Japanese sports cars seemed to take over the market in the 1990s and into the early 2000s. While some people may think they disappeared, they would be wrong. The Japanese brands are still going strong today, pumping out light, fast, and fun sports cars that would make you happy to get behind the wheel. Don’t feel restricted to a German sports car; discover the best models from Japanese automakers that are available right now.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
For those in search of a fun sports car that also happens to be a convertible, look no further than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. This vehicle proves you don’t need an excessive price tag to deliver the thrills of a sports car or have fun, earning marks for quality as well as performance.
The MX-5 Miata is incredibly agile and lets you choose from an automatic or manual transmission, with the manual being a favorite among sports enthusiasts. The soft-top on the convertible is simple to use and fun. It also beats its rivals with extra safety features and, as a bonus, this sports car also has impressive fuel economy, up to 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway.
Lexus GS F
Perhaps the sportiest vehicle in the Lexus lineup, the GS F uses a V8 powertrain that will not disappoint you. This engine gives the Lexus GS F 467 horsepower, so this sedan is able to go from 0 up to 60 mph in only 4.4 seconds. At the same time, it manages to get 24 mpg on the highway.
Inside the GS F, you will notice a combination of everyday comfort and practical sports styling. The sport seats provide the support you need on the longest of drives. You will find all the luxury features of other Lexus models in addition to plenty of power. Expect features like synthetic or real leather, LED ambient lighting, active safety features, and 12 speakers of surround sound. When you want to maximize that sport sedan feel, activate SPORT S+ and hit the track.
Along with a significant refresh for the 2017 model year, the sporty Subaru BRZ is now better than ever with an improved suspension and engine. Now the BRZ is able to deliver 205 horsepower for all the thrills you need. It uses rear-wheel drive to deliver that fun, athletic handling buyers are looking for, and it is incredibly responsive in turns. You can configure the BRZ with performance shocks, brakes, and rotors for an even more thrilling drive.
To keep track of your racing and performance, opt for the BRZ Limited trim and get the newly standard 4.2-inch LCD display with curves for horsepower and torque, lap time, and fluid temperatures right in the instrument cluster. The Subaru BRZ also offers comfort with heated front seats with leather, as well as Alcantara trim and a standard 6.2-inch touchscreen display.
The Toyota 86 may be a new model for the 2017 year, but it is based on the Scion FR-S, so it should still be relatively familiar. This Japanese sports car comes with rear-wheel drive and 205 horsepower. This model also offers outstanding handling along with good fuel economy of as much as 32 mpg due to its small size, aerodynamic shape, and refined powerplant.
The Toyota 86 feels upscale inside. The front seats are incredibly comfortable, clearly focusing on the driver and offering support during the longest of drives. Unsurprisingly, the rear seats are not very useful, but the front seats have side support and height adjustment. On the other hand, this is a rare sports car with two full sets of LATCH connectors, although actually maneuvering a car seat into place may be a challenge.
Honda Civic Type R
The Civic Type R is a hatchback sports car, a rare combination in the performance-oriented automotive world. It uses a 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 306 horsepower to the wheels along with 295 pound-feet. The Center-Exit Triple Exhaust System has been specially tuned to deliver that throaty growl you expect from sports cars. The Type R is certainly a hot hatch with all of its power and performance.
The Civic Type R cuts an imposing figure, especially with the exclusive Championship White paint, aggressive front bumper, and striking Rear Wing. Each Civic Type R is a one-of-a-kind model, and you can tell. There is a metal plaque under the shift knob with the Type R’s unique serial number. The interior is incredibly sporty with the red and black front bucket seats, and their lightweight design improves performance. Even the Sport Pedals are race inspired, and you get the same customizable displays as in the Civic Si.
Searching for a luxurious sports car from Japan will lead you to the Lexus LC, which manages to stand out in the incredibly competitive segment. The 2018 model year consistently ranks at the top of premium sports car rankings. This isn’t all that surprising considering the brand’s high-end materials, excellent reputation, and an engine with almost 500 horsepower. The excellent handling ensures that can manage all that power with ease.
While sitting inside the LC, you get all the upscale benefits expected from Lexus, including plush seating. Keep in mind that the rear seat isn’t ideal for seating adults, and the cargo space could be larger, but both of these are issues all sports car face. It is safe to say that you will be comfortable sitting in the LC all day long and never regret your purchase.
Another excellent option from Nissan for those looking to get their sports car fix is the GT-R. The GT-R was making headlines since hints of the concept first dropped in 2001. It has been a success throughout its production, which began in 2007. Every GT-R engine has been hand assembled by just one technician in a sealed clean room devoid of any dust, just like where Formula One racing engines are made. You can check your engine and see the signature nameplate. The engines are certainly impressive, with the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 delivering 467 pound-feet and 565 horsepower.
Even the styling of the GT-R is designed to improve its performance and convey that this is a sports car. The rear fascia is extended to improve air movement from the back bumper, which cools the exhaust. The front grille has also gained larger openings for improved cooling. The interior is a premium experience with Nappa leather that has been hand-selected for the ideal tone and to discard pieces with imperfections.
