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5 Best and 5 Worst Japanese Sports Cars of the 21st Century

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Although Japanese car manufacturers sports car bug late compared to Europe and America, it didn’t take long for their impact to be felt worldwide. Japanese sports cars are known as some of the most reliable sports cars on the market, and they are affordable too. Some of Japan’s best models can even be on par with foreign counterparts in styling and dynamic performance.



The 20th century saw the rise of iconic models such as the 1960s Toyota 2000GT and the legendary Skyline GT-R of the 1990s. By the time the 21st century arrived, Japanese automakers and their sports cars had earned a well-deserved reputation in the industry. They’ve had a lot of hits over the past two decades, so picking the top five for this list wasn’t easy. On the other hand, because they are not immune to occasional mistakes, there have also been many misses. So read on for a review of the five best and five worst JDMsports cars of the 21st century.

10 Best: Nissan GT-R Nismo

The GT-R Nismo is a track-oriented and race-ready variant of the Nissan GT-R (R35), created by Nissan’s in-house performance division. Under the hood, the same 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 in the standard version is tuned to deliver 600 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque.

To get better performance from the new car, it got lighter parts, a Nismo-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes and several aerodynamic upgrades. Boldly styled, well-balanced and agile, the GT-R Nismo reaches a speed of 100 km/h in an explosive 2.5 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 205 km/h.

9 Best: Lexus LFA

The Lexus LFA, which was designed as a test bench for new performance-related automotive technologies, took the better part of a decade to develop. After showing various concepts over the years, the production version was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show on October 0, 2009.

More than half of its body composition by mass is made from carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) materials, while power comes from an exclusive 553 horsepower V10 mill. Before production ended in 2012, a track-tuned version was offered, the Nurburgring Edition, with more power, stiffer suspension and a massive rear wing.

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8 Best: Subaru BRZ

Also marketed as the Toyota GT86 and Scion FR-S, the BRZ was jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru and debuted at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. Built at Subaru’s main plant, the BRZ is powered by a naturally aspirated 2-liter flat-4 engine with 197 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

With a low center of gravity and 53/47 front/rear weight distribution, the lightweight BRZ is one of the best driving Japanese cars. The second-generation BRZ, which will debut in 2020, is even better and has a new engine that delivers more power.


7 Best: Mazda MX-5

The compact and lightweight design of the MX-5 Miata has proved to be a winner that has impressed buyers, critics and journalists for 4 generations. As well as being reasonably priced, it delivers pure and engaging driving pleasure, thanks to perfect front/rear weight distribution and a convertible body.

While the MX-5 has grown in sophistication and power over the years, it’s consistent in delivering snappy performance as a lightweight RWD roadster. No wonder it’s on everyone’s best list, as he racks up a long list of awards, including the world’s best-selling roadster.

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6 Best: Honda S2000

Launched in 1999 to mark Honda’s 50th anniversary, the S2000 was one of the most popular Japanese sports cars available during its 10-year production run. With nearly 120 hp/liter output from a naturally aspirated I-4 engine, the lightweight roadster had the performance to justify its $34,995 suggested retail price.

Thanks to the engine’s high power/high redline, nimble handling and smooth-shifting gearbox, it received rave reviews from leading automotive publications. It was more advanced and more expensive than the Mazda MX-5, and today it sells for well above its original asking price.


5 Worst: Mitsubishi Eclipse

Although the Eclipse debuted as a decent driver’s car with several engine options, it wasn’t long before it was recalled for blocking transfer cases. More recalls soon followed in 2005, the first was due to faulty brake boosters that could come loose and result in a total loss of the brake.

Yet the Eclipse was also recalled in 2005 due to improperly installed seals in the master cylinder that could reduce brake pressure. Other than a 2008 recall due to poor fuel tank mounting brackets, it was also recalled due to corrosion of the ABS unit that can cause brake failure.

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4 Worst: Toyota Celica GT S

Toyota is one of the world’s top automakers and has always been consistent in building reliable vehicles. The Celica was a hit when it was launched in 1970 and over 6 generations it built a solid reputation and great success.

For the seventh generation, the Celica came in one body style that was plagued with problems ranging from oil pumps and filters not working properly. Plus, to squeeze any kind of performance out of its underpowered engines, you had to rev well above 6000 rpm.


3 Worst: Mitsuoka Orochic

Named after a mythical 8-headed Japanese dragon and categorized as a ‘Fashion-Super Car’, the Mitsuoka Orochi was launched in 2006. It is an attention grabber that was designed to attract attention with its bold design, a design it has earned a spot on many “ugly car” lists over the years.

The Orochi is one of the Japanese sports cars that looked good but lacked power. The only power source was a 3.3-litre V6 mill that boosted a pitiful 230 horsepower. The Orochi could waltz to 60 mph in just 7 seconds and top out at about 250 mph — hardly what you’d expect from a supercar.

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2 Worst: Nissan 350Z

While it had an excellent power-to-weight ratio, excellent road holding and agility, the Nissan 350Z also gained a reputation for being one of the most dangerous cars. A 2011 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on 2005-2008 models revealed some scary facts and figures.

With 143 deaths per million registrations during the aforementioned study period, it became the deadliest car on american roads† As if that weren’t enough, it also accounted for 90 deaths per million single-vehicle registrations over the same period.


1 Worst: Mazda RX-8

After 3 generations of selling the fast, crazy, aggressive and successful RX-7, Mazda brought in the RX-8 as a replacement. With a lightweight body, 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and a smooth engine, the RX-8’s driving dynamics leave nothing to be desired.

Unfortunately, it came with an unreliable rotary engine plagued with a failed catalytic converter and a faulty coolant seal that could cause loss of compression. He also had to deal with power steering failure due to corrosion of the power steering motor connections.