Buy a New Acura NSX, Get a Custom Film!

Hey everyone! Sorry that it took me such a long time to put this post up, but school was especially stressful this semester. I’m glad that the semester is over, and that I’ll have more time to give the blog more attention. Look forward to more posts in 2017!

I have to admit, the 2017 Acura NSX is quite the looker!
I have to admit, the 2017 Acura NSX is quite the looker!
The interior isn't bad, either.
The interior isn’t bad, either.

Did you know that Jay Leno’s 2017 Acura NSX is #0003? I’m sure you knew that already, right? Why am I talking about this? Well, you and I both know that Jay Leno has one of the most amazing car collections in the world. What makes his NSX really cool is you can watch it’s creation in Acura’s new campaign video called “NSX Originals.”

If and when you drop at least $157,800 on a 2017 Acura NSX, you’ll receive a personalized digital film that matches the exact specifications and serial number of your NSX! Seriously, how cool is that? Pretty damn cool in my book. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough for you, Acura will give you a customized 1:18 scale model that is identical to your NSX! Now, how cool is THAT?

You can immerse yourself in some amazing films of the twin-turbo, V6, hybrid NSX on the microsite (http://www.nsxoriginals.com/acura/en/). You can also watch the build of Jay Leno’s pretty slick NSX at: https://youtu.be/2KzAeU67SXw

According to a release from Jon Ikeda, Acura’s VP and General Manager, “The Acura NSX is a bespoke supercar inspired by an original concept and this campaign speaks directly to that heritage.”

What’s in these films? You can see some behind-the-scenes action of the NSX being built at Acura’s state-of-the-art Marysville, Ohio plant, which highlights the seven key manufacturing periods of the NSX. You might be wondering what those are. Let me tell you. They include: precision robotic welding, space frame construction, a zirconium bath, paint robotics, the three-motor sport hybrid power unit, custom hand assembly, and the rolling dynamometer.

I bet that there won’t be a dry eye in the house when you show your car friends the birthing video of your car!

Also, it’s best to keep that custom scale model out of reach of the kids (or grandkids) – I’m sure that they would LOVE to play with it! Hide it or risk an almost certain, “sorry, I just broke it.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the adults are going to want to take the full-size NSX for a spin. But hey, it’s your supercar after all!

Here’s my two cents on the 2017 NSX: After years of teasing us with various concepts, prototypes, and general speculation, the NSX has made a return. The original Honda/Acura NSX was the car that sent Ferrari, Lamborghini, and just about everybody who made supercars scrambling to the drawing board.

The 2017 Acura NSX is what Acura wants you to think of as a “usable supercar.” It’s jam-packed with the hottest technology out there. It’s definitely state-of-the-art, but according to just about everybody who’s reviewed it, that’s not what it is. It’s certainly fast, good-looking, and everything else you want a supercar to be, but a supercar is not designed nor intended to be a car that you can drive every day. While I certainly understand Acura’s point of view, Acura should have followed the original NSX’s footsteps. The 2017 NSX isn’t going to send anybody scrambling to the drawing board. Sticking to the tried-and-true supercar formula brings money in.

I think that the 2017 NSX will sell relatively well, but only time will tell. It’s got some stiff competition, what with the Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari 488 GTB, Nissan GT-R, and Audi R8.

Does this mean that I don’t like the 2017 NSX? Far from it! I think it’s a fantastic piece of engineering, and certainly a novel idea. Sure, it’s got a lot more computers to save your bacon every day of the week, and twice on Sunday, but every supercar out there is that way. It seems to be a fantastic car. It’s definitely not the car of the future, but it’s one of the faster ways to get to the future. I think it’s safe to say that some of the technology on the 2017 NSX will trickle down to other Acuras in the next few years.

The Cursed Blessing of the Death of Scion

When Toyota started Scion in 2001, nobody expected it to do much of anything. It didn’t. Well, yes, the original xB was an all star smash hit, and the tC was a great combination of bulletproof reliability combined with an astonishingly low asking price, but everything else they did, let’s be honest here, was a massive flop.

The 2001 xB was an excellent car. It was fun to drive, affordable, and instantly lovable. It was, in my eyes, the modern version of the original VW Type 1 Beetle. It was originally marketed towards Gen X, but everyone from teenagers to seniors bought it. It was just that kind of car. Every 10 years or so, there’s a car like that. It comes out of nowhere, sells like cocaine in the 1980s, and is fondly remembered by many. The “toaster,” as it was affectionately called wasn’t fast – it was far from it. It was safe, it had almost as much space as a minivan, thanks to its boxy shape and was easily customizable – from the dealer!

It’s cute, right? I really love the original xB. Can you see why?

Yes, you could walk into a Toyota dealership that sold Scions (I’ll get to that in a bit, I swear), and get a Scion xB, then go over to their customizing desk, and decide how you wanted to customize your xB, all within 20 feet of each other! There were so many options, you had to fill out a questionnaire so the customizing agent could help you out! The great part about this was that you could customize the car to your specific taste, not worry about voiding the warranty and walk out within two hours.

The 2001 Scion xB was the car that kicked off the dealer accessory craze. It was a great marketing tool for many brands. Want a roof rack? You had a choice between Thule and Yakima, and between the two, literally 50 different roof racks to choose from. Want a wrap on your xB? The techs could slap it on in 20 minutes. The list goes on. All these accessories were affordable – you could walk out of the dealership with a Scion xB, customized the way you wanted it, with a good warranty, fully registered and insured, for $22,000.

That’s what the appeal was. As I said, everyone from teenagers to seniors, and everyone in between bought the car. It shocked Scion’s marketing team, and even Toyota. Nobody predicted so many cars would be sold.

Unfortunately, Scion failed to deliver with the second-generation xB. It had gigantic shoes to fill, but it had baby feet. It was heavier – almost 500 pounds heavier. It was more expensive; to the point that people walked over to the Toyota sales desk and bought a Matrix. It used to be that the Matrix was just a hatchback Corolla (the xB was too), but it was kind of like trying to differentiate between twins. The Matrix was cheaper, but it didn’t have the instant customizability that the xB had. The difference showed in sales – Scion still had all their repeat buyers, but the Matrix was just a better car overall. Buyers went to the Matrix, until Toyota killed it in 2013.

Onto the tC. It was a perfectly fine car, but by no means was it on the same level as the Mazda 3 or the Honda Civic. The build quality was great, no doubt about that. It just left something to be desired. But, it was cheap. Dirt cheap. That’s why every 8th car you see on the road is one. Well, maybe not that many, but it sure seems like it. It wasn’t as easily customizable as the xB, but it certainly had it’s benefits. It was cheap enough for those starting to get into the automotive scene to modify it like no tomorrow, but drive it to school or work every day. The Mazda 3 could do that too, but was more expensive. It was also marketed towards college students and above.

The original Scion tC was a smash hit. The second generation wasn’t as wildly popular, but it certainly sold a lot.

Let’s talk about the stupidity of selling Scions next to Toyotas that were similar in price. Seriously, who at Toyota, when they were planning Scion, thought that was a good idea? It’s like selling candy bars next to each other. You can’t choose the right one. That’s what happens when there are too many options. Scion sales would go sky-high for a couple months, then Toyota compact car sales would overtake them like you wouldn’t believe. It was just a constant game of tug-of-war.

Imagine walking into an Armed Forces recruitment center, with all the recruiters standing there, all trying to give you “the best deal you’ll get.” The truth is, they all offer the same thing, but they disguise it well. Just choose the one you like best and the others will find somebody else.

