One usually equates "best" with "expensive." With cars, "best" has also come to be mean "European" or "Japanese."

The 1991-model year seems to be no exception.Only one American car - General Motors Corp.'s brutishly powerful, $60,000 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 - has made the list of "The 10 Best Cars in the World for 1991," in Road & Track magazine's December issue.

Road & Track also announced in its latest issue five more top choices that are less costly, ranked by price and model. But no American nameplate made that list - just Hondas and Nissans.

Among them were the Honda Accord EX coupe or sedan and the smaller CRX Si coupe. Three Nissan models were also chosen - the all-new Sentra XE subcompact, as well as the Maxima SE sedan and 300ZX coupe (non-turbo).

Nothing from Ford Motor Co. or Chrysler Corp., not even models jointly designed with Asian carmakers, made the "10 best" list, which included four cars from Japan, four from Germany and one from Italy.

The Japanese models are the $60,000 Acura NSX sports car from Honda, as well as the $40,000 Infiniti Q45 sedan and $35,000 300ZX Turbo from Nissan. Mazda's $14,200 Miata sports car, also made the cut.

Among German carmakers, Mercedes-Benz placed two offerings - its $47,200 300E sedan and its $89,300 500SL roadster. Porsche's $72,000 Carrera 4 coupe and BMW's $58,000 M5 sedan also made the list.

Ferrari's 348, priced just below $95,000, represented the best from Italy.

While some auto enthusiast publications have done such rankings on an annual basis, it is the first time in three years Road & Track has done such a list, saying that "new technology, new targets and new measures of excellence" made one necessary.