Drift cars, like most vehicles, are chosen by a combination of a need for performance and a need for practicality. Practicality not necessarily meaning trunk space, but how easy it is to get the car and modify it to one’s needs. Almost anything can be drifted, but real drifting at any competitive level requires rear wheel drive. The obvious choices for rear drive cars are sporty performance models, like any other motorsport, and include coupe body styles of sports cars and muscle cars. For drifters, however, that means these platforms have often already been snapped up by someone wanting to go sideways. The infamous “drift tax” has even popped up around the most popular drift cars like the 240SX and it’s S-Chassis sisters, making even the jankiest examples way more expensive than they should be because so many want them.
So many go with a sedan, a luxury sedan, in fact. As up-optioned cars they often had the better engines and running gear from the factory, and were built sturdy. Rear wheel drive and off the radar of many car people, they have depreciated wildly since their original near six figure MSRPs, and now go for a fraction of what a sports car would. They are heavy, and their stock suspension is very soft, but even these factors can build a much better driver out of someone who learns drifting via a bulky sedan instead of an agile and easy sports car. They make too much sense not to consider.
20 BMW 540 Turbo (E34)
On the European side of things, older BMWs are used as drift cars quite often. Here in the States parts get really expensive, but over where the cars were made it’s not nearly as bad. The standard reasons for older luxury sedans making excellent drift cars apply here as well- good power from the factory, rear drive, tough chassis, and space to put stuff or people for those who can’t afford two cars.
This E34 generation car has been decked out for sliding, including an engine swap from an E39 M5.
From the factory this engine made four hundred horsepower, which in something this old is enough to scoot.
19 Old School Cressida
While full on professional drift builds can be truly awe inspiring, perhaps the miss the point. Drifting originally started as a way to have fun, and in truth as a racing technique on low grip surfaces or tight spaces like a Japanese mountain pass. The soul of drifting is, and will always be, in the grassroots. The guys who scrape together their few dollars to put a car together for a night of fun with friends. That’s the kind of car this classic Cressida is. Unpretentious, slow, stylish, and fun. It succeeds in doing what all drift cars should do, in keeping drifting fun.
18 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
Fun is delivered by this Rolls Royce by way of simple unadulterated craziness. Well, some fun. While many things on the car have been modified, including a brand new interior, the engine retains its stock 189 horses.
While the hydraulic handbrake enables the car to get sideways, it doesn’t have much in the way to keep the tail out.
All by virtue of being built for a reality TV show with what appears to be a shoestring budget. You can get one of these cars for under 20 grand in decent condition, but this one, having been on TV, was listed at a hundred and thirty thousand dollars recently. No idea if anyone thought that was somehow a fair price.
17 Mercedes 190E 5.5 V8 Swap
While the larger sedans are more unconventional choices for drifting, smaller and lighter sedans are easier to handle, and are far more popular. The 190E is a good example, especially as the car had so much success in motorsport before drifting got huge in Europe. This one is equipped with drift steering knuckles and a 5.5 liter SLK V8, and it roars. A full pro-am drift build, this car uses its immense grip to better facilitate going sideways at very high speed with maximum control. While losing sedan functionality, this chassis is so good that it can go toe to toe with sports cars in competition drifting.
16 Infiniti Q45 VIP
A fusion of two different automotive styles, this 1998 Q45 was built to go sideways in class act style. 2JZ swapped, caged, dropped on S-Chassis suspension and coilovers, the big sedan is a full stop drift machine.
However, adding to that is an eclectic but complementing array of custom body parts that combine the stately VIP style with the more aggressive drift style.
Wide fenders and drift steering gear add both function and form, allowing 19 inch wheels to tuck cleanly into the bodywork. The front and rear bumpers have quick release mechanisms attached for the necessities of drifting, and the windows are tinted for the style of VIP.