This was Scion’s ultimate downfall in my eyes. They simply couldn’t compete with the elephant in the room.

Yes, they had other problems. Their other cars were practically carbon copies of Toyotas. Why buy a Toyota Yaris hatchback when you could buy a Scion xD? The Yaris was cheaper, and had essentially the same things going for it. The xD had a bit more power, but the Yaris at least looked halfway decent. The xD looked like someone chiseled a block of concrete with an ax, slapped wheels and a price tag on it, and pitched it to Scion.

What might have been the best car Scion made, apart from the 2001 xB, was the FR-S. It was cheap, which was Scion’s main selling point. It was an incredibly fun car to drive, and the perfect one for the budding autocrosser or track day enthusiast. It’s biggest downfall is that Subaru and Toyota sold the exact same car, but with different badges. Yes, I know it was badge engineering, but why buy the Scion when you could buy the Subaru? That was the dilemna many prospective owners faced. It offered more utility and just as much fun as the Miata, but it was a price difference of $2000 between the Scion and the Subaru.

So, what was Scion’s downfall? Poor sales after the redesign of the first-generation xB, offering similar, if not identical products, and no dedicated dealers. Will I miss Scion? Yes. I will miss the magic that the 2001 xB brought to the automotive world, the affordable performance the FR-S brought wailing and burbling into the automotive world, the instant and easy customizability that any Scion brought, and the ferocious sibling rivalry between Toyota and Scion.

Will Scions keep their value? Who knows. Only time will tell. The resale value of the 2001-2007 xB has certainly held up, and likely will for a while. They are cheap, but the price hasn’t gone up or down, like most cars. The tC, a fantastic car in it’s own right, may hold up. It’s hard to tell with that one. The FR-S? Maybe, maybe not. It was a worthy Miata competitor, but it’s identical siblings, the Subaru BR-Z and Toyota GT86 (non-North America markets only), will still be in production.

The FR-S/BR-Z/GT86 was a failed design opportunity. They had a golden opportunity to make a stunning car, and the result is, quite frankly, kind of meh. It doesn’t look like much. Sure, it looks nice, but you don’t point at one and know exactly what it is, like you do with the 2001 xB.tf

I am saddened that Scion couldn’t clean up their act, but they obviously weren’t competitive. Their market went away. They had a nice run though, and there are certainly other choices.

The Best Cars for This Holiday Season

Yes, this is a holiday tradition for me. I love picking out cars that are perfect for this holiday season. I know that none of you will run out to the dealer and order one as soon as you’ve finished reading this post, but I can keep wishing, right?

  • Ford Focus RS: If you want a hot ticket into the performance car world, this is it. It’s got AWD sending somewhere around 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a six speed manual transmission, this car is definitely going to be eating Corvettes and Honda sportbikes all day long in the canyons and some race tracks. It’s going to be one fun ride. Car & Driver was lucky enough to take a ride in one, and I’ll be a tad bit jealous at them for a while. They said it’s an experience few cars can replicate.

    It looks like a legitimate rally car without all of the stickers, doesn’t it? The fans will be right behind you, don’t worry about that!
  • Chevrolet Colorado: Any version of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado is going to be one of the best trucks on the market. It won the 2016 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. I should also mention it won the 2015 Truck of the Year award as well. The engine that I would recommend is the 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine. It gets 26 mpg combined, according to Motor Trend’s “Real MPG” testing procedures. That’s almost as good as my Mazda 3! According to the Real MPG program, a Colorado with any of the available engines (a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a fantastic 3.6-liter V6) will have class-leading mpg. That’s really saying something. If you go for the Duramax, it will tow 7,600 pounds, and will get better mileage than any other Colorado engine. Oh, and it will be much smoother and rewarding to drive. The Colorado, and it’s GMC twin, the Canyon, both received a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Chevrolet designed the Colorado to be a daily driver for any kind of driver, so it should come as no surprise that it drives like a fullsize sedan with a light rear end. If I was going to recommend any one truck, this would be it.

    It looks really sharp, doesn’t it? This is the Trail Boss model, which adds knobby tires, a lightbar, and skid plates.
  • Volvo XC90: Some of my older readers will remember and love the Volvos of the 1970s and 1980s. They were big tanks of cars, designed with utility rather than sexiness, yet they were so exquisitely built that people bought them over a Mercedes-Benz. Something as simple as the XC90’s key shouldn’t be worth mentioning, yet this one is wonderful. It is made of the same Nappa leather that covers it’s three comfortable rows of seats. Volvo is a really small player in the U.S. Toyota made nearly three times as many Priuses as Volvo sold cars. BMW sells seven cars for each one that Volvo sells in the U.S. You might be surprised to hear that the only engine that you can get with the 2016 XC90 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Before you get up in arms about that, just know that it cranks out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. How does it do that? A gigantic turbocharger and a small supercharger that steps in when the turbo is spooling up. It gets 22 mpg combined, according to the EPA. It’s far quieter than the also-new Honda Pilot, which has a screaming V6 that will scare the deer off the road. AWD is standard. Right now, the only powertrain upgrade is to the T8 model, which Volvo claims to be the first seven-seat plug-in hybrid. It makes 313 horsepower from the same engine, but has an electric motor powering the rear wheels, bringing total power output to 400 horsepower. It has some seriously long gearing (80 mph in 3rd gear). Yeah, Volvo is still going after hauling families over hauling some butt. The XC90 has a gigantic touchscreen that Motor Trend called “almost Tesla-like.” A Volvo wouldn’t be a Volvo if it didn’t have more safety features than a crash cart in a hospital. All seven seat belts have pyrotechnic pretensioners, and the front seat frames have energy absorbers to cushion vertical forces during impact. It has a bunch of really great features, but I’m going to skip over most of them. One final safety feature worth mentioning is that the XC90 will automatically activate the brakes if the driver attempts to make a left turn into oncoming traffic. You’re on your own if you somehow make a right turn into oncoming traffic, though. Just like the Tesla Model S was a pivotal car for electric cars in 2013, the Volvo XC90 is a game changer, a moonshot for SUVs.

    I don’t care what people say about it – I think it looks really nice for something it’s size.
  • Subaru WRX: This list wouldn’t be complete without a Subaru on it. Of course I chose the WRX. While Subaru doesn’t make it as a hatchback anymore, which is a true shame, it doesn’t make the WRX any less spectacular. It’s got that wonderful Subaru boxer engine growling howl, and is probably the perfect all-weather car. It can handle it’s own on just about any surface. Good luck keeping up with one with summer tires on a racetrack, or one with winter tires in inclement weather. It’s a stylish jack-of-all-trades.

    It doesn’t look like much, but I can tell you it looks mighty intimidating with that gaping hood scoop and wailing four-cylinder.
  • Audi A3: It starts off at nearly $31,000, so the opening bid itself is a good proposition to buy one. It’s a good-looking car by all means, but it doesn’t advance Audi’s design at all. The car gets more fun to drive as you add on the speed. It just gets really expensive, so keep that in mind when you pile on the options.

    See what I mean? It looks nice, but it’s no huge design advancement for Audi.

That’s it for this list. I know it’s shorter than ones in years past, but I think these are all solid choices. You can’t go wrong with any of them. I wish you all a wonderful, safe and happy holiday season. As always, I will be taking a week off about next week, but I’ll update you on Friday about that, don’t worry!

