Although the muscle car formula was discovered in the early 1950s, it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the term “muscle car” was born. Throwing powerful V8 engines into a barebones intermediate car had proven to be an affordable shortcut to blistering straight-line performance. To make faster muscle cars, the engines grew bigger and more powerful with little or no regard for handling and ride comfort.
On the other hand, JDM car manufacturers followed a different approach to make their cars go fast. Instead of using big gas-guzzling engines, they make use of turbocharging and high-revving engines. By relying on fancy technology, they have pioneered manufacturing processes that leave the rest of the world scrambling to catch up. Now we have Japanese cars that are reliable and affordable. Furthermore, some of them are also quite mean on the track. Read on for a review of 10 Japanese cars that will destroy most muscle cars.
10 Nissan GT-R Track Edition
Powered by a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, the Nissan GT-R (R35) has been thrilling gearheads since it was launched in 2007. The Track Edition is a lighter limited-production variant that was introduced for the 2014 model year featuring a stiffer suspension.
It hits 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, clears the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds at 125.1 mph, and tops out at 207 mph. An update in 2020 gave it the Nismo version’s 600-hp engine and a Nismo-tuned independent suspension system. Other upgrades included a new carbon fiber roof, wider front fenders, and Nismo carbon-ceramic brakes.
9 Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition
As the name implies, the Nurburgring Edition – the ultimate and most potent iteration of the LFA – was forged In the fires of the Green Hell. In addition to improved aerodynamics, it also got a recalibrated transmission while the engine was upgraded to churn out 563 hp.
With this setup, 0-60 mph happened in 3.6 seconds while the quarter-mile flashed past in 11.6 seconds at 125 mph. Rolling on a set of Bridgestone Potenza RE070 street tires with Akira Iida behind the wheel, it lapped the Nurburgring track in 7:14.64.
8 Acura NSX
The second generation of the Acura NSX was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in 2015. It is powered by a hybrid system made up of a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 and three electric motors. Mated to a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission, it churns out an impressive 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque.
A sprint to 60 mph in the second generation NSX takes just 2.9 seconds while the quarter-mile is cleared in 10.85 seconds. Given enough road and a courageous driver behind the wheel, it will max out at 191 mph.
7 Toyota Supra
The Supra started life in 1978 as a Celica before becoming a separate model in 1986. Although it has always been a sharp performer, the redesigned current generation has raised the bar further. Powered by the efficient base turbo-4 engine, it can hit 60 mph in a brisk 4.7 seconds.
With the available turbocharged I-6 spitting out 382 hp of fury, the GR Supra is launched straight into the big leagues. Zero to 60 mph takes 3.7 seconds, the quarter-mile flashing past in 12.1 seconds on the way to a limited top speed of 160 mph.
6 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-440 MR
The Evolution X FQ-440 MR was a UK-only special edition Lancer that was released in 2014 to celebrate the Lancer’s 40th anniversary in the UK. Limited to just 40 examples, the 4-door sports sedan rides on the Mitsubishi GS platform.
Under the hood, it hides a 2-liter turbocharged I-4 engine hooked to Mitsubishis advanced full-time 4WD system (S-AWC). With 440 hp and 412 lb-ft of torque on tap, the FQ-440 MR is a fire-breathing rally monster. It does 62 mph in 3.5 seconds and is good for a top speed of 185 mph.
5 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec (R34)
The V-Spec is one of the models of the Skyline GT-R that was launched in January 1999. Compared to the standard GT-R, it came with a firmer suspension, an active limited-slip rear differential, and the ATTESA E-TS Pro system. Under the hood, the legendary 2.6-L twin-turbo RB26DETT I-6 engine was hooked to a 6-speed manual transmission.
Although it was officially rated at 276 hp, independent testing showed that the real output was much higher. Whatever the true output though, this iconic sports car can hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and max out at 165 mph.
4 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII MR FQ-400
The Evo VIII MR FQ-400 is a UK-only performance variant of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII sports sedan. Only 100 examples were built in 2004 to mark the Lancer’s 30th year in the UK. Power came from a turbocharged 2-liter I-4 engine tuned to send 405 hp and 355 lb-ft of torque to the 4 wheels.
Mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and boasting an insane 202.8 hp specific output, it sends the 4-door sedan to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It does the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds and tops out at 175 mph.
3 Honda Civic Type-R FK8
Introduced in 1997, the first Honda Civic Type R was based on the sixth generation of the Honda Civic 3-door hatchback. While earlier generations wore subdued looks to reflect their sleeper abilities, the Type R FK8 looks as hot as it drives.
Under the hood and mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, a 2-liter turbocharged I-4 makes 306 hp in American versions. Weighing 3,084 pounds, the Civic Type R FK8 hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and tops out at a claimed 169 mph. Furthermore, it clears the quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds with a trap speed of 110 mph.
2 Subaru Impreza 22B STI
For 5 months in 1998, Subaru built what is perhaps the meanest production Impreza ever. Only 424 of these widebody coupes, sporting specially-developed Eibach springs and Bilstein shocks, were built. Power was supplied by a 2.2-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine officially rated at 276 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque.
Tipping the scales at 2,800 pounds, the 22B STi hits 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at 101 mph. What a way to celebrate Subaru’s 40th anniversary and a third consecutive manufacturer’s title in the FIA World Rally Championship.
1 Mazda RX-7 Spirit R
Before Mazda pulled the plug on the RX-7 in 2002, they made one of their finest road cars ever, the RX-7 Spirit R. Produced in a limited run of 1500 cars in 3 different models. The 2-seater Spirit R (Type A) with a 5-speed manual transmission was the meanest of the lot.
Thanks to a perfect (50:50) front-rear weight distribution and a low center of gravity, handling was simply world-class. With 276 hp and 231 lb-ft of torque on tap, it could hit 62 mph in 4.9 seconds and top out at 155 mph.