10 Japanese Sports Cars That Changed The Segment Forever


Japanese sports cars have always tended to rewrite the rules. Instead of building a big V8-powered sports car, the Japanese designed a handsome and efficient coupe that could keep pace with V8 cars, while costing less to buy and maintain. The car in question – the Nissan 240Z.

Other examples of the Japanese building better cars than everyone else and changing the segment include the Honda NSX, which not only beat the Ferrari equivalent in terms of driving experience, but was often mistaken for a product of the Horse. prancing. While most Japanese sports cars fall into the normal range of GTs and coupes, some of them have even influenced the Kei car community and shown other Japanese manufacturers that small economy vehicles have no need to be slow and boring.

So while the rest of the world was busy building big, heavy, powerful sports cars using trucks full of fuel and taking up a lot of space, Japan got the same results with smaller, lighter, infinitely more reliable. With that, here are ten JDMsports cars that changed the segment forever.

ten Nissan 240Z

The Nissan 240Z was launched just before the onset of the energy crisis in the United States, which led to its immense popularity and success. Here is a small 6-cylinder coupé with enough space for two and their luggage, able to keep pace with the muscle cars of the time, while being economical and sounding rather pleasant.

The 240Z marked the beginning of Nissan Z cars and is now an icon of the automotive industry. Z cars are among the best Japanese sports cars and thanks to the new Z they will remain a feature of the automotive industry for some time to come.

9 Honda NSX

The original Honda NSX showed the world that fast, nimble mid-engine sports cars don’t have to have a Prancing Horse or a Raging Bull up front – or cost a fortune to buy and maintain. When the NSX debuted in 1990, it was a fantastic example of Japanese ingenuity and design – a car that changed the segment.

The NSX initially featured a non-V-TEC V6, producing just 270 hp – later upgraded to 290 hp. That’s thanks to the NSX’s relatively light and exceptional driving dynamics that put it on par with the equivalent Ferrari in the experience department. Even today, the old NSX is still a fantastic vehicle to throw on a track.

8 Toyota 2000 GT

The Toyota 2000GT was the auto giant’s first real attempt to build a world-class sports car. It was so exceptionally well built and designed that it eventually became none other than James Bond’s runabout in the film, you only live twice – albeit a modified version to look like a roadster.

The 2000GT featured a 2.0-liter inline-6 ​​producing just 148 hp in production form. Luckily, the car only weighs under 2,500 pounds, so performance was relatively good for the production era. The 2000GT was the beginning of Toyota’s sports car, eventually leading to the Supra we have today.

Related: The Iconic Toyota 2000GT Returns As The Ultimate Grand Touring Sports Car

seven Autozam AZ-1

The Autozam AZ-1 is not as well known as a Chevrolet Camaro or a Ford Mustang, but it is still an important vehicle. The AZ-1 was produced by Mazda and also renamed Suzuki Cara. The AZ-1 was part of the Japanese automobile industry known as Kei cars – vehicles that must meet strict restrictions on length, width, height, horsepower and engine size.

The AZ-1 received a sportier version called Mazdaspeed which added many mechanical upgrades such as a limited slip differential, louder exhaust, lighter wheels, better suspension and a new aerodynamic body kit . It showed domestic Japanese automakers that slow cars don’t have to be boring.

6 Mazda Cosmo

The Mazda Cosmo was a pretty standard sports car for the 1960s. It had a nice interior, a larger trunk, and a beautifully crafted exterior. Beneath the skin, however, was a new method of propulsion in the form of the Wankel rotary engine.

The Cosmo was one of the first production cars to feature a rotary engine and the small displacement gave Japanese buyers a financial advantage in the country’s road tax laws – all without sacrificing performance. The Cosmo produced around 110 hp and cost less to buy than the Toyota 2000GT.

5 Mazda RX-7

The Mazda RX-7 continued the trend set by the Cosmo and the third generation introduced the twin turbocharger to the rotary engine world. The RX-7’s tiny 1.3-litre twin-rotor engine still overruled costly road tax laws, but churned out 250 bhp. The engine was later upgraded to produce the same 276 hp as all other Japanese sports cars, as per the gentleman’s agreement.

The RX-7 was the most attractive alternative to the Toyota Supra, Mitsubishi 3000GT and Nissan Skyline GT-R. Since its introduction, the vehicle has gained a cult following not only in the street racing community, but also among fans of the fast furious franchise.

Related: Here’s what we love about the Mazda RX-7 FD

4 Nissan Skyline GT-R

The R32, R33 and R34 car generations of the Nissan Skyline GT-R were all more or less identical, mechanically, and did what very few other sports cars in the class did: power all four wheels. The GT-R’s RB26DETT straight-6 is a gorgeous piece of engineering that’s almost as coveted as the Toyota 2JZ-GTE and has the same ridiculous aftermarket potential.

The Skyline GT-R is no more, but in its place is the GT-R – a more focused version of the famous sports car, now no longer a supercar. The Skyline is and will forever remain one of the greatest Japanese sports cars, one that even European manufacturers have started to follow with their all-wheel-drive systems.

3 Toyota Supra

The Toyota Supra shares much of the spotlight with the Nissan Skyline GT-R and Mazda RX-7, not just because they were the three best-selling sports cars in Japan, but simply because they featured in the same movie franchise. The Supra is arguably the most popular of the three and has attracted more enthusiasts, as has the Ford Mustang in the United States compared to the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

The Supra is just an awesome car with an almost bulletproof engine that can handle a ridiculous amount of mods thanks to the precise design and engineering that went into it. Supras – specifically modified – showed the world that sports car engines can be reliable and won’t necessarily pull a rod when the boost is increased.

2 Lexus LFA

Although the Lexus LFA did not necessarily change the segment, it had to be mentioned due to its extremely meticulous attention to detail. Normal automakers build their different models and share many parts between segments as it is a cost saving strategy. Lexus, on the other hand, designed the LFA from the ground up, sharing no parts with other Lexus models.

The engine is undoubtedly the highlight of the vehicle, singing for occupants at low revs and screaming its metaphorical lungs near redline. Not only is the engine a piece of automotive art, but the rest of the car should be in the Guggenheim Museum as well. The only small negative is the automated manual gearbox, but it still has a satisfying audible mechanical “click” when a new gear is engaged. The LFA is definitely one of the five best vehicles ever made.

1 Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 is an important sports car. Not only did it save the little roadster from extinction, it redefined the sports car segment. The original MX-5 was a relatively small two-seater roadster that had a modest engine up front, drive in the rear, and a manual gearbox in the middle. The result was one of the most enjoyable experiences one can have in an automobile.

Today, four generations later, the MX-5 still follows this trend. Yes, it has more modern technologies such as satellite navigation, anti-lock brakes and traction control, but nothing modern interferes with the driving experience. The MX-5 stays true to its roots and retains some of the classic motoring in this fast-paced automotive world, making it one of the most important cars on the market and certainly one that changed the segment forever. . It’s probably the last true sports car on the left.


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