The Best $40,000 SUVs You Can Buy

Until about 2012, one could easily delineate between a luxury SUV and a mainstream SUV. It’s different now. Big players in the luxury SUV market (BMW and Mercedes-Benz) have started to move some vehicles down market in the hopes of snagging sales that would typically go to a mainstream manufacturer. Mainstream heavy hitters like Kia, Hyundai, Honda and Mazda are moving up market in the hopes of wooing buyers from the luxury brands. Let’s say you want an SUV but have a budget of $40,000. This can get you a lot of car. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a luxury SUV or a mainstream SUV. There are many good SUVs to choose from. Here are my picks.

  • Mercedes-Benz GLA250/GLA250 4Matic: While it might look like a hatchback with a body lift, it’s really more than that. Some of us might remember the Mercedes C230 crapback of the early 2000s that was about the same price. Man, was that thing awful! The GLA250 starts at $32,225, and the GLA250 4Matic (AWD) starts at $34,225. That’s a lot of wiggle room for options. You can get the Multimedia and/or Premium packages, both of which give you such goodies as navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, a rearview camera and heated front seats. That’s a pretty good deal. Throw in the fact that it’s a sporty little crossover, and you’ve got a good deal. You’ve got a mini crossover that is posh and carries the Mercedes-Benz cache. 
  • Audi Q3: The Q3 is another mini crossover, but it’s a very good one. It starts at $34,625 with FWD, and starts at $36,725 with AWD. A good deal for a Q3 would be a FWD Q3 Premium Plus, which starts at $34,625. You get such goodies as HID headlights with LED accents, a panoramic glass roof, leather seats and upholstery, heated front seats and keyless entry/start, all of which are standard. At this point, you can still easily add the Technology and Sport packages without cracking the $40,000 mark. If you need AWD, add on $2,500.
  • BMW X1 sDrive 28i/X1 xDrive28i: The BMW X1 is the cheapest BMW sold in America. It starts off at $32,195 for the sDrive28i and $33,995 for the xDrive28i. It’s a bargain BMW. The result is that you can get a lot of options for less than $40,000, especially with the RWD sDrive28i. You can even get the Sport Line, Technology, Lighting and Driver Assistance packages without cracking $40,000.
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport: Even though the Land Rover Discovery Sport SE starts off at a hefty $38,065, it comes with a lot of bang for the buck. Maybe it won’t break down a ton. It comes standard with a nifty AWD system, an 8-inch infotainment screen, a 5-inch TFT screen for the driver, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera with backup sensors, four (yes, four) USB ports, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control. Throw in navigation ($800) and Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl smartphone apps ($430), you’ll have a sticker price of $39,745.
  • Lexus NX 200t: The NX 200t starts off at $35,405 with FWD, and $36,805 with AWD. It’s a really well-priced crossover for the money. However, you can’t get very many options, because just about everything is bundled into some sort of package. The best deal for the NX 200t would be an AWD NX 200t with the Navigation Package, which includes Lexus’s Enform apps, and it will even stay below $40,000.
  • Lincoln MKC: This is Lincoln’s newest entry into the luxury world. For the past five years or so, they’ve been blundering around the woods with a bag over their heads. None of their cars have been successful lately, and that’s a problem for them. They hope to change that with the MKC. It starts off at $33,995 for FWD models and $36,490 with AWD. It has a lot of standard features including an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, two USB ports, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s even more wiggle room with FWD MKCs, and for a touch under $39,000, you get navigation, a panoramic sunroof, leather and a hands-free liftgate.
  • Lincoln MKX: Yeah, I know. Two Lincolns in a row. Yowza. The MKX is larger than the MKC, but it’s still a good buy, even if it costs $39,025. You won’t have any wiggle room with this one, but that’s OK. You get the Ford/Lincoln SYNC infotainment system, a rearview camera, a 10-speaker high-quality audio system and keyless entry/start. Just because you go for the base model doesn’t mean that you will be sorely lacking in power. The standard engine in the MKX is a 3.7-liter V6 that is expected to crank out 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine that’s in the base-model Ford Mustang.
  • Acura RDX: Acura has long been a heavy hitter in the bargain-basement fun-to-drive luxury segment. Even though the RDX has gone up in price, it’s still an incredibly good buy. It comes standard with LED headlights, a premium ELS sound system, a power liftgate, a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity, all for just $36,190 with FWD models. AWD models are a tad more at $37,690. Even getting the Technology Package will keep the price below $40,000 in FWD models. If you buy an AWD model, you can get the AcuraWatch safety features. The problem is that you can only get one or the other, as getting both packages will crack the $40,000 mark regardless of whether you have FWD or AWD.
  • Volvo XC60 T5 E-Drive/XC60 T5 AWD: Volvo has long been known for their bang for the buck. Their best-selling crossover comes standard with many great features such as City Safety automatic emergency braking, a 7-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch alloy wheels. The FWD T5 E-Drive starts off at $37,395, while the AWD T5 AWD starts off at $38,895. The XC60 is right at the same price as many other comparable luxury crossovers. You won’t be able to get many options in the XC60, unfortunately, as many options are bundled into expensive packages that will send the sticker price well over $50,000.
  • Volvo XC70 T5 E-Drive/XC70 T5 AWD: The Volvo XC70 was one of the first crossover wagons to go on sale. Since then, it’s been a staple in the Volvo lineup. It starts off at $38,095 for the T5 E-Drive and $39,595 for the T5 AWD. It doesn’t come with a ton of standard or optional features. It’s also not the best-seller in Volvo’s lineup, as it’s showing it’s age. Volvo has tried to spice it up with a recent refresh and new powertrain options, but buyers would rather buy an SUV than an aging wagon.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great value. It starts off at a cheap $30,990 for RWD models and $32,990 for 4WD models. It offers a great combination of luxury and proven off-road capability. It comes standard with Fiat Chrysler’s amazing UConnect infotainment system, keyless entry/start and a 7-inch TFT display. Because it starts at such a low price, you can buy gadgets and goodies, or step up to higher trim levels. If you want navigation or the optional turbodiesel engine, be prepared to fork out more than $40,000. The navigation system doesn’t come with a package. You have to step up a couple of trim levels. Oh, and it’s built like a gigantic LEGO set. You can easily swap in better suspension, wheels, and just about anything you could think of.
  • Jeep Renegade: The Jeep Renegade is the replacement for the awful Compass and Patriot. It starts off at $18,990 and goes all the way up to $26,990. While it might be the cheapest new Jeep, it’s also in Wards Auto’s 10 Best Interiors for 2015. A fully loaded Renegade won’t even come close to $40,000, which is a good incentive for value-oriented buyers. It offers class-above equipment, a very nice interior and the Trailhawk models have decent offroad capability.
  • Buick Enclave: It’s certainly not the newest three-row crossover on the market, but it’s a very good one, despite having been introduced all the way back in 2008. You can get it in base model form for $39,975. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, a rearview camera, remote start and a power liftgate. I’m speaking from experience when I say you should seriously consider it. It’s quick, quiet, and incredibly comfortable for every passenger. It has a lot of space, and gets decent fuel economy for something so large.
  • Buick Encore: Despite being tiny in size, the Encore is a pioneer in the subcompact luxury crossover market. It was also the first of its kind in the segment. It starts off at an incredibly affordable $24,990, and even fully loaded falls far short of the $40,000 mark. It’s got a quiet interior for the segment. It’s a good choice for large city dwellers who need a car, but need it to have space but be small.
  • Ford Edge: Even though it doesn’t have that luxury cache to it, the Ford Edge offers plenty of luxurious amenities. Even if you don’t want to spend more than $40,000, you can get an Edge Titanium with AWD and gadgets such as SYNC with MyFord Touch, navigation and a Sony audio system. You could also get a sparsely-optioned Edge Sport with it’s twin turbo V6 and navigation if you want more power.
  • Ford Explorer: You don’t need to get the Ford Explorer Limited to be well-equipped in one. While the Explorer starts off at $31,645 for FWD models and $33,645 for AWD XL models, your best bet is the $34,345 XLT, which has many more standard features than the XL. Getting the XLT nets you rear parking sensors, keyless entry/start and a 10-way power driver’s seat. You can also get navigation, SYNC with MyFord Touch, remote start, a nine-speaker audio system and heated front seats without coming close to $40,000.
  • Nissan Murano: The 2016 Nissan Murano has a design that certainly isn’t for everybody. It’s aggressive and daring. You can make it even more daring with vibrant paint colors. Even though it looks upscale, you don’t need to go for the range-topping Platinum model to have a well-equipped Murano. The base model Murano starts off at $30,445 with FWD and $32,045 with AWD. Both the SV and SL models offer plenty of conveniences and gadgets including navigation, NissanConnect apps, remote start and two USB ports. While an AWD Murano SV will set you back $39,435, you get a lot of good stuff with it. You get all of the standard SV features, plus Nissan’s Around View camera feature, a premium Bose audio system, leather upholstery and seats and adjustable ambient lighting. That sounds like a good buy to the adventurous, but value-oriented buyer.
  • Nissan Pathfinder: It’s no longer the rugged offroader that it used to be. It’s now more of a mall-roader. It starts off at $30,515 for FWD models and $32,205 for AWD models. The SL trim is the best out of the vast range of models, due to its standard remote start, a power liftgate and leather seats and upholstery. However, other tech goodies will be out of reach, due to the fact that they are stuck in expensive packages.
  • Hyundai Tuscon: The 2016 Tuscon is completely redesigned. In every trim, especially the Limited model, the Tuscon offers value, class-above features and a dizzying array of electronic wizardry in one incredibly stylish package. Regardless of drivetrain choice, the Tuscon Limited doesn’t even come close to $40,000. If you check each and every option box, you will have everything from a 4.2-inch TFT display to navigation to such safety features as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Hyundai has long been known to pack immense value into their SUVs. The Santa Fe Sport is no exception. It starts off at $25,845. Regardless of whether you get it with FWD or AWD, or different engines, it’s still a very good buy. You can check just about every option box and still not be close to $40,000. For anywhere from $30,000-38,000, the Santa Fe Sport will give you an Infinity Logic 7 audio system, navigation, a panoramic sunroof and a hands-free power liftgate. That sounds like a lot of value for not very much money to me.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe: The Santa Fe is just the three-row version of the Santa Fe Sport. It remains a very compelling buy in its segment. It starts off at $31,295. It comes with a host of standard features including blind spot warning, keyless entry/start and a hands-free power liftgate. Those come with the $36,545 GLS model. However, you can’t get navigation with the GLS, as that comes with the expensive Ultimate Package, which crakcs $40,000.
  • Toyota Highlander: The wildly popular Toyota Highlander is a good buy. It starts off at $30,650. The $37,870 FWD XLE and $38,935 AWD XLE models are the best buys. The XLEs come with the Entune infotainment system, which includes navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen, keyless entry/start and heated front seats thrown in for good measure. Throw in the legendary Toyota reliability and you’ve got yourself one helluva good deal.
  • Kia Sorento: Kia and Hyundai both are well-known for their value injections in every vehicle. The Sorento is the sister to the Santa Fe. The Sorento starts off at a reasonable $25,795. You can get a nicely optioned Sorento EX with either FWD or AWD, or a V6 or turbocharged four cylinder. The standard features on the EX are many, so I’ll just list a few. You get a nifty 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, a 7-inch TFT screen, an Infinity Logic 7 high-quality audio system, keyless entry/start and leather seats and upholstery.
  • Honda Pilot: The newly-released 2016 Honda Pilot looks promising to me. It’s got more space than before, better looks than before, and has more features than any other Honda SUV. It starts off at an affordable $30,875 to boot. For the best bang for the buck, go with the EX-L trim with navigation, as you will get the LaneWatch system, Honda Link with an 8-inch main screen and a power liftgate for just a tad under $40,000, even with AWD. That sounds like a good deal to me. 
  • Mazda CX-3: Talk about something that really punches far above it’s weight! It starts off at an incredibly affordable $20,840, but even fully loaded, won’t go past $30,000. The best one to get is the range-topping Grand Touring model. It has a beautiful interior filled with white/black leather/suede upholstery, an amazing infotainment system and a delightful Bose audio system. Throw in some fun driving dynamics for good measure, and you have a winner.
  • Mazda CX-5: The Mazda CX-5 is basically the sports car of the compact SUV segment. It brings goodies that were previously unobtainable to the average person into reach. These goodies include a neat infotainment system and LED headlights. A base model CX-5 starts off at $22,675. While a fully-loaded one won’t come close to $40,000, a $33,655 compact crossover is a bit pricey. But, you will get such safety aids as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Many of the CX-5’s competitors don’t even offer these gadgets. Don’t get the smaller 155 horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder (it’s a great engine), rather, go for the more powerful 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four cylinder. The smaller engine doesn’t have much of a noticeable fuel economy advantage over the bigger engine.