15 Infiniti G35
The coupe version of the G35 is quite popular with drifters, as from the factory it was really just a comfier 350Z. The sedan gets much less love, however, despite being the same make and model as the coupe. This does mean you can more easily get them cheap and unmodified than their sportier counterpart. This one is swapped with a cammed LS1, and despite the cage has fully functional back seats. The owner uses it to take people on rides during drift events, just for fun. A drift angle kit, Extreme Dimensions body kit, proper coilovers and racing brakes round out what makes this G35 sedan a purpose built drift machine.
14 Infiniti J30
This older Infiniti is not a purpose built drift car. Instead it is something that shows some of the real value of a luxury sedan as a slide machine. Cheap, rear wheel drive, and challenging to drive but stable because of the longer wheelbase. A perfect beginners car, especially seeing how tough sedans normally are and how cheap Japanese or domestic sedans can be to fix when the drifter near-inevitably bins it. Despite being near stock this J30 gets down on the drift course, showing that driver skill is way more important than anything you can buy or install for drifting.
13 Lexus LS400
The Lexus LS is pretty much the perfect mainstream drift sedan. Easily lightweighted, ludicrously tough, cheap to repair, and incredibly reliable. They came with a selection of the great 90’s Toyota engines, including the JZ we all know and love from the Supra and the more burly 1UZ V8 on the higher end models.
Many just modify the differential and install coilovers to go drifting, but if one really wants to build skill, even a stock LS400 will be just right.
All of this is helped by the cars being very easy to find and cheap to buy on almost any budget, as they can be had for less than three grand all day long.
12 Toyota Chaser JZX100
While in the States the LS400 is the king of drift sedans, back in the land of the rising sun the JZX100 model of the Toyota Chaser generally holds that title. Used vehicles in Japan drop off in value even more significantly than in the US, so even late model cars can be had for relatively cheap. Taxes and fees needed to keep the cars roadworthy bite into this, but a factory 1JZ-GTE single turbo equipped rear wheel drive car for cheap has been a tempting prospect for a massive number of drifters. Back seats are not only great for hauling people, but tires as well! Having the standard Toyota toughness just makes the Chaser that much better of an option.
11 BMW 740i (E32)
The medium sized sedans aren’t the only cars being sent hard, however. This big seven series is used as a grassroots drift car, and boasts the glorious battle scars to prove it. Every bump and bruise is a testament to driving lessons learned. With relatively little power, those lessons need to be put to good use to keep up enough speed while sideways. Even in the US these old E32 boats can be had for pennies, but the parts and upkeep on these cars is not cheap. Back in the old world, these considerations no longer apply, though. But these aren’t the oldest European sedans brought drifting.
10 BMW E12 5 Series
That distinction, at least for BMWs, goes to this stripped and caged E12 generation 5 Series. The E12 came with a range of inline engines, mostly straight sixes.
All but the most powerful of these was under 200 horsepower, but this is back when BMW’s mainline mid size sedan weighed under three thousand pounds.
The E12 makes for a drift car that appeals to the tastes of Euro classics fans, and with an engine swap and weight reduction could actually be a serious sideways weapon in the right hands. But now that these are classic and going up in value, not many would drift them.
9 Audi A4
A front heavy chassis requires front or four wheel drive to appeal to Audi sensibilities regarding stability and composure. But that’s boring, so this one has been converted to rear drive only, and its turbocharged engine’s boost cranked up. Formerly a four wheel drive model, the driver of this car will likely have more fun than any other Audi sedan driver. The car retains its five speed stick, but has an upgraded handbrake as all serious drift cars do. This setup provides more intimate control than an automatic or dual clutch would provide, making what Audi would see as an abomination into something capable of putting a smile on anyone's face.
8 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
In the States, there is one car which always seems to surprise people whenever it shows up at a motorsports event, though it really shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. It is dirt cheap, utterly bulletproof, rear wheel drive, V8 powered, has all the space in the world for people, tools, and track gear, and even had an optional limited slip differential from the factory. This is our nation’s main cop car, the P71 and P7B Interceptor. It makes an awesome beater for track, autocross, or drift use, in spite of being a slow, lumbering, and ugly boat. Because even though it is all those things, it will get you home in one piece.
