The 10 Best Japanese Sports Car of All Time
With their rise to stardom in the 90’s, Japanese Performance cars have quickly grown in popularity in the states. Sure, the roar of a throaty American muscle car is music to our ears but there is just something about driving a factory turbocharged car, or one that is AWD. Even better, why not drive a vehicle with both? This is a list of the Top 10 Japanese Sports cars to date. They are being rated on several different aspects, appearance, power, recognition, and features.
1993-1998 Toyota Supra Turbo
2JZ anyone? Easily one of the most recognizable Japanese sports cars of all time, the Supra will almost always be an import fan’s favorite. The Supra was sold in the states until 1998 and since then it seems the prices for these vehicles keep climbing. While a lot of this can be contributed to the Fast and the Furious series there is no denying that the 2JZGTE / 6-speed Getrag combination is one of the toughest drivetrains of all time. The 320hp inline 6 engine has a sweet sounding exhaust tone sure to please. The Supra’s bodyline’s are still relevant even to this day and are sure to turn heads when driving around town. The only downside, if your wanting to pick up a 6-speed factory TT car you can expect to pay a pretty steep price for one. The good news is that they values of these seem to increase year after year so it’s really an investment to buy one.
Nissan Skyline GT-R
The Nissan Skyline GT-R, or Godzilla as it is commonly referred to is a true iconic Japanese legend. While Americans didn’t get to enjoy what the Skyline had to offer until 2009 almost every car enthusiast was aware of the awesome cars running around overseas. With a 2.6L inline six that rivalled Toyota’s 2JZ, the GT-R was a great platform to build on. In 2009 Nissan decided to finally release a version in the U.S. dropping the Skyline nameplate and calling it simply the Nissan GTR. Nissan decided to go with a V6 engine in the new body rather than the Inline 6 in the previous models. The new GTR is the most technologically advanced car on the list with a very impressive dual clutch transmission and factory launch control. It's interior is also very luxurious with all kinds of gadgets to keep you occupied. The R35 model of the GTR is one of the quickest cars in the world with a 0-60mph time of only 2.7 seconds. To give you an idea of how fast that is, a $238,000 Lamborghini Huracan takes 3 seconds flat. While retail prices have jumped over the last few years, you can pick up a new GTR for a little over $100k which is still a bargain for the performance you get.
As the only mid-engine car on the list, the Acura NSX really stands out. In the early 90’s the NSX was a prime example that buying an exotic car didn’t always have to break the bank. Acura originally built the NSX to compete with some of the modern day Ferrari’s and did quite successful. The car was powered by a 3.0L naturally aspirated V6 that churned out 270hp (in later years Acura switched to a 3.2L and bumped the power output up to 290hp). While slightly underpowered compared to some other cars on this list, the NSX held its own with great handling and stunning looks and is still a highly respected vehicle to this day.
1990-1996 Nissan 300zx Twin Turbo
“Just as he’s about to catch me…The Twin Turbo’s kick in”. In 1989 Nissan unveiled a new direction for their beloved “Z” car line. They chose a slightly different body model than previous versions and the new look was a great success. The Nissan 300zx Z32 has one of the most timeless designs ever. It is sort of like a Porsche 911, no matter how old the car gets, it still seems to fit in just fine with the new kids on the block. Under the hood lies a 300hp twin turbo V6. The biggest “complaint” with the 300zx was that the engine bays were a little too cramped and thus they were a big pain in the rear to work on compared to some of the inline 6 engine bays like the Supra or the Skyline GTR.
1993-1995 Mazda RX7
In the mid 90’s while most Japanese automakers where stuffing turbocharged 6 cylinders in their performance cars Mazda was sticking to their rotary skills. The 3rd generation RX7 came with a twin turbo-charged 1.3L engine that made 252 horsepower. These cars only weighed in at a slim 2800lbs so they were a very quick car at the time. These cars were also exceptionally great in the twisties putting a smile on any driver’s face who took the car down a curvy road. The body lines on the 3rd gen RX7 still turn heads and these cars still retain a good resale value due to their limited run and low production numbers.
2003-2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution or more commonly “Evo” platform has gained huge popularity over the years. The 4G63 engine is one of the best 4 cylinder engines to build and as you will see from another car on the list, it gained its popularity from another Mitsubishi offering. When the Evo came to the states in 2003 it was a huge success. Every young car enthusiast wanted to get their hands on this rally-bred all-wheel drive turbocharged sedan. It was a tough call between the Evo and the next car on the list but while the differences are small, the Evolution’s engine is a better overall platform for those wanting to make some big numbers on the dyno.
2004-2007 Subaru WRX STI
The 2004-2007 Subaru WRX STI’s are the most recognizable Subaru ever created. Just like the Lancer Evolution the STI was an all-wheel drive turbocharged sedan that had rally roots engrained in it. Subaru’s offering was a little more “raw” as compared to the Evo but the car had an aggressive appearance that would get even the most diehard muscle car fans attention. The STI was powered by a 2.5L boxer 4 cylinder (which sounds absolutely incredible with an aftermarket exhaust).
While Honda is mostly recognized for producing front-wheel drive offerings, in 1999 they released something a bit different. The S2000 was a rear wheel drive 2 door convertible that was quick, fun, and had looks that could kill. The car was powered by a 2.0L VTEC 4 cylinder that produced 240 horsepower which at the time held the record for the most horsepower per liter. These cars have a strong following mainly for their superior handling and cheaper price range compared to many other sports cars.
Mitsubishi 3000gt VR4 / Dodge Stealth R/T TT
In 1985 Mitsubishi and Chrysler went into a joint venture known as Diamond Star Motors. This led to several performance cars being produced from this division. One of these combinations was the Mitsubishi 3000gt VR4 and the Dodge Stealth R/T TT. Both of these coupes were all-wheel drive, turbocharged, had aggressive styling, and came from the factory with 320 horsepower to back up those looks. These were a direct competitor with the Nissan 300zx, Toyota Supra, and the Mazda RX7.
Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX / Eagle Talon TSI
Probably the most well-known vehicles to spawn from the Diamond Star Motors venture were the Eclipse GSX and Talon TSI. These were impressive little coupes back in the mid to late 90’s. They offered aggressive styling, a turbocharged 4G63 engine (later found in the Lancer Evolution), all-wheel drive, and a low price tag. People quickly found out how cheap and easy it was to get these cars to pick up some serious power and many were running around beating up on the SN95 Mustang owners with them.
The Toyota Supra will forever be the poster child for Japanese Sports Cars as its popularity and reputation are outstanding. But overall, every car that made the list is awesome in its own way. Japanese sports cars have come a long way and it will be interesting to see what new technologies become available in the future. One thing is for certain though, the cars on this list will always have a special place in an auto enthusiasts heart.