A tuner car (often sedans or coupes) offers drivers the chance to tweak or modify the build to go faster. Tuner car culture expanded in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the Fast & Furious movie franchise. The best tuner cars offer owners many options for customization. These are the 10 best tuner cars you can get, according to US News:
10. Honda S2000
Honda produced the front-engined S2000 from 2000 to 2009. The first generation had a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produced 237 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. From the 2004 model year, the S2000 came with a 2.2-litre engine that produced the same power, but with better torque at low revs. The S2000 only comes with a six-speed manual transmission. Road & Rail called it one of the best transmissions ever built.
A competitor to the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Toyota Supra, among others, the S2000 is a tuner car that is gaining popularity. It’s fast and handles well in stock form, but there are lots of S2000 tweaks you can make to tune it for performance.
9. Volkswagen Beetle
The Volkswagen Beetle was re-launched in 1998 and was produced up to and including 2019. That means that there are plenty of models on the used market and a used Beetle is an excellent option.
The beetle is not very powerful in its standard configuration. The final model year came with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder, producing 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. However, there are plenty of ways you can customize it. Exhaust and brake upgrades, turbo additions and even engine changes are possible in the light car. Subaru engine swaps are popular in some older models, according to car acceleratorthanks to the layout.
8. BMW 3 Series
A BMW 3 Series compact sports sedan drives incredibly well and gives you a lot of power. You can get up to 355 horsepower from the four- or six-cylinder in-line. American news emphasizes the fourth generation 3 series (1997-2006, also called the E46) as the best for modifications.
This is one of the best tuner cars, thanks to all the tweaks you can make. Some owners have even put a V8 engine in the 3 Series. It remains a pleasant ride and can possibly be made for a track day. However, they are gaining popularity; a resale E46 with less than 50,000 miles can cost about $50,000.
7. Mitsubishi Lancer
The Mitsubishi Lancer debuted in 1973 and has won many rally and racing competitions over the years. US News notes that the second- or four-door Lancer can be customized “to the degree.” Although it has been discontinued, Lancers for model years 2003-2017 were sold in the US and can be found used.
The inline four-cylinder engine is easily customizable and, depending on the trim level, can pack some power. A 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has at least 276 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque in a four-wheel drive setup with a manual transmission. These are some of the best tuner cars, thanks to the options and the price.
6. Toyota Supra
The Toyota Supra returned to the market in 2020 after a two-decade hiatus. Before that it was an iconic tuner car. A 1994 orange Supra was famously modified in the movie The Fast and the Furious†
The fourth generation Supra, made from 1993 to 1998, is popular for its handling. The base engine for that generation delivers 220 hp from a 3.0-liter six-cylinder inline engine. There is also a twin-turbo option that boosts power to 276.
5. Subaru Impreza WRX
If you want a tuner car with more space, the Subaru Impreza WRX has a lot to offer. A standard Impreza WRX comes with plenty of power from a turbocharged 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine: 265 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque. From there you can make changes to the turbo, exhaust, brakes and more to make it track worthy.
From 1978 to 2002, three generations of Mazda RX-7 were built. The rotary engine arrangement was lighter and mechanically simpler than those with standard pistons. It also meant that the RX-7 had a 50:50 weight distribution and a low center of gravity. That’s a good starting point for adjustments before considering the 230+ horsepower you can get out of the last-generation RX-7.
There is also plenty to do in terms of appearance. You can customize things like the steering wheel, seats, gear knob and rear spoiler.
3. Honda Fit
The five-seat Hona Fit hatchback comes with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces just 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. However, the Fit is quick around corners and can be adjusted quite easily.
US News says the Fit is a great candidate for an engine swap and a turbo. Suspension and other component upgrades are also popular. Road & Track reviewers had a blast driving a bike-swapped Fit around Kentucky’s NCM Motorsports Park.
2. Ford Mustang
Ford’s iconic Mustang established the muscle car segment decades ago. Because of the layout and number of Mustangs on the market, buying an older Mustang and swapping the engine for a newer V6 or V8 is a great option. If you’re going for a full swap or minor upgrades, the Mustang will be a fun tuner car behind the wheel.
1. Avoid Challenger
The old competitor to the Ford Mustang is also an excellent choice for tuners. A new Dodge Challenger can come in at over 800 horsepower, but that costs almost six figures.
You can buy a used Challenger with a powerful V8 for much less with a lot of power and options. US News reviewers say you can make this a tuner car with an electric motor. Even if you keep the stock engine under the hood, you can make a lot of changes to the suspension to make it more track-ready.
Is a tuner car worth it?
Tuner cars are a great way to tailor your road to something more specific to your liking. They are often affordable and provide an opportunity to better understand cars. If you’re looking for a cheaper option to personalize, a tuner car is worth the investment.
RELATED: Do you want to exchange a Honda Civic Type R engine for an S2000? you need this