Those are the best SUVs and crossovers you can buy for under $40,000. They are all great choices, depending on what you are looking for. Of course, I highly recommend you test drive at least some of them before you settle on one!

I apologize for the extreme delay in posting. I’m just crawling out of the pit that is midterms.

More of the Best Japanese Sports Cars Ever!

This is a follow-up to one of my most popular posts of all time. Japan has given us some of the most iconic, endearing, and usable sports cars ever to drive.

  • 1959 Datsun Sports/Fairlady: It was known as the Datsun Fairlady in Japan, but over here, it was known as the Datsun Sports. It came with a 1,500 cc engine, a 1,600 cc engine, or a larger 2,000 cc engine. It started as a cheaper competitor to the MG Midget, but it had a fiberglass body instead of the aluminum used in the MG. It developed into one of the most successful road-racing cars in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America).

    This is a 1962 model, but it is essentially the same as the 1959 model.
    This is a 1962 model, but it is essentially the same as the 1959 model.
  • 1963 Honda S500: This was Honda’s first car. While it’s successor, the S600 enjoyed numerous class wins in the SCCA and other road racing bodies, the S500 shouldn’t be forgotten. The S500 weighed a mere 1,500 pounds, and it was powered by a tiny 500 cc dual-overhead-cam engine with a 9,500 RPM redline. It had one motorcycle influence – chain-driven wheels. It was a fast, sprightly little car that could hang with the big boys.1963 Honda S500
  • 1965 Toyota Sports 800: This was Toyota’s first sports car, and while it wasn’t a hit in the US, it’s had a devout following since day one. It has 44 horsepower, and a removable targa top. Oh, and it’s pretty cute.

