands. Caught on the wrong foot, the Americans were all trying to play catch up by revising their manufacturing techniques.

Across the great pond, the boys at Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz were busy dreaming up and building groundbreaking cars that would go on to become future icons. In Japan, manufacturers were creating cars that were classy, efficient, and reliable. However, factors like poor marketing strategies, bad publicity, high price tags, and unfavorable economic landscapes combined to drive some perfectly capable cars into obscurity. This article is not about the cars that enjoyed prominence in the ’80s, but rather it’s about the most underrated cars, 10 of which we are reviewing here.

10 1989 Audi V8

Neils De Wit

The Audi V8 was developed as Audi’s flagship sedan and manufactured between 1988 and 1993 with styling inspired by the 100 and 200 models. It was both the first V8-powered Audi and also the first to combine Audi’s permanent 4-wheel drive system with an automatic transmission.

Via BringaTrailer

With 247 hp available at 5800 rpm and 251 lb-ft of torque available at 4000 rpm, there was no shortage of power. As Audi’s range-topping model, it boasted an impressive list of luxury features which included an 8-speaker BOSE sound system and electronic cruise control.

9 1984 Audi 5000

Audi 5000
Via: Money Inc

When it was launched for model year 1983 in Europe (it debuted for 1984 in the U.S.), the third generation of the Audi 5000 was designed to be aerodynamically superior to the second generation. Boasting a drag coefficient of 0.30, it was quiet and fuel-efficient and had several powertrains available for motivation.

1984 Audi 5000
via Lot Art

Unfortunately, several recalls over reported cases of sudden unintended acceleration and a November ’86 CBS television program (60 Minutes) nearly brought Audi to its knees in the United States. Although it was subsequently revealed that most of the reported incidents were caused by misapplication of pedals by the drivers, the damage was already done and sales of the Audi 5000 dropped drastically.

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8 1987 Sterling 800 Series

1987 Sterling 825SL

The Sterling 825/827, essentially a rebadged Acura Legend, was British Leyland’s last attempt, through its Austin-Rover division, to penetrate the American market. Powered by a 2.5-liter or later on, 2.7-liter V6 engine, the Sterling was equipped with ABS, power leather seats, and real wood grain trim and boasted better driving dynamics than the Acura Legend.

1987 Sterling 800 Series

Although it sold as well as the Legend initially, build quality issues involving interior trim, electronics, and corrosion dealt it a fatal blow. With poor sales, a low J.D. Power rating, and strong English currency, Rover bowed out of the American market.

7 1985 Merkur XR4Ti

1985 Merkur XR4Ti

The Merkur XR4Ti was a hand-built version of the Ford Sierra adapted to US regulations and sold by Ford from 1985 to 1989. Under the hood, they stuck in a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine that was good for 175 hp when paired with the standard 5-speed manual transmission.

1985 Merkur XR4Ti
Via BringaTrailer

Power disc brakes, variable-ratio power steering, cruise control, air conditioning, heated front seats, and nitrogen-pressurized shock absorbers were some of the features it came with. However, thanks to a high starting price and a lack of brand recognition, a car with unique looks and great handling was driven into obscurity.

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6 1986 Rolls-Royce Camargue

1986 Rolls Royce Camargue
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Launched in 1975 as Rolls-Royce’s flagship model, the Camargue was not just the most advanced Rolls, but also the world’s most expensive production car. Despite the cool features it came with, the Camargue suffered a lukewarm reception and a lack of prestige that was not befitting of its flagship status.

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On one hand, the design was criticized by purists as being untraditional while the high price tag kept new customers at bay. Not even the lavishly equipped and uniquely painted Camargue Limited special edition built in 1986 could redeem its image.

5 1981 Toyota Cressida

1981 Toyota Cressida

Arriving for the second generation in 1981, the Toyota Cressida wore razor edge styling, a deviation from the florid styling of the first generation. Under the hood, a 2.8-liter SOHC straight 6 engine churned out 116 hp which it sent to the rear wheels.


Apart from the rugged and beautifully built body, it boasted more luxurious soft-touch materials and the first motorized automatic shoulder belts in a car. The 1981 Toyota Cressida was a very solid, dependable, and unfortunately, underrated car.

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4 1981 Imperial

1981 Imperial
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The 1981 Imperial was a 2-door luxury coupe that was developed by Chrysler as a last-ditch effort to save the company from impending bankruptcy. Built on Chrysler’s J platform which it shared with the second generation Chrysler Cordoba, it drew styling inspiration from Imperial sedans of the late ’30s.

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Power was supplied by a 140 hp 5.2-liter V8 while the long array of standard features included the first fully digital instrument cluster in a domestic car. Despite market-leading warranty coverage, an attractive sticker price, and an intensive marketing effort, the Imperial was a huge flop with dismal sales figures.

3 1987 Cadillac Cimarron

1987 Cadillac Cimarron

The Cadillac Cimarron, an entry-level luxury car offered for the 1982-1988 model years, was Cadillac’s attempt to stand up to foreign competitors. Without a small platform of their own for the project, they borrowed a chassis and a 4-cylinder engine from Chevrolet.


It got a unique suspension tuning and was spruced up with a long lineup of luxury features. Even when the 1987 model got a 130 hp 2.8-liter V6 engine as standard, the Cimarron’s reputation was already dented beyond repair and it was considered the worst of GM’s product planning.

RELATED: Everything You Should Know About The 1980s Audi V8 Quattro

2 1982 Buick Riviera Convertible

1982 Buick Riviera Convertible
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Way back in 1963, the Riviera, designed from the ground up on a new GM E platform, was the first personal luxury car from General Motors. Rolling forward to the early ’80s, a dearth of true domestic convertibles prompted Buick to create the first Riviera convertible in 1982.

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Built with help from the American Sunroof Company (ASC), the convertible was offered in only two color choices and at a sticker price of $23,944. Despite the effort invested in marketing the Riviera Convertible, the high price tag kept buyers away from an otherwise great ride.

1 1988 Lincoln Mark VII LSC

1988 Lincoln Mark VII LSC
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The Lincoln Mark VII started life in 1984 as the Continental Mark VII, a luxury coupe equipped with a long list of the latest tech features. Arriving as a performance-oriented top trim, the LSC (Luxury Sport Coupe) featured 4-wheel air suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes, and Ford’s Keyless Entry System.

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With a revision of the lineup In 1988, the LSC got a 5-liter V8 engine that produced 225 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Although the 1988 Mark VII LSC was a brawny touring car with lots of advanced features, most people don’t remember it.

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