Netflix’s racing competition show Hyperdrive is all about character. The course — laid out over the bones of the old Eastman-Kodak manufacturing facility in upstate New York — has a slightly different character each time. The producers do a great job of laying out the backstories of some of the most compelling contestants. Host Mike Hill has fun nicknames for the drivers. And so on.
After watching all ten episodes featuring these cars squealing, sliding, drifting, and crashing around the course, the cars become characters too. Here’s a spoiler-free list of the five most awesome cars to enter the starting gate, followed by five more that probably never should have put a wheel on the course.
10 Best: Diego Higa’s Ford Mustang GT
The hosts call this Brazilian drift champion the “baby-faced assassin,” but his prowess with the S197-platform Mustang makes him more reminiscent of Ansel Elgort’s role in Baby Driver.
His Mustang GT’s 600-horsepower supercharged V8 has no trouble rotating the trick pony to get through a hairpin, and the car’s somewhat heavier weight is a theoretical benefit on the track’s signature obstacle, the “Leveler.”
9 Worst: Nate Galvez’s Mazda MX-5 Miata
The first-generation Miata is a pinnacle of modern sports car design. It’s been a reliable “halo” car for Mazda for almost 30 years. And Miatas of all generations are still buzzing around racetracks across the country even now.
But Nate Galvez’s be-winged Miata is too tiny and too tidy for a drift-heavy competition like Hyperdrive. And without giving away any of the results, it’s fair to say that Galvez’s Mazda looked very … um, different … at the end of the race than it did at the starting gate.
8 Best: Aaron Parker’s Mazda RX-7 FD
Car enthusiasts talk about the last Mazda RX-7 in the same reverent tones used for such Asian masterpieces as the fourth-generation Toyota Supra. The sleek sports car with the twin-turbo 13B rotary engine still commands a lot of attention — and value — among enthusiasts.
In the hands of Aaron Parker, the RX lost its factory twin turbos in favor of a larger single turbocharger, and picked up a bad-ass paint and undercarriage neon treatment that made the car stand out even before it left the starting lane. Notably, it's the one car Rutledge Wood said he'd run the course in.
7 Worst: Mick Wilkes’ Bedford HA Van
Mick Wilkes is a well-known car customizer and builder in the UK … and for his turn on the Hyperdrive course, he picked the ride for which he’s best-known: the 40-year-old Bedford van he calls “Bluebelle,” based on the early-70s-era Vauxhall Viva sedan.
It’s adorable, completely bonkers and absolutely wrong for a drifting course. Even with a turbocharged four-cylinder mill burning the covers off the back tires, the Bedford is too slow to quickly get between checkpoints on the track. It’s like entering a Ford Transit Connect in the 24 Hours of LeMans.
6 Best: João Barion’s Ford Mustang
The original Mustang is an American automotive and cultural icon. But drift champion João Barion’s ‘Stang shows that it’s just as compelling with a Brazilian accent.
To the classic winning Mustang formula, Barion adds a massive 800-horsepower V8 and a visual story including flashy green neon accents and a graphic paint treatment. The resulting car is visually arresting, which makes some sense given his nickname of “The Sheriff.” No, we don't know how he got it either.
5 Worst: Stacey Lee May’s BMW E30 3-Series Coupe
Stacey Lee May is the real deal: an accomplished “spinning” competitor in her native country, with a personal story so compelling it warranted an on-camera home visit from fellow South African (and co-executive producer) Charlize Theron.
Her choice of ride, however, feels even more bodged together than Mick Wilkes’ Bedford van: a 30-year-old BMW 3-series with its radiator hanging out under its front end … a questionable choice for tackling a course that includes a stunt literally called “Walk On Water.”
4 Best: Fielding Shredder’s Nissan 240SX S14
Fielding Shredder’s Nissan 240SX/Silvia is — at least on paper — the best car for a competition like this. The Silvia is far and away the top choice of drifters around the world because of its light weight, neutral handling and stiff chassis.
In particular, Shredder’s car’s turbo-V6 puts out 500 horsepower, which is more than enough to get the Nissan around the course. And its all-red paint scheme and matching signature lighting is impossible to miss, even when racing around a former camera manufacturing facility in the dead of night.
3 Worst: Jordan Martin’s Lamborghini Hurácan
It doesn’t matter how much money Illinois entrepreneur Jordan Martin spent to rig up a 2wd/4wd switch on his Lamborghini Hurácan. It doesn’t matter that he wrapped it in eye-catching graphics. It doesn’t matter that it has one of those big chrome handbrake levers next to the console that looks like part of an extremely fast slot machine.
None of that matters because the Lambo is too low and far too heavy for this competition. For a fraction of the Hurácan’s mod budget, he could have gotten a much better drift car. As it is, Jordan’s entry seems calculated to get him maximum attention rather than actually win. But it’s not the worst car here.
2 Best: Tyrei Woodbury's Nissan 240SX S13
Look at that thing. No, seriously, look at it. In terms of sheer visual appeal, Tyrei Woodbury’s ride is the all-out winner. It combines the car widely considered to be one of the best for drifting — the late, lamented 240SX/Silvia — with a crazy custom front clip that appears as though it’s ready to rip your face off, and a paint scheme festooned with hashtag-worthy handles.
Throw in Woodbury’s considerable personal style — think Andre3000 meets Tron — and the result is just bananas … and it’s tailor-made for reality TV. All hail the #AngryPanda.
1 Worst: Omar Salaymeh’s Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS
No, Omar Salaymeh’s entry — which might be on the “best car” list in any other competition — gets the bottom slot here. Much like the Lamborghini residing one rung above, it’s too low and too heavy to be successful as a drift car.
And since this is certified spoiler-free, the closest this list can come to describing its performance is to say that Salaymeh — who sells exotic sports and luxury cars in the Chicago area — drives it as though he knows this $130,000 Grand Touring car is the wrong car for this competition and flat-out doesn’t care. It’s controversial, but entertaining … and isn’t that the point of reality TV?