Why are we so intrigued by a Japanese supercar? When a new one comes about (which isn’t often), it either becomes an instant classic or becomes inherently rare. When it comes down to it, a Ferrari or Lamborghini are undoubtedly an exciting sight to see, but the Italian brands have to build these cars, Japanese brands do not. Our favorite Japanese brands make their money and earn their street cred by cranking out economical efficiency and reliability. So, when their factories churn out a tire-thrashing, road raging supercar truly worthy of disturbing the peace, we take immediate notice. And as these cars prove to be legitimate, winning performers on the tarmac, their intrigue continues to turn into a formidable threat to the common players in the category.
One of the first Japanese supercars, at least stateside, was the Acura NSX. This car, introduced in 1992, was not only Japan’s first serious entrance into the category in North America, but it was a car that succeeded with flying colors. A smooth, high-revving V-TEC V6 placed in the middle of the car provided for an authentic sporting experience. By today’s standards 270 horsepower is child’s play, but in this car it seems to be just right. Smaller, less designed and less technologically advanced than supercars of today and some of its time, the NSX takes these seemingly undesirable feats and changes your mind by serving up copious amounts of road feel and mechanical harmony that you can’t find or just aren’t able to notice in today’s supercars.
But, that’s not to say we don’t love the highly tuned Japanese supercars today. After all, we have a member of the select group in our own fleet, the coveted Nissan GT-R. A legend for decades in Japan and subject of folklore and movies in the U.S., the Nissan Skyline legacy ran deeply in Japanese sports car culture. When the GT-R, the natural (and more powerful) successor to the Skyline cars made it stateside we knew we had to have one. And let’s just say, the Japanese have made one of the fastest supercars around. With a 0-60 time under 3 seconds and an impeccable launch control system, the Nissan GT-R is a remarkable car off the line. If you’re in a Ferrari or Porsche watch out for this one; mission accomplished for Nissan and Japan.
Lastly, we wouldn’t be talking about Japan and supercars if we didn’t mention the Lexus LF-A, perhaps one of the most blatantly “super” Japanese sports cars ever in the States. It’s looks and proportions are thoroughly in line with the category as well as uniquely Japanese. Of all three cars discussed here, the NSX is perhaps the least unique from its European competitors. Let’s not dwell on what these “uniquely Japanese” design traits are, but all we know is that they are a key to the success of today’s Japanese supercars. Now, back to the LF-A. This car is one hell of a character. Its most notable trait is perhaps its amazing voice that belts out the most obnoxiously awesome wail thanks to the high-revving V10 under hood. Unlike the NSX’s great drivability, the LF-A’s merits lie more in its advanced technology, carbon fiber construction and its resultant price tag of nearly $400k. But on the other hand, these peripheral features seem to sometimes cloud the essence of this supercar’s soul. The Nissan GT-R seems to lie beautifully in between the two.
Above all, Japan has key real estate in the future trend of supercars, that primarily being the use of hybrid technologies. Not just for efficiency, hybrid powertrains can be major sources of extra oomph, and Japanese manufacturers are perhaps the most aware of this. In fact, the NSX will be coming out of its 7-year absence to showcase an advanced electric and gas set-up. Still mid-engined, it will pack a V6 with Honda’s VTEC system and twin two-mode electric drive motors, both with adjustable torque control. The electric motors send power exclusively to the front wheels, where they can add or dial back torque as needed for optimal grip and performance. Whenever more power is sent directly to the wheels, our eyes open a bit wider so we’re looking forward to this car. In the meantime, book some time in our Nissan GT-R rental for an exhilarating, uniquely Japanese supercar experience