Even though the Japanese motoring industry explored sports cars decades later than European and American manufacturers, its rapid growth soon made up for that, and Japan is by all means a respectable contender when it comes to high-performance cars.
In recent decades, Japan’s unique approach gave birth to dozens of truly impressive cars, many of them setting benchmarks in their own respective segments. These ten sports cars are the quickest road-legal Japanese cars ever created, so let’s take a look at them!
#1: Nissan R35 GT-R Nismo – 2.5 s
So far the ultimate car from what was once known as the Skyline range, the standalone Nissan GT-R R35 instantly gained the reputation of a supercar killer when it premiered in 2007. A lot had to do with its highly tunable twin-turbocharged V6 and elaborate, highly effective ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system, but there was even more than that to appreciate.
Over the years, Nissan has been evolving the original concept, taking it to new heights via various upgrades to the base model, as well as by introducing various special editions. The greatest of them all is the latest Nismo-tuned, track-focused monster of a sports car (pictured above).
Nissan’s performance division not only amped up the twin-turbo V6 to push 600 horsepower and revised all the internals, but also employed extensive weight-saving techniques. The result? A claimed 0-60 sprint of 2.5 seconds, 205 mph top speed, and physics-defying on-track performance.
#2: Acura NSX Type S – 2.9 s
A farewell edition to the modern-day NSX, the Acura NSX Type S brought a set of upgrades to Acura’s hybrid halo supercar. In its original form, the second generation Acura NSX boasted a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 coupled with three electric motors—and as such, it was a phenomenal sports car, worthy of its legendary name and the philosophy it brought alongside.
On the other hand, the NSX Type S got a 27-horsepower bump to 600 hp and 492 lb-ft of torque, a complete internal overhaul, and was limited to just 350 units worldwide. The upgrades naturally reflected onto the car’s performance in the straight line and around the tracks alike.
Thanks to a bump in power and revised 9-speed gearbox settings, the NSX Type S can cover the 0-60 mph sprint in mere 2.9 seconds and attain a top speed of 191 miles per hour.
#3: Toyota GT-One – 3.2 s
The mid-to-late 1990s brought us some of the wildest homologation specials of all time, all thanks to the short lived GT1 class. Alongside the legendary McLaren F1 GTR, the Porsche GT1 and the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, Japan too had its fair share of race cars tamed for the road and one of them was the Toyota GT-One.
Looking like an actual Le Mans prototype rather than a GT1 silhouette racer, the Toyota GT-One was cunningly built in two roadgoing examples to comply with the class rules, hence its place on the list. It had a 592-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V8 sourced from Toyota’s Group C efforts and as estimated, it could push the car from a standstill to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and up to 231 mph at top speed.
#4: Yamaha OX99-11 – 3.2 s
Yamaha is known for building quite a lot: a wide array of musical instruments and components, superfast motorbikes and phenomenal engines, yet they’re hardly remembered as an automobile manufacturer—despite building one of the fastest Japanese cars ever back in 1992. This car sadly never got out of the prototype phase with only three examples built, but it deserves a place on our list because it was outright amazing in all its weirdness.
The car in question is the Yamaha OX99-11, a fighter-jet styled tandem two-seater powered by OX99, a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter 70° V12 revving up to 10,000 RPM. The V12 produced 400 horsepower, was mated to 6-speed manual transmission, and was nested midship into a Formula 1-inspired carbon fiber monocoque chassis.
Thanks to its low weight, supreme aerodynamics and a potent engine, the Yamaha OX99-11 posted a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.2 seconds with a top speed of 217 mph.
#5: Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII MR FQ-400 – 3.4 s
In its baseline trims, the Mitsubishi Lancer is a reasonable, but also rather bland and forgettable midsize family sedan. The Lancer EVO, on the other hand, is both a rally and a street legend, an omnipotent supercar slayer and one of the brand’s most revered products. And then there’s the FQ.
Short for F***ing Quick, Lancer EVO FQ cars came straight out of Mitsubishi’s skunkworks and were all given a very special treatment, pushing the boundaries of their respective platforms to the maximum. The ultimate FQ Lancer was the 2005 EVO VIII MR FQ-400, the fastest sports sedan of its era, built by Mitsubishi UK to celebrate three decades on the British market.
