Conventional wisdom states that performance and sports cars are a dying breed. But, if we take a closer look at what’s stirring in Japan right now, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there hasn’t been this much activity in the arena of enthusiasts’ cars in decades, especially at the affordable end of the market. Here’s how the legacy of your favorite carmakers is carrying the torch for motoring excitement.
Toyota: Of all the carmakers on this list, Toyota is the most magnanimous, with no less than three offerings. You can argue that two of them aren’t real Toyotas, but the GR Corolla is truly one of the most exciting cars to come out of Japan in the last 20 years. The second-gen GR86 is a proper continuation of the lineage, and rumors now indicate that a 10th anniversary edition might be coming to mark a decade since the Scion FR-S hit the market in 2013.
As for the Supra, Toyota just announced that they are finally equipping it with a manual transmission. The 6-speed will only be offered on inline-six models, and Toyota is offering a 500-unit run of manual-shift A91 Edition cars. These will come in either Matte White or CU Later Gray, both exclusive colors, and a Cognac interior.
If delve further into the Toyota expanded universe, you can still buy insanely good GT cars like the IS 500, RC F and LC 500, which come with some of the best (and last) naturally aspirated V8s you can buy. Toyota also offers a bunch of good SUVs if you prefer honest, body-on-frame off-roaders, like the 4Runner, Lexus GX, and Lexus LX (which will be the only way to get a 300-series Land Cruiser in the US).
Subaru: The arrival of a new GR86 means the arrival of a new Subaru BRZ as well. Though nearly twins, there are some distinct differences between the two cars. And even if you can’t buy a real one, the April 2022 update to Gran Turismo 7 adds both a stock and a GT300 version to the game.
Mazda: The future of the RWD, straight-six sports sedan may be shaky, but the Miata will definitely stick around. In a recent interview with Autocar, Mazda Europe exec Joachim Kunz said, “It’s our brand icon and it is always treated very specially… At the moment, it looks like we will have this car forever, with this size and concept and combustion engine. Of course, some day, we will have to electrify it, but we want to keep this pure concept.”
From the same article: “Kunz acknowledged that Mazda’s Europe division has less influence over the MX-5 than it does with other models because it ‘is the baby of headquarters’ in Japan, where engineers are committed to carrying its core characteristics over into new generations.”
Also, the Mazda 3 Turbo is an insanely good car. If you’re in the market for a practical compact that can slice through canyon roads like a ginsu, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Honda: The new Integra may not be what we expected of the nameplate, but it’s still a manual transmission sedan in an age of crossover dominance. Acura has just announced pricing, and it’s kind of steep: $31,895 for the base model, which comes with an automatic CVT. If you opt for the manual, that’ll be $36,895, or nearly $8,600 more than the Civic Si. Yikes.
If you really want the ultimate in performance Hondas, though, you might want to wait for the upcoming Civic Type R. It has already broken the production front-wheel-drive lap record at Suzuka. The previous record was held by the outgoing Civic Type R Limited Edition. Also, this year will be your last chance to get the criminally underrated NSX. Acura pulled no punches in upgrading its performance – bumping horsepower to 600 even, thanks to turbos derived from its GT3 race car, adding a carbon-fiber roof, and offering optional ceramic brakes.
Nissan. Production has begun on one of the most anticipated new cars of the decade but the new Z’s release will be delayed until this summer due to the semiconductor shortage and COVID still wreaking havoc. However, that hasn’t stopped Nissan from teasing us with some slick mods.
NISMO introduced this week its first parts for the new Z, a stainless steel exhaust and copper-free brake pads. The parts announcement also revealed the official chassis code for the new Z, and it’s RZ34.
Speaking of which, Nissan announced it will send two RZ34s into battle at the Super Taikyu endurance series Round 2 race at Fuji Speedway. The mostly stock-looking cars (as compared to the GT500 race car) exhibit several mods, including hood vents, a new rear wing, a lowered ride height, and a cage. The cars will be competing in the ST-Q class, which is a for experimental vehicles. Perhaps they are doing some testing for future Zs to unleash its full potential.
Pricing for the Z in Japan was leaked this week, revealing that the base manual car will start at ¥5,241,500 ($40,200 USD). Prices may vary when it comes to the US, but as a comparison, the 6-cylinder Supra costs ¥7,313,000 ($56,100 USD) and has 18 fewer horses.
In short, there’s a lot of good stuff coming. Some of it feels like a last hurrah for the internal combustion engine, it’s true. But, at least the carmakers are going out with a bang. Drop us a comment to voice which one you’re most excited about.
Images courtesy of Toyota, Honda, Nissan.
Any idea on what the GR Corolla is going to be priced at in the US?
Been mulling over 3 new cars, a lot. The Civic SI (pity no hatchback version), The Mazda 3 (Pricey if you want a manual, which is the only one I’d buy), and the GR 86 (very tempting, but also very thirsty, like all Subarus tend to be).
I’d love a Miata, but it’s too small for a daily for me, but I still love the things.
The GR Corolla pricing hasn’t been officially announced yet, but most predictions land around $30,000 starting.
Of the three I’d go with the Mazda 3 Sedan Turbo. It’s the first car I’ve driven where I didn’t think the manual adds that much to the experience. I prefer the sedan styling, as I think the hatch lost something between concept and production. A proper stick would be a nice bonus, the the stellar handling and excellent shift map are worth a minor tradeoff for the driving experience. It’s that good.
$30k to start? Pssh, for only $2000 more you can have a CVT-equipped, base-model Integra!
And the Integra has one more cylinder to boot! Such a deal!
Not to mention all the self-conscious branding baggage that’s included for $free.99
I’d go for the GR Corolla (because this is the only way since Subaru axed the ICE-powered WRX STI) and the RZ34 Z
It’s almost bittersweet, but I’m very happy to see that Japan still has it in them. The other day I was at the Nissan dealer getting the A/C lines on my Z32 looked at, and they complimented on how they don’t see that car anymore. I echoed that Nissan needs to make a comeback, and that all I see in the dealer lot were Rogues, Rogue Sports, and Kicks (I understand I live in the snowy Northeast). The service advisor reminded me of the new Z, and these teaser photos provided a quick tap on my shoulder that there’s still hope.
Obviously it’s not going to be the 90s where each car manufacturer had multiple sports cars, but then again the 90s can’t really be repeated. I’m curious to see how evolutionized the RZ34 will be. The current Z34 is definitely long on the tooth, and if Nissan correctly addressed the consumers’ rants, it should be a hit.
While the news is all good, the good is not in being actually to get (or drive) one. I was looking to purchase a 2022 Civic Si and they are just plain unobtanium in the Northeast and if you do actually find one be ready to pay way over MSRP. I also spoke with one of the largest Toyota franchises in my area about test driving the GR86 and was told I would have to order one and wait 3+ months just to get a test drive as all current deliveries are customer cars only. They also told me I could order at MSRP but would have to pay a “Market” adjustment fee on delivery if I actually wanted to purchase it.
In the end I ended up buying a 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon with 200K miles that was meticulously maintained as one of the few “affordable” used cars on the market. The price was market correct, but I would have paid at least $4K less just a year ago. It is a tough time to want a low priced sports car of any kind.
My local Honda store has delivered exactly ONE Civic SI since they launched, and the have no idea when the next one, which is already sold, will arrive. I suspect this sad state of affairs wont’ change till after the 2024 elections.
As the Honda NSX is out of my price range and I am a Datsun Z guy. I would have to go with the Nissan Z. However, I would compare it with the Toyota Supra. I like the looks of each with the exception of the Supra’s fake vents to know where. I would have to spend some time in each one prior to making a decision.