Nissan 370Z Coupe
One of the Nissan sports cars to grace this list is the 370Z, which has a solid performance and nimble handling. The manual transmission is nice and sharp, or you can opt for an automatic if you prefer. The standard 3.7-liter V6 for the Nissan 370Z gives you 332 horsepower with 270 pound-feet.
For added fun, certain models with the manual transmission include rev matching that smooths out the downshifts while giving you even power flow during upshifts. When you get behind the wheel, you will notice that this Nissan has swift acceleration and quick shifts. The rear-wheel drive also gets plenty of praise, particularly on twisting roads, where you will experience minimal body roll. Sit inside the driver-oriented cockpit with its information, holding, and operation layers and enough storage to fit items you need, including golf clubs.
Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
If you love the Mazda MX-5 Miata but want something slightly different, consider the MX-5 Miata RF. While the MX-5 Miata has a soft-top, the MX-5 Miata RF uses a hardtop that is power retractable. This involved an incredible feat of engineering to fit the rigid hardtop within the area that had been designed to fit a cloth-top. You can raise or lower the top in 13 seconds, with the vehicle doing all the work for you.
The aluminum power plant frame on the MX-5 Miata RF lost almost 20 percent of its weight compared to the previous generation of the MX-5, delivering a more responsive driving experience. Engineers also worked hard to ensure that when you sit behind the wheel, the weight balance is nearly 50/50. With some help from the SKYACTIV-Chassis, the MX-5 Miata RF is rigid yet light while also delivering stability and nimbleness.
Nissan GT-R NISMO
Continuing the Nissan tradition of taking an already impressive sports car and making it even better, there is also a GT-R NISMO available in limited quantities. If you are lucky enough to get one of these vehicles, you will find yourself with a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that has been NISMO-tuned to produce 600 horsepower.
The GT-R NISMO also has an aerodynamic NISMO body design with carbon fiber on the rear spoiler, side sills, and front and rear fascias. Even the trunk lid has been swapped out for carbon fiber to add stiffness and to drop the weight by nearly half, a difference you notice when you’re in motion. NISMO also specially tuned the suspension on these models. They sit on black RAYS forged alloy wheels that are super-light and a NISMO exclusive. Inside, you will sit in NISMO Recaro leather seats complete with stylish red synthetic suede inserts.
2018 will mark the 80th anniversary of Japanese automaker Honda, which is celebrating with a reinterpretation of the S2000. This sports car regularly makes the list of top performance vehicles of all time. Interestingly enough, it was on the brand’s 50th anniversary back in 1998 that Honda originally launched the S2000 and sold updated models of this fun, sporty little car as late as 2009.
Enthusiasts and experts are hoping that Honda won’t just make a one-time updated S2000 to celebrate and will instead create a concept that makes it to production. The coupe is first and foremost a celebratory model. Because of this, it will have a unique chassis and powertrain. The next generation of the S2000 should use a two-stage electric system for turbocharging. This two-stage system will use a wastegate turbo, an electric compressor, and a bypass valve in a 2-liter engine for about 320 horsepower. The original models, now used, still make for a fun and speedy purchase.
Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400
The current Infiniti Q50 can deliver enough power to qualify as a sports car when configured correctly. The base 208-horsepower 2-liter engine is turbocharged to give you all the power most owners need for a daily driver. For that true sports car experience, choose the 3.0T Sport model with 300 horsepower or the Q50 Red Sport 400 with its 400-horsepower version of the twin-turbocharged V6.
The Red Sport 400 also has its own unique design for the exhaust tip and sits on 19-inch staggered fragment wheels made of aluminum alloy that are exclusive to the model. It even has sport brakes featuring calipers painted red and is available with all-wheel drive.
Infiniti Q60 Coupe
For speed and power from a current Infiniti, consider the Q60 Coupe. This model easily qualifies as a sports car with its available 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine. This is actually the very first twin-turbocharged powertrain from the automaker and just one of three turbocharged options. There is also a 3-liter V6 twin-turbocharged powertrain with 300 horsepower and a 2-liter turbocharged I4 with 208 horsepower, both of which are new.
This sports car is available with all-wheel drive to deliver the extra traction you are looking for. When traction isn’t needed on all four wheels, the system can send all the power to the rear wheels to maximize performance. As a luxury model, the Q60 Coupe is perfectly crafted with available black carbon fiber trim, silver optic fiber trim, and dark wood trim and sport-inspired seats.
Lexus LC Hybrid
While it is essentially the same as the Lexus LC, the LC Hybrid is worthy of its own mention. This is particularly true considering how rare it is to find a hybrid sports car that delivers performance like this model does. The LC Hybrid destroys perceptions of what a hybrid should do with its new double-joint multilink suspension.
The system has a net output of 354 horsepower that lets you reach 60 mph in 4.7 seconds with some help from the instant electric torque. The Manual Drive Mode lets you select then hold any of the responsive gearshifts with the convenient and stylish magnesium paddle shifters. It also features a 10-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission, the first of its kind in the luxury segment.
