2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 High-Performance Sedan

10 Cheap JDM Cars That Look Awesome… But Are Best Avoided

Japanese cars became wildly popular in the ’80s as people realized how much more reliable they were than the competition. 40 years later, a lot of those cars proved the theory correct. There are, however, a few exceptions. Not only that, but some of Japan’s so-called performance cars deliver on the spec sheet but fall flat in the real world.

The famous reliability and tunability of JDMcars eventually gave rise to the tuner car culture, where unlocking a lot of power was inexpensive and relatively easy. Sadly, despite their cool designs, several Japanese performance cars fail to live up to this reputation, disappointing their owners with both their reliability and performance.

10 Nissan Sylvia

Although the 240SX (above) is more or less identical to this JDM special, the 240SX didn’t get the high-performance 2.0-liter turbos.

Unfortunately, parts for these are scarce pretty much anywhere outside of Japan, and the handling was never all that great, to begin with, so simply adding more horsepower doesn’t necessarily make it a better car.

9 Toyota Supra MkIV

The Supra Mk4 has become something of a poster child for the JDM world, fetching six figures at auctions today.

However, that’s only if packs the famed 2JZ GTE engine, which is one of the best inline-6 engines ever made. Technically the rest of the car is ’90s junk, with plastic interior, woeful handling, and more often than not automatic transmissions.

Related: What It Costs To Live With A Mark IV Toyota Supra Everyday

8 Nissan 350Z

If you can’t afford a GT-R, then this is usually what you would end up buying. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the GT-R.

It is supposed to be an affordable sports car, but quite frankly isn’t all that affordable. It also has average handling for a rear-drive car and its power is middling.

7 Subaru WRX STI

Over the years, there have been some truly spectacular STI models that have blown the competition out of the water and taken the fight to more expensive high-performance cars.

Unfortunately, the latest is by no means the greatest. It falls behind almost all the competition without adjusting the price, and it was no surprise when Subaru eventually gave it the chop.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Subaru Is Dropping The WRX STI

6 Mitsubishi GT3000

After losing sales to all the other big Japanese brands, Mitsubishi came out swinging with the tech-heavy GT3000.

On paper, it should have been world-beating, but a weak chassis let it down and all that tech couldn’t translate into real-world performance or reliability. Today, it is just a hodgepodge of wiring issues.

5 Mazda RX-7

You have to give Mazda credit for sticking with the rotary engine for as long as they did. Not only did they stick with it, but in the early ’90s, they put it in their flagship RX-7 sports car.

The twin-turbo B13 is a technological wonder, but like any high-performance engine, it is highly strung and very high-maintenance. Even if you baby it, you will still need to rebuild the engine and replace apex seals every 30-50,000 miles.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Gearheads Prefer The FD Mazda RX-7 Over The RX-8

4 Mazda RX-8

Mazda had squeezed as much out of the old B13 as they could, and they knew they were not going to be able to get it through tougher emissions standards in the early 00s, so they were content with the fact that time was now up for the rotary.

Not everyone was ready to say goodbye though, so a team of engineers developed the Renesis engine in secret – an engine that met those emissions goals. Unfortunately, the high compression (relatively speaking) rotary was even more maintenance heavy and the resulting RX-8 can only ever be considered a project car.

3 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X

After experiencing incredible success during the ’90s with both their Dakar and WRC teams cleaning up, they slowly started pulling away from motorsport.

All the incredible Evo models were developed with the help of genuine motorsport engineers. The Evo X isn’t, it leans on old tech put in a new body. The result is middling performance, and for the price, there are genuinely better options out there.

Related: 9 Reasons Why We Love The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9

2 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R

Of all the authentic JDM imports, this R32 generation Skyline might seem the most enticing. With the right modifications, you can get incredible performance out of it.

Unfortunately, the price of entry is pretty high, and once you have spent the money on those necessary modifications, you would have likely spent Porsche money on something that can’t keep up with a Porsche.

1 Mitsubishi Eclipse

No car embodies the term “ricer” quite like the Eclipse. Although there are a few high-performance models out there, those are expensive and arguably not worth the price either.

The more affordable options are all front-drive automatic economy cars all dressed up like they have just come off the set of a Fast & Furious movie.

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