    The only thing that isn't stock about this beautiful 1965 Toyota Sports 800 are the wheels, but I think it adds a nice touch.
    The only thing that isn’t stock about this beautiful 1965 Toyota Sports 800 are the wheels, but I think it adds a nice touch.
  • 1967 Toyota 2000GT: Riding off of the success of the Sports 800 in Japan, Toyota decided to build a competitor to the Jaguar E-Type. The result is the absolutely stunning Toyota 2000GT. Toyota teamed up with Yamaha to develop the engine and transmission, and boy did Yamaha deliver! It’s an achingly gorgeous car that breezes well over $1 million at auction.1967 Toyota 2000GT; top car design rating and specifications
  • 1968 Datsun Bluebird/1300-1600/510: Datsun essentially reverse-engineered the legendary BMW 1600, and this wonderful rally/drift machine was born. It was known as the Bluebird in Europe, the 1300-1600 in Asia, and the 510 here in America. It still holds 2wd rally records. It’s one of the most legendary sports coupes ever made, and you can buy one for a relatively low price.

    This is a picture from one of the original advertisements that Datsun put out in 1968. The No. 85 car is one of the legendary rally cars.
    This is a picture from one of the original advertisements that Datsun put out in 1968. The No. 85 car is one of the legendary rally cars.
  • 1970 Datsun 240Z: This is certainly one of the most beautiful sports cars ever made, let alone one of the most beautiful cars ever made. My grandparents and dad used to own one, but guess who decided to sell it so I couldn’t enjoy it? It had a single-overhead-cam inline six cylinder engine, a five speed manual, and fully independent suspension. European sports cars never knew what passed them.1970 Datsun 240z
  • 1971 Mazda RX-2 and RX-3: These cars were the precursors to the legendary RX-7. The RX-2 set so many records and poles in IMSA that rotary engines got banned. The RX-3 went 160 mph at Bonneville. 
    This is a 1971 Mazda RX-2. It's not exactly pretty, but it got the job done.
    This is a 1971 Mazda RX-2. It’s not exactly pretty, but it got the job done.

    This is the slightly larger 1971 Mazda RX-3. It's equally homely, but it was much faster than the RX-2.
    This is the slightly larger 1971 Mazda RX-3. It’s equally homely, but it was much faster than the RX-2.
  • 1979 Toyota Celica: The original Toyota Celica was for all essential purposes, a Datsun 240Z with icing on the cake. While it didn’t have a six-cylinder engine, it had a rear seat, and therefore, more utility. It was originally somewhat homely, but then the legendary AE86 generation came around, and it had totally ’80s styling, man.

    Most teenage boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s really wanted to own a 1978 Celica notchback, like this. You can decide if they really wanted it that badly.
    Most teenage boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s really wanted to own a 1978 Celica notchback, like this. You can decide if they really wanted it that badly.
  • 1982 Datsun Maxima: This is the precursor to the Nissan Maxima. It borrowed powertrain components from the 240Z, and was supposed to be a very fun car to drive.1982 Datsun Maxima
  • 1985 Toyota MR2: You can call it Mister Two. It was inspired by the then-fast Ferrari Testarossa. It was a break from the monotonous, boring cars Toyota had been cranking out…oh wait, they still are!

    You can call it Mister 2.
    You can call it Mister 2.
  • 1986 Honda Civic, CRX, and Prelude Si: The year 1986 was a good year for car people. Honda released the Si model for the Civic, CRX, and Prelude. It upped speed and handling prowess. These cars are still fast enough to keep up with a modern Porsche Cayman on a winding road or a race track. Plus, you can get them for very little money, as Honda made a lot of them!
    This is the 1986 Civic Si, which was basically a four-seat CRX. It had more utility, but was slightly slower.
    This is the 1986 Civic Si, which was basically a four-seat CRX. It had more utility, but was slightly slower.
    The 1986 Prelude Si was a sporty, yet very refined car. It had tuned port fuel injection, which was rare for the time. Yet, it was still affordable to the everyman.
    The 1986 Prelude Si was a sporty, yet very refined car. It had tuned port fuel injection, which was rare for the time. Yet, it was still affordable to the everyman.

    This is the infamous 1986 Honda CRX Si. It's still fast enough to keep up with a new Miata.
    This is the infamous 1986 Honda CRX Si. It’s still fast enough to keep up with a new Miata.
  • 1988 Honda Prelude: Honda took the already-impressive Prelude Si, made all of it’s equipment standard, and then added four-wheel steering to it. It was a speedy little car.1988 Honda Prelude
  • 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata: It’s a sprightly Lotus-inspired roadster that is now the world’s favorite roadster out there. It took all of the fun charms that British and Italian roadsters had, and added bulletproof reliability to the mix. It’s also the world’s most popular race car. Need I say more? I really want one (hint, hint Zayzee)…1990 Mazda Miata
  • 1991 Acura NSX: Acura’s NSX is still one of the most amazing supercars ever. It’s so reliable that you can daily drive it without having to worry about overheating it. It has a sleek aluminum body that looks fabulous in red (just to rub it in to Ferrari), and it’s 3.0-liter V6 revs to 8,000 RPM. It’s V6 has the original VTEC system, which is just a variable timing and lift valvetrain. VTEC comes from motorcycles, but it first appeared in 1989 with the Acura Integra GS-R for Japan only.

    It's 24 years old, yet it's still incredibly fast, and has styling that is superb.
    It’s 24 years old, yet it’s still incredibly fast, and has styling that is superb.
  • 1994 Toyota Supra: The Supra finally matured in it’s fourth generation. It’s still one of the most legendary sports cars around. It’s twin-turbocharged 2JZ-GTE engine further catapulted the Supra into fame. Most have been tuned to within an inch of their life, so it’s rare to see a stock fourth-generation Supra.1994 Toyota Supra
  • 1992 Mazda RX-7: The third, and final generation of the legendary Mazda RX-7 arrived in 1992 with sequential turbocharging, beautiful bodywork, and vastly improved handling. It’s been successful on the racing circuit, and is still winning awards in Formula Drift.1992 Mazda RX-7
  • 2000 Honda S2000: How does Honda celebrate their 50th birthday? By building an incredible successor to the S600, that’s how! The S2000 was powered by a 9,000 RPM 2.0-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine that screams to the heavens. It’s supposed to be one of the most visceral and engaging cars ever to come out of a factory’s doors.2000 Honda S2000
  • 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII: It’s a cross between a road-racing machine and a rally car. It had massive Brembo brakes, Bilstein shocks with lots of travel that somehow allowed for perfect car control, and a massive, provocative carbon-fiber rear wing. It’s instantly recognizable.2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
  • 2004 Mazda RX-8: The Mazda RX-8 was the last dying gasp for rotary engines. It had doors like an extended cab pickup truck, and a backseat. It drank fuel like a sailor, and ate oil like a long-haul trucker. If you started driving it before the engine was warm, you’d flood the engine. If you turned it off without letting it idle for a few minutes, you’d cook the rotors. Yet, people still love them.Mazda RX-8, 2004 World Wide Launch Monterey, CA  12/29/2002
  • 2009 Nissan GT-R: Nissan took the GT-R to uncharted heights in terms of performance. It has a twin-turbo V6, AWD, and a video-game dashboard just for kicks. It’s performance is truly astonishing. It can grip like nothing else out there, and it’s acceleration is only rivaled by hypercars like the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder. And a garden-variety brand-new one costs about $100,000.

