While Japan is a renowned global leader today, it was a late bloomer in the automotive scene. But thanks to its global scaling during the 1970s, JDM cars rapidly caught up and even outmatched the rest of the world in various automotive segments, sports cars included. A few decades later, almost all giant Japanese brands have acquired a good reputation in the automotive market by producing affordable, highly tunable sports cars with stunning handling. Above all, they have been among the most reliable cars in the world.
Most of the cars on this list sent shockwaves at their introduction. They reshaped the whole industry and sports car culture with their clever engineering. They have survived the test of time and are regarded as immortal due to their rigid bodies and bulletproof engines. Needless to say, they handle and perform as well as other sports cars worldwide. With most Japanese sports cars producing impressive performance, their reliability and tuning potential make them so desirable even in the modern day. Whether you are looking for a JDMtrack weapon or a street cruiser, here are 10 Japanese sports cars that are virtually indestructible.
10 Toyota Supra Mk IV
The new Supra might be more powerful than its predecessors, but we doubt it will ever live up to the iconic MK IV’s hype. And while both feature six-cylinder engines, the fourth generation Supra is considered the holy grail of Japanese sports cars thanks to the bulletproof 2JZ-GTE engine.
The MK IV’s success can be attributed to the car’s power, aerodynamic body, and the overengineered turbocharged engine durability. Despite producing 326hp in stock form, the engine’s tuning potential can easily push it to achieve four figures. Considering the MK IV is over 20 years today, modified versions that have clocked 150,000 miles still push over 600hp
9 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Many enthusiasts love the Mazda Miata because of the car’s exceptional handling, affordability, daily drivability, and reliability. Sure, many may fault the Miata for being underpowered, but the 181hp four-pot propels the car from standstill to 60mph in just 5.7 seconds.
One of the keys to the Miata’s reliability and fun in driving is the car’s mantra of keeping things light and simple. According to iseecars.com, the Miata possesses the potential to drive for at least 200,000 miles. But regardless of the car’s mileage, getting behind the wheel of the Miata will surely put a smile on your face.
8 Nissan Skyline GT-R R32
While the first-generation Skyline was a solid effort, it’s the R32 that actually put the Skyline family on the map as one of the best sports cars in the world. All Skylines shared one thing: high quality and extremely robust mechanicals.
The R32 was the first Skyline to house the legendary RB26DETT, alongside Nissan’s groundbreaking ATTESSA all-wheel-drive system – it began dominating the competition globally and hence earned the Godzilla nickname. Although the R32 wasn’t sold in the U.S, the 276hp inline-six engine is still a hotcake in the American tuner society.
7 Datsun 240Z
The Fairlady Z took the automotive world by storm when it was introduced in 1969. It was an instant hit boasting excellent driving attributes and a unique design. By the time production of the S30 was terminated, over 520,000 units had been sold in nine years.
The potent 2.4-liter inline-six engine produced 151hp, which was quite impressive during the 70s. The car’s robust mechanicals and rigid unibody were key contributors to its racing success. Today, the Nissan S30 is popular in the collector market as it offers cutting-edge driving dynamics, reliability, and practicality.
6 Subaru 22B STI
The WRX STI series has a reputation for reliability, but the 22B is considered the pinnacle of Subarus as it was the unmatched rally legend to fans around the globe. It dominated the performance books for years with its reliable 276hp turbocharged EJ22G engine and an all-wheel-drive system.
It was a limited production model (400 units for the JDM market, 16 for the U.K., and 5 for the Australian market). Word is that the car sold out within 48 hours, making it the most desired Impreza today. Needless to say, its scarcity contributes to the elevated price tags in the present day, but it remains a decent investment.
5 Lexus LFA
The LFA is arguably Toyota’s best supercar to date. When it made its debut in 2010, it was a car so ahead of time that it still matches modern supercars when it comes to performance and technology. It was powered by the high-revving 553hp 4.8-liter 1LR-GUE V10 engine – the Nürburgring version cranks 10 more horses than the standard LFA.
Unlike most supercars, the Lexus LFA is a very reliable sports car as it boasts of high-quality craftsmanship in line with the brand’s standards. Today, there are examples with 300,000 miles on the odometer still running strong.
4 Nissan Silvia
The Nissan Silvia needs no inauguration to all drifting aficionados. However, many would be forgiven for not knowing the first Silvia was introduced in 1964, boasting a 96hp 1.6-liter engine. But it’s the S13 that took the world by storm – it scooped the Car of the Year Japan accolade during its debut in 1988.
The Silvias are still drifting darlings today because of their fun driving dynamics and reliability. The S-chassis is considered the best for time attack and drifting due to its versatility and aftermarket support. While Nissan terminated production of the S15 in 2002, most Silvias stuck around to date while most of their competitors were left rusting in the junkyards.
3 Toyota Corolla AE86
We can all agree the AE86 is arguably the greatest Corolla and the drifting godfather. While it doesn’t possess the most powerful powerplant in its lineage, the 128hp 1.6-liter engine is none other than the iconic 4AGGE inline-four, perfect for the lightweight, compact sports coupe.
The AE86 was the weapon of choice for Keiichi Tsuchiya, the Japanese racing legend better known as the Drift King. The car’s configuration handles well, best suited for twisty turns and corners. The AE86 still reserves a place in the hearts of out-and-out drifting enthusiasts.
2 Acura NSX (1st Gen)
The Acura NSX was a wonder at its introduction, a capable and reliable supercar that could be used as a daily driver. Set to rival other European sports cars, the Acura NSX gave cars like the Ferrari 328 a run for their money.
The NSX was a complete game-changer, being the first mass-produced all-aluminum supercar. Powered by a 290hp 3.0-liter V6 engine, the NSX offered top-notch Ferrari-like performance at a fraction of the price. With its superior reliability and beauty, the NSX is still a hot commodity today, thus its ever-rising price tag.
1 Toyota Celica GT Four
The high-performance Celica was produced from 1986 to 1999, featuring a full-time all-wheel-drive and one of Toyota’s most iconic engines, the 2.0-liter turbocharged 3S-GTE engine. It can handle hundreds of miles under regular maintenance and boasts a bulletproof drivetrain than can withstand over 600hp of tuning.
The ST185 was the brand’s most successful rally car, but it was plagued with cheating claims in 1995. Nonetheless, the Celica remains a reliable sports car that’s proficient on a track day as well as during the mid of winter. And for a car built for whatever you throw at it, handling was a priority for Toyota.