The 20 Best Japanese Sports Cars of All Time

The 1990s marked a golden era for Japanese sports cars, showcasing remarkable advances in performance, design, and reliability. From compact roadsters to powerful supercars, these vehicles set new standards and continue to captivate car enthusiasts. This article explores the best Japanese sports cars of the 1990s, highlighting their lasting impact on the automotive world.

1997 Toyota Supra Turbo

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This model of the Toyota Supra is renowned for its iconic design and legendary performance. Fitted with a 3.0L twin-turbocharged inline-6, it churns out a blistering 320 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. This power, coupled with a finely tuned suspension and a 6-speed manual gearbox, made it a favorite among driving enthusiasts. Its ability to be easily tuned to produce even higher horsepower made it a legend in street racing and drag strip culture. The Fast and Furious franchise further popularized its fame.

1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a beloved roadster, lauded for its simplicity, light weight, and excellent handling. Its 1.6L engine produced 116 hp, not impressive by modern standards, but the Miata’s joy came from its exceptional balance and drivability rather than outright speed. The MX-5 Miata stood out for its affordability and reliability, qualities that have made it a lasting favorite among car enthusiasts.

1993 Mazda RX-7

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This rotary-powered Japanese sports car is known for its striking looks and incredible performance. Powered by a 1.3L twin-turbo rotary engine that generated 255 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque, the RX-7 had a power-to-weight ratio that could embarrass much more expensive sports cars. It’s lightweight, has a well-balanced chassis, and a superbly designed suspension system, which made it a hit on both the street and track.

1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo

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This sports car was one of the most advanced on the market when it was introduced. It featured a 3.0L V6 twin-turbo engine that produced 300 hp and 283 lb-ft of torque, pushing the car to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. With its sleek, aerodynamic design, advanced technology, and luxury-oriented interior, it was praised for its blend of performance and comfort.

1991 Acura NSX

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The NSX is Acura’s first foray into the supercar segment. Developed with inputs from racing legend Ayrton Senna, it featured a mid-engine layout and a lightweight all-aluminum body. The NSX was powered by a 3.0L V6 engine producing 270 hp, delivering a balanced performance with exceptional handling. Its combination of exotic car performance with Honda’s reliability redefined what was expected from a supercar.

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi

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The Subaru Impreza 22B STi is one of the most iconic performance cars of the 90s. With its rally car pedigree, wide body, and a turbocharged 2.2L flat-four engine producing 276 hp, the 22B was an instant classic. Its highly regarded symmetrical AWD system and exceptional handling performance made it a favorite for rally and performance enthusiasts.

1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4

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Known in Japan as the GTO, this sports car was a technological tour-de-force, with a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 producing 320 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. It featured advanced systems like active aerodynamics, four-wheel steering, and full-time AWD, making it a performance powerhouse that was ahead of its time.

1998 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

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The GT-R R34 was a technological marvel and a dominant force in motorsport. It was powered by a 2.6L inline-6 twin-turbo engine, producing 276 hp (officially, but widely believed to be underrated). It boasted a sophisticated AWD system, advanced aerodynamics, and a robust aftermarket tuning scene, making it a favorite among car enthusiasts worldwide.

1992 Toyota MR2 Turbo

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The second generation MR2, known as the SW20, is renowned for its mid-engine layout and excellent handling dynamics. The turbocharged model came with a 2.0L inline-4 engine generating 200 hp, providing brisk performance. The MR2 Turbo’s affordable entry price, distinctive wedge styling, and spirited performance stood out.

1991 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution I

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The first in a long line of rally-bred performance sedans, the Evo I featured a turbocharged 2.0L engine that produced 244 hp. Its lightweight body, all-wheel drive, and sharp handling made it a formidable competitor on both tarmac and gravel. The Lancer Evolution I began a legacy of performance and tuning potential that would carry on for over two decades.

1998 Honda Integra Type R

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The Integra Type R is known for its high-revving 1.8L VTEC engine producing 195 hp and excellent handling dynamics. With its lightweight design, limited-slip differential, and finely-tuned suspension, it was lauded for its exhilarating performance and precision handling. It earned a reputation as one of the best front-wheel-drive cars ever made.

1994 Nissan Silvia S14

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The Nissan Silvia S14, known for its sleek design and drift capabilities, featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine producing up to 220 horsepower in the K’s variant. This model was particularly popular among car enthusiasts for its excellent balance and rear-wheel-drive layout, making it a favorite in the drifting scene. The affordability and vast aftermarket support have kept its legacy alive among tuners and racers.

1996 Honda Prelude Si

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The Honda Prelude Si of the mid-90s featured a 2.2-liter VTEC inline-four engine that produced 200 horsepower, providing a blend of performance and practicality. Known for its sharp handling and distinctive styling with a low-slung, aggressive stance, the Prelude was a popular choice for those seeking a sporty coupe that didn’t break the bank, offering advanced features like four-wheel steering in some models.

1995 Toyota Celica GT-Four

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The Toyota Celica GT-Four was a high-performance version of the Celica, equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine that delivered 252 horsepower and full-time all-wheel drive. This model was famous for its rally pedigree, having won multiple WRC titles. It was built to satisfy homologation requirements for rally racing, making it a rare and sought-after model for collectors.

1999 Subaru Legacy B4 RSK

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The Subaru Legacy B4 RSK was introduced as a high-performance sedan with a twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer engine, producing 280 horsepower. It combined the practicality of a sedan with the performance of a sports car, featuring Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive for superior handling and traction in all conditions. Its sleeper look made it popular among those who wanted performance without flashy aesthetics.

1992 Honda NSX Type R

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The Honda NSX Type R was a lighter, more focused version of the standard NSX, designed to provide an even more exhilarating driving experience. With weight reduction measures that included a lighter body and stripped-down interior, the NSX Type R maintained the same 270 horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine but improved on handling and response. Its rarity and performance make it a highly prized model today.

1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX

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The Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX featured a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four delivering 210 horsepower and was one of the few models in its class to offer all-wheel drive. This combination made it a formidable competitor in both straight-line and all-weather performance. The Eclipse GSX was well-received for its sporty design and robust performance, making it a popular choice among younger enthusiasts.

1999 Nissan 200SX (S15)

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Known in some markets as the Silvia, the Nissan 200SX S15 was praised for its agile handling and responsive 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which produced 250 horsepower in the Spec-R version. The S15’s sleek design and rear-wheel-drive setup made it a favorite among drifters and tuning enthusiasts, who appreciated its balance and potential for modification.

1994 Mazda RX-7 FD

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The third generation of the RX-7, known as the FD, featured a lightweight, streamlined body and a unique twin-turbo rotary engine that revved high and produced 255 horsepower. Its distinctive handling characteristics and aggressive styling made it an icon of Japanese performance cars. Despite its higher price tag compared to its peers, the RX-7 FD remains a beloved model for its innovation and driving dynamics.

1990 Lexus SC 400

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The Lexus SC 400 was introduced as a luxury coupe with a powerful 4.0-liter V8 engine producing 250 horsepower. It was known for its refined styling, exceptional build quality, and smooth performance, bridging the gap between luxury and sports car. The SC 400 offered advanced technology and comfort, making it a desirable choice for those looking for a sporty yet comfortable coupe.

This article originally appeared on MyCarMakesNoise.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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