Over the years, the Mk IV Toyota Supra, produced from 1993-2002, has garnered such a robust reputation and cult following that super clean examples have sold for over $100,000. Needless to say, when Toyota decided to bring back the Supra for the 2020 model year, they had some enormous shoes to fill.
The 2020 Supra boasts 335 horsepower, 365 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-60 time of just over four seconds. However, since the Supra shares a chassis, transmission, and engine with the BMW Z4, many see it as just a rebadged Bimmer. Plus, Toyota has gotten a lot of flack for not offering a manual option. Fortunately, there are still a ton of great Japanese sports cars to choose from in the second-hand market.
10 Mazda RX-7
The Mazda RX-7, powered by a Wankel rotary engine, is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car that was produced across three generations from 1978-2002. Drivers looking for an affordable Supra alternative should take a look at the first-generation and second-generation RX-7. The twin-turbocharged, third-generation model is excellent but pricey.
The first two generations of the RX-7 have a lot to offer, including sharp-edged, Porsche 924-like styling. For the RX-7's second generation, Mazda added a turbocharged option to the U.S. lineup that produced upwards of 180 horsepower.
9 Subaru SVX
The Subaru SVX is a strange, two-door coupé produced for just one generation from 1991-1996. Unfortunately, the car never came with a manual transmission, but it was outfitted with a 3.3-liter flat-six that, when new, put out 228 lb-ft of torque and 231 horsepower.
Despite its somewhat quirky appearance, the SVX isn't actually all that bad looking although this shouldn't come as a surprise, considering it was designed by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro.
The SVX originally retailed for $24,445 in 1992, which is the equivalent of around $45,000 in 2019. Today, a clean example can be had for well under $10,000.
8 Toyota MR2
The Toyota MR2 is a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive two-seater produced from 1984-2007. The MR2 is one of the most affordable mid-engined cars available, and each of its three generations has distinct pros. The first-gen MR2 boasts awesome angular styling straight out of the 1980s, while the most recent iteration, the MR2 Spyder, features modern appointments and a convertible top. However, the second-generation MR2 - specifically the turbo variant - is considered by many to be the peak of the MR2's evolution.
In today's market, a second-generation MR2 Turbo will run you in the neighborhood of $8,000-$25,000. High-mileage and non-turbo models can be had for less.
7 Datsun 240z
Drivers looking for more of an old-school look and feel might consider copping the grandfather of Japanese sports cars, the Datsun 240Z. The 240Z was introduced in the U.S. for the 1970 model year and became an instant success thanks to its low cost and excellent performance. The 240Z came equipped with a 151-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-six. It was available with a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual gearbox.
While prices of Datsun 240Zs have been climbing in recent years, a clean example can still be had for under $20,000. Later Z cars like the 260Z and 280Z, which look almost identical to the 240Z, are even more of a bargain.
6 Nissan 300ZX
The Nissan 300ZX is the fourth generation of Nissan's Z car, a family of sports cars that began with the Datsun 240Z. The 300ZX was sold in the U.S. from 1984-1996 and was succeeded by the 350Z.
Nissan radically redesigned the 300ZX in 1989, and the new model (internally known as the Z32) featured smooth edges, an updated aesthetic, and a considerable bump in power.
Those in the market for a 300ZX should seek out the twin-turbo Z32, which was good for 300 horsepower and 283 lb-ft of torque. Twin-turbocharged 300ZXs also boasts adjustable suspension and four-wheel steering.
5 Mitsubishi 3000GT
The 1980s birthed numerous successful Japanese sports cars like the Toyota Supra and Nissan 300ZX, and by 1990, Mitsubishi was looking to join the party. The result was the 3000GT, a 2+2 grand tourer that Mitsubishi sold in the U.S. until 1999.
The first generation of the 3000GT came with a borderline-ridiculous amount of tech, including four-wheel steering, electronically controlled suspension, and active aerodynamics. While the base 3000GT came with a decent amount of power, the most coveted model is the 3000GT VR-4, which, thanks to its twin-turbo V6, generated 320 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque in later model years.
4 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, commonly referred to as the Evo, may have four seats, but it's every bit as sporty as any of the two-seaters on this list. The Evo, which was produced from 1992 to 2016 across ten generations, was a hit in Japan before it was ever sold in the U.S.
The Evo XIII, the first generation sold stateside, came from the factory with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine good for 271 horsepower, and subsequent generations offered increased performance. If that's not enough power for you, the Evo ranks among the most tuner-friendly rides around.
3 Acura NSX [First Generation]
Yes, this one's a bit of a stretch, since the Acura NSX is considerably rarer and more expensive than most of the other rides listed here. But a breakdown of some of the greatest Japanese sports cars just wouldn't be complete without mentioning the NSX.
Developed to compete with Ferraris of the time, the first-generation NSX (produced from 1990-2005) featured a mid-engine layout and initially came with a 3.0-liter V6 that cranked out 270 horsepower. (In 1997, the NSX got a larger, 3.2-liter engine that bumped its horsepower up to 290.)
An NSX sold recently for $63,000, which isn't so much more than a Premium-trim 2020 Supra.
2 Mazda Miata
The Mazda MX-5 Miata, introduced for the 1990 model year and now in its fourth generation, is hailed for being well-balanced, exceptionally tossable, and an absolute blast to drive. For many car enthusiasts, the Miata represents the ultimate in affordable automotive fun.
But raw power isn't what makes the Miata so beloved. The first-generation Miata, an incredibly popular vehicle that sold over 400,000 units worldwide, came with a relatively puny engine that, in its most powerful iteration, made just over 130 horsepower. Instead, the secret to the Miata's success lies in its 50/50 weight distribution and its high power-to-weight ratio.
1 Honda S2000
If you're looking to stand out from all the Miata owners out there but still want a driver-focused roadster, the Honda S2000 is for you.
Like the Miata, the S2000 boasts a front mid-engine layout, which contributes to the roadster's 50/50 weight distribution. Plus, the engineers at Honda squeezed as much power as they possibly could out of the S2000's 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder, and the car puts down an impressive 237 horsepower. Depending on the model you get, the S2000 redlines at either 8,800 or 8,000 rpm, making it a hoot to drive.