7 Mercedes Turbo C36 AMG
AMG has been known for building some properly nutty cars, even from the factory. Their greatest cars were somewhat similar to domestic muscle cars with stiffer suspension in handling characteristics, being tail happy in the most fun ways.
The C36 AMG, with its inline six engine, was not quite that wild however.
But stripping the interior, dropping the car on coilovers, installing a widebody kit, and boosting the engine with a turbo, that is most certainly corrected. Hearing the blow off valve hiss and pop while the tires beg for mercy is a sure recipe for a good time on track.
6 557hp 2JZ swapped Volvo 740
Similar to Audi, Volvo’s internal company philosophy just doesn’t mesh with drifting. Which is why it is all the more fun to see a tough old Swedish brick hurling smoke and having a blast. This one is a full on drift build, including a turbo 2JZ swap that is commonly done in the Scandinavian street scene. A car’s durability is an often overlooked factor when considering a platform for drifting, especially for newbies. While drifting isn’t as hard on a car as rally cross or rally racing would be, it is still certainly worse than normal track use and way more testing than auto crossing. So that Volvo and Toyota toughness is good to have.
5 Tesla Model S
Unfortunately, many Model S owners don’t seem to understand drifting. Too caught up in living the “green” luxury lifestyle to have actual fun. But the cars themselves, marvels of engineering as they are, are quite capable when only equipped with the rear motor. Instant torque and over for hundred horsepower from the lower end performance version is more than enough to go sideways in eerie silence, with only the tires making noise. This, along with an incredibly low center of gravity from the floor mounted battery, means they drift quite well, though no one is going to be using these as a learner car.
4 Toyota Mark X GRMN
Toyota’s in house performance branch GRMN builds some really cool concepts, among them is a hopped up version of the current Toyota big sedan. The modifications are mostly kept to the exterior on what is basically a Camry but rear wheel drive.
New bodywork includes bumpers and a discreet spoiler, but the car’s party piece is a carbon fibre roof.
Power comes from the lightweight and robust 2GR 3.5 liter V6, with an available supercharger to bump power up to 355. While tame, the Mark X fulfills a cool role by being rear wheel drive and quite powerful, with it’s 355 horsepower rating likely far less than what the engine actually makes.
3 Toyota Crown 1JZ Former Police Car
Cop cars from the US are not the only cop cars that make for good drifters. In Japan this role is fulfilled by the Toyota Crown, a full size rear wheel drive car offered from the factory with a tough as nails 1JZ. Similar to how they’re seen in the US, cop cars aren’t often used as enthusiast machines in Japan, but for those starting out they make a huge amount of sense. If you can handle a nearly stock big body car while sideways, you can handle a sports car better than most. A good place to start, that will make a real sports car feel even better.
2 D1GP Altezza
While that big Crown cop car needed it’s 1JZ lightly modified to help keep the car sideways, and coilovers to make transitions easier, this much smaller and lighter sedan is similar to the 190E in that it can go head to head against purpose built sports cars competitively without much modification. The Crown was built to drift for fun, blinking red lights behind the grill and a siren that's activated during drift events all included. This Altezza has been modified to compete at the highest levels of Japanese professional drifting. This includes massive weight reduction, engine upgrades, steering and suspension modification, and of course a wild bodykit.
1 1981 Chevy Malibu
This, however, is definitely worth the price. A classic G-body, built to have fun going sideways. Well modified but on a budget, the owner of this machine consistently put a stamp on it, because it was freaking sent. Autocross, track days, you name it, this car did it. Including not a few drift events. Hawk HP performance brake pads, redone suspension, and a cammed engine with new heads and fuel system make this a real low buck beast on track. When something broke on the old G-body, the owner would figure it out and patch it up, getting right back to what the car did best.