    It's Godzilla! The nickname came around after an automotive journalist looked at all of the races that the original GT-R had won, and proclaimed it "Godzilla." It's a fitting nickname.
    It’s Godzilla! The nickname came around after an automotive journalist looked at all of the races that the original GT-R had won, and proclaimed it “Godzilla.” It’s a fitting nickname.
  • 2012 Lexus LFA: Lexus took a stab at the supercar market with the clunky and odd LFA. They brought a butterknife to a minigun fight. They built 500 LFA supercars that are somehow coveted right now. They aren’t fast by supercar standards, and they aren’t very much fun to drive. Their transmission can never replicate a shift, so you either get slammed back into your seat, or you don’t notice it shifting at all. There is no in between. That being said, it’s 4.8-liter V10 sounds spectacular, and revs to the heavens. Lexus likely lost money selling each LFA. Building supercars is an expensive, risky business.2012 Lexus LFA
  • 2012 Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT86: This might just be the best Subaru/Toyota pairing ever. It’s certainly an odd pairing – Toyota and Subaru are competitors, but their collaboration resulted in a really fun car. The Scion FR-S is a bit more loose, as it’s meant more for drifting, whereas the Subaru is a bit tighter, as it’s meant for canyon carving and track duty. They’re really affordable – a well-optioned one comes in about $30,000, and they have a lot to offer: RWD, fuel efficiency, fun-to-drive factor, reliability, standard manual transmission, etc.2012 Scion FR-S

2012 Subaru BRZ2012 Toyota GT86Those are what I think to be more of the best Japanese sports cars ever made. I’d love to hear more of your stories about any of these cars, or which one is your favorite.

10 Cars that Could Make You a Millionaire!

We all like to make money.  All of you like cars (me included!).  Ten cars could (theoretically) allow you to make a cool $1,000,000 – most of them NOT by themselves.  Anybody who has been buying/selling old cars knows that the classic car market has been taking a crash course on Wall Street.  It’s either boom or bust.  Bust happened in 1990 when a hyper-inflated Ferrari market crashed in the time frame of a year.  In 2007-2008, the market for Mopars with Hemi engines crashed, with many cars losing 2/3 of their value within 18 months.  The basic premise of this blog post is to tell you what cars you can buy for not too much money, and sell for a hefty profit.  Well, there are a few exceptions to that rule, but I think you’ll agree with my decisions for those cars.

However, that’s not to say that the market is dead.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  The market is globalized in a way it couldn’t have been just 10 years ago.  Only 20% of Russia had internet access in 2007, but now almost 80% have access.  Now that Russians have more money to spend, they are looking for ways other than cheap economy cars or an old Mercedes-Benz with 300,000 miles on the odometer to get around.  Cars continue to be more accepted as investments among those who wouldn’t care about them otherwise.  Sure, one could consider it a bubble, but until then, here are some cars, erm, investments, that I would buy with my tiny fortune.

  1. 1962-1965 Shelby Cobra.  The original Shelby Cobras are what I am referring to (Shelby makes continuation Cobras).  It’s quite possible that prices for the Cobra have already priced, as prices for these things are literally enough to make a Wall Street investor empty their bank account in a few short minutes.  The MkI and MkII (260 and 289 cubic-inch V8 Cobras) will run you about $800,000.  Forget buying a 427 Cobra – those are at least $1 million!  For the small-block Cobras, prices are up from $500,000 just five years ago, and that was up from $150,000 in 2003.  Yikes.
  2. 1970-1973 Datsun 240Z.  Remember when you could buy a Datsun 240Z for $4,000 in 2004?  Well, the average sale for 2013 was $19,000.  People who wanted one when they were young now (hopefully) have the discretionary income to buy one.  Plus, the Z looks timeless.  It’s like a more mature, cheaper Toyota 2000GT.  It’s great, easy and cheap to own, and a hoot to drive.  That won’t change.  What will likely change are the prices.  If the Datsun 240Z is any indication of the rising market demand for 1970s Japanese sports cars, expect prices to rise dramatically in the next few years.  If you want one, get it NOW!
  3. 1970-1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet.  Nobody really thought that any regular-production, post-300SL Mercedes-Benz would be worth anything.  I didn’t for a while.  Nobody thought much of them because they were designed to last forever.  How can a car become more valuable when it never changes?  Then, three 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolets sold last August at the RM Monterey Auctions for a whopping average price of – brace yourselves – $265,833.  In 2010, the average transaction price was a still-high $94,000.  It’s hard to think that this extreme inflation will continue for much longer.  But, it’s not showing any signs of stopping.  Time to re-mortgage the house if you want one of these!
  4. 1976-1981 Ferrari 512BB.  Most of the male readers of this blog likely had posters of this car on their bedroom walls.  Combining absolutely timeless bedroom-wall-poster looks with the exotic, screaming power of the Berlinetta Boxer’s six-carburetor, vee-crank flat V12, you can’t go wrong.  Prices haven’t changed much since 2007, with prices staying right about $140,000.  However, you can still find one for under six digits.  For about $95,000, you can buy one for the price of what a grey market car would have cost you 35 years ago.  If that’s not a deal, I don’t know what else is.  Buy two and wait patiently.  Time to sell the house!
  5. 2009 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.  Alfa Romeo is back into the U.S. with the 4C.  It’s a great car.  It’s better looking than any new Ferrari, it’s faster than anything from Japan or America on a race track, and I want one.  The 8C was an amazing one-year blip in Alfa Romeo’s 19-year absence from the American car market.  The price now?  Hard to tell, as they were about $250,000 new, and only 84 were ever sold in the U.S.  Nobody is letting go of them, either, so yeah, good luck finding one.  Most are being held in private collections, but it’s going to be a challenge to start a market for them if nobody sells them.
  6. 1972-1974 BMW 2002 tii.  The BMW 2002 was a great car.  All of the automotive magazines said it was better than any muscle car out there.  It was nimble, light, and deceivingly fast.  The most desirable 2002 is the fuel injected version, called the 2002tii.  It was light, potent, reliable, and it favored fun over everything else.  Like the Datsun 240Z, they weren’t worth much of anything for a very long time due to their abundance.  In 2004, a nice 2002tii was carrying about $10,000.  Now, prices have blown past $20,000, and people are really only beginning to appreciate them.  Yeah, BMW only made 38,000 of the 2002tii, but an awful lot of them were used up.  Even if you buy one and it doesn’t go up in prices, you’ve still got one helluva car.  It’s a win-win situation.  Basically, for the price of a smallish shapeless blob painted silver, you can get a reliable daily driver that will get you thumbs up all over the place, and a tidy look.  Why not buy one?
  7. 1944-1986 Willys CJ.  The Willys CJ is one of the record holding cars for being in production.  It remained in production basically unchanged for 42 years.  The older models are pretty cool.  Parts are abundant for them, and there is a thriving after market for them.  They look cool, can go literally anywhere, and are so reliable that it makes any Honda or Toyota’s reliability look like a joke.  Plus, any old Willys CJ will be a barrel of fun.  It may not make you a million bucks, but you can buy one for a relative song right now.  Prices for these cool little vehicles that helped win WWII are cheap.  You can buy a really nice one for about $15,000, but where’s the fun in something that’s been restored by somebody other than you?  Get one that needs some work for about $7,500.  If you want to get even more on the cool factor, get a genuine Willys military Jeep.  That’s about $7,500.
  8. 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger:  The Dodge Challenger was one of the cars that lost 2/3rds of its value in 2007-2008, but prices are once more on the rise.  The R/T models with the 426 Hemi “Elephant” engine are the most desirable.  If you can’t swing one with the 426, get one with the massive 440 cubic-inch V8 (that’s 7.2 liters!) Six Pack.  That has six carburetor throats feeding gas and air into those wonderful sounding 440 cubic inches.  Even the models with the 383 cubic-inch V8 are fun.
  9. 1955-1957 Chevrolet Bel Air:  The Tri-Five Chevy’s are great cars.  They are fun, beautiful, reliable, and the prices are always climbing.  Now is the time to get one.  My personal favorite is the 1957 Bel Air convertible.  It looks like a Cadillac.  If you want one to be a pro-touring car, a drag car, or a show queen, there is no shortage of parts availability for these cars.  The 1956 models are the cheapest of the three years, but they are still pretty expensive.  If you get one now, enjoy it, show it, do burnouts, and have fun with a priceless piece of Americana.
  10. 1970-1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 LS6:  This is probably one of the most iconic Chevrolet’s ever.  It’s got a massive Chevrolet 454 cubic-inch V8 (7.4 liters) with the legendary LS6 code name.  It makes a thundering 450 horsepower in LS6 form.  In the lesser LS5 form, it makes a still-impressive 360 horsepower.  If you can’t swing the climbing prices of the LS6 Chevelle, go for a still-mighty Chevelle SS396.  It’s still going to be a lot of fun, and it will handle better, thanks to less weight on the front of the car.  Plus, you can yank out the 396 and put a crate 454 underneath.  If you want more power, you can put a 468 cubic-inch V8, a 489 cubic-inch V8, a 572 cubic-inch V8, a 598 cubic-inch V8, or a 632 cubic-inch V8.  I would go for the 468 stroker motor, as it doesn’t add too much weight to the front, but it adds far more power.  Nelson Racing Engines (nelsonracingengines.com) makes a 600-horsepower 468 that sounds just about right for a Chevelle…