Lexus RC F
The Lexus RC F is part of the automaker’s performance lineup, and it uses a 5-liter V8 with natural aspiration to deliver 467 horsepower. This vehicle can take you up to 168 mph, although you should probably only do that while on the racetrack. Thanks to its impressive acceleration, you will only need 4.4 seconds to reach 60 mph from a complete stop. All that power is paired with 25 mpg on the highway.
As a Lexus, the RC F is just as luxurious and comfortable as it is powerful. Its design is aggressive with a low and wide stance that is complemented by a striking vent on the hood, front cooling ducts, LED headlamps, and signature F badging. Inside, relax in the high-backed sport seats that are exclusive and set low to the ground, just like in a racecar. Of course, you also get premium amenities, like ventilated and heated front seats, the Lexus Memory System, ambient lighting, and a moonroof.
Nissan 370Z NISMO
For those who wish the Nissan 370Z had a bit more power, there is a solution: the 370Z NISMO. This model builds on the already impressive 370Z, adding unique chassis dampers underneath the cargo area and on the front frame grill. These dampers control vibrations in the body. The 370Z NISMO also features a competition-tuned suspension that is more aggressive than the regular 370Zs.
To keep it running and stopping smoothly, this version of the Nissan sports car has huge 14-inch front brakes and 13.8-inch rear ones, along with wider tires. The 6-speed manual transmission features SynchroRev Match to monitor the shift lever, RPMs, and clutch, so you always have smooth and perfectly timed shifts. If you prefer, this system can also be turned off. Perhaps most importantly, the 370Z NISMO has a more powerful engine than its non-NISMO counterparts. The 3.7-liter engine delivers 276 pound-feet and 350 horsepower.
Nissan 370Z Roadster
Another slightly different version of the 370Z worth its own spot on the list is the Nissan 370Z Roadster, the fun convertible version of the previous coupe. The 370Z Roadster puts you in control of 332 horsepower with a power top, a quiet cockpit, and precise control. The 3.7-liter V6 has Variable Valve Event and Lift technology that delivers quicker responses and enhanced fuel economy. This roadster has a low center of gravity paired with a wide stance to deliver that sports car feel.
When it comes time to stop, consider opting for 14-inch front rotors and 4-piston front calipers. Opt for 19-inch RAYS forged alloy wheels for more strength and lighter weight than average cast wheels. The driveshaft is made of carbon-fiber composite for incredible strength and weight reduction, as well. This model also lets you select from the manual transmission with SynchroRev Match or a 7-speed automatic. Expect the latest technology, as well, including iPod/USB connectivity, Nissan Hard Drive Navigation System, and Bose Premium Audio.
The Nissan Maxima may not be a traditional sports car, but this Japanese model lives up to its nickname as a “Four-Door Sports Car.” Its 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 300 horsepower to propel you wherever you want to go. In fact, this V6 has had over 60 percent of its components redesigned to maximize output on the Maxima, including borrowing some of the GT-R’s performance technology.
The Drive Mode Selector lets you go into Sport Mode to enjoy heavier steering, sharper throttle responses, more engine growl, and quicker shifts. Between the ZF Sachs dampers, independent subframe-mounted strut, and coil front suspension with independent multi-link double wishbone, you get dynamic handling. Inside the Maxima, Nissan paid attention to detail with comfortable Zero Gravity Front Seats and a 7-degree center console tilt for the driver. While it might be a poor man’s sports car, it’s still fun to drive and within reach for most buyers.
For extra power from your Subaru, consider the WRX instead. This may be classified as a compact car, but it definitely fills the requirements of sports cars, as well. The base 2-liter turbocharged engine delivers 268 horsepower and lets you pick from a manual transmission and CVT. While it isn’t quite as efficient as other compacts, the Subaru WRX holds the title of the most powerful standard engine in its class.
There is also an option for those who want more power, the WRX STI. This model has a 2.5-liter turbo engine with 305 horsepower and a 6-speed manual. To help you remember that this is a sports car, the WRX also has aluminum pedals, faux carbon fiber accessories, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Unlike some other performance models, this Japanese car seats five with standard front sport seats and available leather upholstery. There is also more than enough space for adults in the rear seats.
Honda Civic Si
The Honda Civic Si uses a familiar 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that is on the other Civic models but don’t let that fool you. This model is definitely a sports car with its styling and engine tuning. In fact, the version of the powertrain on the Civic Si produces 205 horsepower along with 192 pound-feet, more than other Civic. The close-ratio 6-speed manual works with a limited-slip differential and a Sport Mode to deliver the sportiness you crave at a reasonable price.
You can get your Civic Si as either a coupe or sedan. To make it worthy of the sports car label, Honda gave the Civic Si a few other performance upgrades, including larger brakes and 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels. Pay attention to the driver-focused display that can show your rev-limit indicator, G-meter, and boost gauge.