As its name suggests, the Lancer EVO X FQ-400 produced 400 horsepower (405 to be precise) and 335 lb-ft of torque out of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. Moreover, the FQ-400 was lightened, which all amounted to mind-bendingly fast results.
The 0-60 sprint took just 3.4 seconds, which made it a quicker sprinter than many contemporary supercars. The 175 mph all-wheel drive supersedan was limited to 100 pieces and is one of the most collectible Mitsubishis today.
#6 Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition – 3.6 s
One of Japan’s rare supercars, the Lexus LFA is also one of the most underrated high-performance cars ever created. A front-engined, V10-powered creation, the LFA had been brewing since the mid-2000s, yet it commenced production in 2010. Lexus built it for just two years and in only 500 copies, but despite highly limited supply and unanimous love from the press, the last example sold in 2020.
During the production run, Lexus produced the LFA in two trims: the standard and the track-tuned Nürburgring edition. In the more distilled trim, the Lexus LFA boasts 563 hp from the odd-firing 72° Yamaha V10, ten more than the standard LFA, and it also benefits from quicker transmission calibration, as well as revised suspension, improved aerodynamics and lighter wheels.
Thanks to these improvements, the LFA Nürburgring Package could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and more importantly, it set the production car record at the eponymous track, lapping it in 7:14.64.
#7: Nissan R390 GT1 – 3.8s
Nissan’s entry to the fabled GT1 class was built in cooperation with Tom Walkinshaw Racing, wherein the famous British outfit provided extensive assistance with chassis and aerodynamics, while Nissan equipped it with a Group C-rooted twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V8 codenamed VRH35L. During its active days in 1997 and 1998, the R390 struggled with many issues despite being a competent car. Still, it managed to score a third place overall at the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans before turning out obsolete for the 1999 season.
Before developing the R390 race car, Nissan and TWR built only one roadgoing example, originally painted red and later aerodynamically revised to longtail configuration and painted in Nissan’s signature dark blue. It boasted the same engine tuned to produce 550 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
The V6 was mated to a six-speed sequential manual transmission which sent the torque to the rear wheels. Nissan claimed that the R390 could do 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds with a top speed of 220 mph, although that claim remained a matter of theory as the car was never officially tested for Vmax.
#8: Nissan R34 Nismo Z-Tune – 3.8 s
Completely obscure to casual car fans, but pure grail material for JDM enthusiasts, this very special R34 Skyline is not only a rare bird, having been built in 19 examples, but it’s also an impressively quick car even by today’s standards, let alone in 2004 when it was built as the only fitting send off for the iconic Nissan Skyline and a terrific way to celebrate Nismo’s 20th birthday too. Nismo planned a run of 20 cars, but in the end, only 18 were converted to Z-Tune specifications.
Nismo crafted the Z-Tune using second hand V-Spec R34 GT-R as foundation cars, modifying them extensively to genuinely impressive results. The RB26DETT was given a Z2 tune to 2.8-liter displacement, producing over 500 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque in this tune.
The engine was largely based on the GT500 racing unit, yet adapted for road use, and it could propel the R-34 GT-R Z-Tune from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds all the way to a top speed somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 mph.
#9: Toyota GR Supra – 3.9s
The fifth generation Supra debuted in 2019 as a joint venture between BMW and Toyota, more precisely the performance-focused GR division. Unlike the legendary Mark IV Supra though, the marque’s latest iteration is a nimble sports car rather than a Japanese take on a Grand Tourer. We bet you already know enough about the Supra, so here’s a quick reminder about the more powerful of two versions, which is also one of ten quickest Japanese cars of all time.
The GR Supra is powered by a BMW-sourced B58 3.0-liter inline-six producing 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque distributed to the rear axle via ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. The lively engine provides a quick 0-60 sprint of 3.9 seconds while the top speed is limited to 155 mph.
#10: Nissan Z Coupé – 4.0s
The latest car from the dynasty tracing back to 1969 is a beautiful retro styled fastback coupé paying homage to the progenitor, an absolute icon, and one of the most important Japanese sports cars ever created, the Nissan Fairlady Z.
For the first time ever in a Z Series car, the Z Coupé relies on forced induction, sporting a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Nissan offers the retromodern sports car with both 9-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmission, and the former posts faster acceleration times, namely 4 seconds from 0 to 60. In addition to sprinting in the straight line, the Z Coupé promises to be one of the greatest drivers’ cars, especially in the three-pedal purists’ spec.