That’s all that I have to offer you, but I’m sure that you have your own suggestions.  Let me know in the comments section.

 

Watch the Evolution of the Chevy Corvette, Ford Mustang, BMW 3 Series, and Honda Accord!

It’s astonishing just how much a car can change over the years.  Sometimes, the only similar parts about a car can be the badge name of the car.  It’s easy to compare a car to it’s predecessors when you put them next to each other, but that can be boring.  EBay Motors found a new way to show all of the different generations of some given cars.  The animations shown below from eBay Motors show the design progression and growth of four popular cars, with some of the cars going back over 60 years.

Ford Mustang Evolution

The Ford Mustang’s design evolution is truly all over the place when it comes to design and size changes.  The styling comes a complete 360 degrees, starting with the original 1964 1/2 model and progressing all of the way through the retro-styled years of 2005-2014.  Dimensions grow, then shrink drastically, then grow again, within just four generations.  By the time that we get to the 2015 model, the Mustang has shifted away from the cool retro styling and is almost as long as the 1971 model.  While it is difficult to say how accurate the scale is in all of these animations, eBay Motors says that the size changes are real-life.

Chevy Corvette Evolution

Next up is the Chevrolet Corvette, also an American icon.  It changes dramatically in the first 3 generations (C1, C2, and C3 for you Corvette enthusiasts), but begins a gradual design evolution from the 4th generation (C4) onwards.  The C4’s wedge-shaped front end and gradually sloping roof carry over into the C7 Corvette.  Granted, there are a lot of changes, but the basic profile of the C4 Corvette can still be clearly seen in any Corvette from then on out.

BMW 3 Series Evolution

The BMW 3-Series may see the most dramatic change in size.   Starting with the tiny E21 generation (the 1st generation), the 3 Series grows in every direction through each of it’s 6 generations until it bloats to the size of the F30 generation BMW 4 Series (the replacement for the 3 Series coupe).  Because of BMW’s new naming scheme, the 4 Series is shown to keep the two-door BMW 3 Series going.  The final car shown in the animation, the 4 Series, barely fits in the picture box.

Honda Accord Evolution

The Honda Accord’s size progression is almost as drastic as the BMW 3 Series.  It grows substantially from the small first generation model.  By the 8th generation, the Accord barely fits inside of the picture box.  The current model (the 9th generation) is a little bit smaller than the 8th generation model, but the car is still much, much larger than the tiny 1st generation Accord.  Styling-wise, the Accord is pretty gradual, especially in generations 6-9.

Some of the cars shown in the animations will shock you at how much they grow.  The BMW 3 Series and the Honda Accord shocked me.  See what shocks you.

The Top 25 Japanese Sports Cars That Enthusiasts Crave!

For those of you who have owned a Japanese sports car, you know that they have the perfect balance of performance, practicality, and speed.  My dad drove a 1970 Datsun 240Z, one of the most sought-after Japanese cars – ever!  It was fast, barrels of fun, reliable, and easy to drive (if one didn’t mind the light, loose rear end).  It was fast in the curves, but it could win in a straight line, as well.  He could get 1/4 mile times in the 11.5 second range.  He would pass Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lamborghini’s, and just about every other super car of the early 1980’s.  But, he would be smoked by the time he reached 1/2 of a mile.  He was topped out by then.  He didn’t mind.

One of our family friends owns a 1967? Datsun Fairlady Roadster.  It’s a sight to see!  It looks like a Triumph, but it’s way better!  It seats the same amount of people, yet it weighs almost 300 pounds less.  It’s also infinitely more reliable, and faster.

I have compiled a list of the top 25 Japanese sports cars that enthusiasts give the thumbs-up to.  Enjoy my list.

  1. 1969 Toyota 2000GT:  The Toyota 2000GT was Toyota’s answer to the Porsche 911 and Jaguar E-Type.  It was the unspoken answer.  James Bond drove one in You Only Live Twice.  To this day, that chase scene is one of the best in movie history.  The Toyota 2000GT looked like a Jaguar E-Type Coupe that sat two.  However, it’s high price and exclusivity prevented it from becoming the Japanese Jaguar E-Type.
  2. 1970 Datsun 240Z:  The Datsun 240Z was designed to be an affordable, faster, better-looking competitor to the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911.  The Datsun 240Z was powered by a 2.4-liter inline 6-cylinder engine making somewhere close to 200 horsepower.  It weighed about 2500 pounds, so it went everywhere in a hurry.  It could keep up with Ferrari 250 GTO’s on the track all day long, and shame a Camaro Z/28 in a drag race.  This car was a rocket.  Today, 240Z’s sell for about $25,000 for a good example.  But, don’t buy one at an auction – Barrett-Jackson sold one in Monterrey for $155,000 in 2012.
  3. 1985 Toyota MR2:  The Toyota MR2 was one of the smallest sports cars of the 1980s.  It was also like looking at a race car.  It had a mid-mounted 1.6-liter 4-banger that pumped out 125 horsepower.  It revved to 9000 RPM, and had a cam for every 3000 RPM.  It had a top speed of 154 mph, and it was stable in almost every condition.  It tipped the scales at 1900 pounds.
  4. 1999 Toyota Supra:  The Toyota Supra was the last true Toyota-built sports car.  It was also a massive change in technology and direction for Japanese sports cars.  It was powered by a 3.0-liter inline six cylinder engine that was boosted by twin turbos that ramped power up to a raspy 220 horsepower.  It was fast, and it looked like it came out of rally-car racing.  It had a massive rear wing, a raspy engine note that turned into a bellowing howl at redline, and meaty tires that wouldn’t look out of place on a Dodge Viper.  This puppy wants to play.
  5. 1986 Toyota Celica AE86:  The 1980s were the peak of lightweight sports cars.  The Toyota Celica AE86 was no exception.  It was based off of the AE86-generation Corolla economy car (that generation was the only generation of Corolla that was fun to drive!).  It was light, insane, relatively powerful, good-looking, and fun to drive.  My dad wanted one (he ended up buying a Honda Accord).  So did most teens and young adults.  That’s how good the Celica AE86 was.  It left a lasting impression on everybody who drove it.
  6. 1996 Nissan Silvia S15:  The Nissan Silvia S15 was the last generation of the wildly popular Nissan Silvia.  It boasted a powerful 250-horsepower six-cylinder engine that was helped out by a massive turbocharger.  At full throttle, it sounded like a F/14 Tomcat fighter jet.  Tuners adored it.  Paul Walker, star of the Fast & Furious series movies, owns a 580-horsepower S15 Silvia.
  7. 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata:  The 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata turned the world around.  Safety standards in the U.S. were so strict that it was almost impossible to build a light roadster.  Mazda had the RX-7 (but it was powered by a rotary engine), but it was too heavy and large.  Mazda built the Miata out of forged aluminum, which brought the car’s weight down to 2000 pounds.  Other automakers were building cars that weighed 3500 pounds, because they thought it was more expensive to build cars out of forged aluminum.  Mazda proved them all wrong.  The 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata is still one of the most amazing cars in the world to drive.
  8. 1993 Mazda RX-7 CSL:  The Mazda RX-7 is one of the few cars to be powered by a rotary engine.  The RX-7 CSL was a lightweight version of the popular RX-7.  It was faster, and all models were built for Japan (right hand drive).  Except for one.  The only Mazda RX-7 CSL to have left-hand drive is at Mazda USA’s headquarters in California.
  9. 2007 Toyota MR-S:  The Toyota MR-S is viewed to be the last sports car that Toyota built.  Yes, Lexus and Scion build sports cars, but Toyota doesn’t anymore.  Anyways, the Toyota MR-S paid homage to the MR2 of the 1990s, with a mid-mounted engine and front-wheel drive.  While it may look like a chick magnet, it is one fast chick magnet.
  10. 2000 Acura Integra GS-R:  The Acura Integra was one of the best-selling Acura’s ever.  It had a high-revving I4 engine, a five-speed manual transmission, it was practical, and it was fast.  All of that was put together into a tidy, sleek package.  The final iteration of the Integra introduced the world to something called VTEC.  While VTEC is standard on all four-cylinder Honda’s and Acuras, altered valve timing and valve lift was F1 stuff in 2000.
  11. 2006 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3:  The Mazda 3 was already a popular economy car, but Mazda knew that they could get far more out of the car.  They turned to their in-house tuner, Mazdaspeed.  Mazdaspeed turbocharged the engine, put big, aluminum rims, sticky tires, a big rear wing, and torque steer.  Torque steer is what Mazdaspeed is associated with nowadays.
  12. 2000 Mazda RX-8:  The Mazda RX-8 may have ended production in 2011, but that doesn’t stop it from being on this list.  It had suicide doors (now only seen in pickup trucks), a rotary engine, and good looks.  It also happened to be heavy and under powered.  Nothing stopped people from loving, however.
  13. 1998 Nissan 240SX:  The Nissan 240SX was popular here in the States.  Not only did it have stunning looks, but it had performance to match it.  Unfortunately, the only engine we got here was a 2.4-liter four-banger from the Frontier pickup truck.
  14. 1986 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R:  This car could not be built again.  It was a subcompact hatchback that could barely squeeze two adults into the tiny cabin.  The GTI-R took performance to a whole different level.  It was built to satisfy World Rally Championship homogilation rules.  Only 5,000 baby Godzilla’s were built, but they were fast.  Fast as a bat out of hell.  It had a turbocharged engine, AWD, and lots of bodykit add-ons.
  15. 2009 Nissan GT-R:  The Nissan GT-R has been around for over 40 years in some form or another.  Godzilla was Motor Trend’s 2009 Car of the Year.  It packed a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6.  Nissan has come out with various iterations of this generation of the GT-R.  The most recent is the 2013 Nissan GT-R Track Pack (the fastest stock Nissan to date).
  16. 1988 Honda CRX Si:  The Honda CRX was one of the fastest econoboxes of the 1980s.  It was light, extremely fun to drive, and stylish.  Plus, it was based off of the wildly popular Civic.  The CRX Si was the final CRX.  In the U.S., it came with a less powerful I4 than Japan’s.  That ushered in the era of Honda shade-tree mechanics.
  17. 2003 Nissan 350Z:  The Nissan 350Z brought back affordable, quick, sportiness to the world.  It was about the same size of the 300SX, but it didn’t have two turbochargers.  It had a powerful naturally-aspirated V6 that garnered praise from automotive journalists around the world.  The engine was so sweet that Nissan still uses it for many of their V6 cars.
  18. 2000 Acura Integra Type-R:  Yes, I know that there are two Acura Integra’s on this list.  They deserve to be.  Especially this one.  The Integra Type-R was the last Integra made.  It got the Type-R treatment (lower weight, more power, more looks, more chassis-stiffening).  It was also the most stolen Acura to date.
  19. 2000 Honda S2000:  Most people celebrate their 50th birthday with lots of friends and family.  Honda built a very special car.  The Honda S2000 was a track-oriented beast of a car.  It had a 237-horsepower engine, rear-wheel-drive, and perfect balance.  A manual transmission helped a lot, as well.
  20. 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STi:  Subaru took the hum-drum Impreza, turned it into a rally-rocket with a turbocharged engine, a manual transmission, and lots of bodywork.  Then, Subaru’s rally team got their hands on it.  They built the raucous Impreza WRX STi.  STi stands for Specially Tuned Impreza.  It is fast, practical, and barrels of fun.  It’s the equivalent of a bouncy ball coming out of a gumball dispenser.  Unfortunately, it’s ending production.  Buy one while you can.
  21. 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO MR/GSR:  This is possibly the most radical Mitsubishi ever.  It has a 291-horsepower turbocharged I4.  It also has a dual-clutch transmission pulled from rally cars.  AWD is standard.
  22. Datsun 510:  The Datsun 510 closely resembles a BMW 2002 Tii.  Why?  Why not?  Japanese automakers used to build their cars in a similar fashion to their European competitors.  It came with fully independent suspension, a Positraction rear end, a five speed manual, and a high-revving four-banger.  It was a hoot to drive.
  23. Acura NSX:  The first widely produced Japanese exotic car sent Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Chevy scrambling for the drawing board.  It changed the definition of super car.  In my eyes, it’s the most influential Honda ever.  If that wasn’t a big enough slap to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Chevy, F1 driver Ayrton Senna assisted in the development of the car.
  24. Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ:  The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ may only have 200 horsepower, but they are so perfect at what they do that it’s not even funny.  They are rear-wheel-drive beasts on winding roads and tracks.  Just don’t drag race anything other than a Smart Car.  You’ll lose.  Badly.
  25. 1993 Honda Prelude:  The Honda Prelude was one step behind the Acura NSX in terms of looks, performance, and just about everything.  It had front-wheel-drive, VTEC (shhh!), seating for four, and stunning good looks.  It revved to 10,000 RPM in some versions, and power was always there.  It is still a collector’s item for Japanese car fans. I can only wonder why…