Tuner cars are a hot topic: they're great fun to drive, cleverly modified, and turn heads almost everywhere. If you're looking for the best cars to customize, have a passion for tuning, or have always wanted to give it a go, here are 15 of Road and Track's top tuner cars that will turn you into a gearhead when you see them...
1. Toyota Supra (Mk IV)
The most popular tuner car of the 1990s was, without a doubt, the Toyota Supra (Mk IV). The powerful turbocharged engine, RWD layout, and sleek styling made it a hit with enthusiasts and modifiers alike.
There are plenty of ways to tune an Mk IV Supra, but one of the most popular is to swap in a 2JZ-GTE engine from a later model. This engine is significantly more powerful than the stock unit, and thanks to its iron block construction, it can handle big power upgrades without issue. With the right modifications, it's not uncommon for 2JZ-powered Supras to hit well over 1000hp.
Other common modifications include suspension upgrades, wider wheels and tires, bigger brakes, and an aftermarket exhaust system. Whatever route you choose with your Mk IV Supra build, you're sure to end up with an impressive car that's loads of fun to drive.
2. Nissan Skyline GT-R
The Nissan Skyline GT-R is a legend in the tuner car world. Its incredible performance and durability have made it a favorite among enthusiasts and professional racers. The GT-R is also one of the most popular cars to modify, with a wide variety of aftermarket parts and upgrades available. Whether you're looking to increase power, improve handling, or simply make your GT-R stand out from the crowd, there's an endless array of modifications that you can do. Here are just a few of the many ways you can mod your Skyline GT-R:
- Engine upgrades: There are numerous ways to extract more power from the GT-R's twin-turbocharged engine. Upgrading the turbochargers, intercooler, ECU, and exhaust system are all popular modifications that can significantly increase horsepower and torque.
- Suspension and braking upgrades: To improve handling and performance on the track, suspension and braking upgrades are a must. Upgrading to coil overs or adjustable shocks/struts allows you to dial in the perfect suspension setup for your driving style. Bigger brakes give you greater stopping power, while lightweight wheels reduce unsprung weight and improve acceleration.
- Body mods: The GT-R's already aggressive styling can be taken to the next level with body mods such as spoilers, aerodynamic kits, and widebody conversions. These mods not only look great, but they also improve airflow around the car which
3. Volkswagen Beetle
The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the best beginner tuner cars. It's small, efficient, and stylish — what more could you want?
Beetles are always good cars to modify and offer many possibilities. You can keep it simple with some easy bolt-on modifications or go all-out with a complete engine swap. No matter what route you choose, there's sure to be a modification that fits your style and budget.
Here are a few of our favorite Volkswagen Beetle mods:
- Suspension Lowering Kits: A good suspension lowering kit will improve your Beetle's handling and give it a lower center of gravity. This is a great mod for those who like to take their car to the track.
- Bigger Wheels and Tires: One of the easiest ways to change the look of your Beetle is by upgrading to larger wheels and tires. This mod will also improve your car's grip and braking performance. Make sure not to go too big — you don't want your car to look silly!
- Body Kits: A new body kit can completely transform the appearance of your Beetle. Whether you're going for a more aggressive look or just adding some extra flair, there's sure to be a body kit that fits your taste.
- Engine Swap: For ultimate performance, an engine swap is hard to beat. This mod is not for the faint of heart.
4. Honda S2000
The Honda S2000 is a true 1999-2005 classic. It's one of the best tuner cars of all time because it's incredibly fun to drive, and there are many ways to mod it. The most popular mods for the S2000 are suspension, brakes, engine, and exhaust upgrades.
Suspension mods will help you improve the handling of your S2000. You can lower the car to improve its center of gravity and make it look more aggressive. You can also add stiffer springs and shocks to improve body roll and cornering grip.
Brakes are another great way to improve your S2000's performance. Bigger, better brakes will help you slow down faster and give you more confidence on the track. You can also upgrade your brake pads and rotors to handle higher temperatures and wear better over time.
Engine mods will help you get more power out of your S2000. An ECU tune is a popular mod which can make your car quicker off the line and help it rev higher. You can also add a cold air intake or exhaust system to improve airflow and make your car sound great.
Exhaust upgrades are a great way to improve performance and sound on your S2000. A new exhaust system will flow better and allow your engine to breathe easier, making more power. It can also make your car sound amazing- everyone will know when you're coming down the street!
5. Nissan 240SX
The Nissan 240SX is one of the most popular tuner cars on the market. It's affordable, reliable, and there are a ton of aftermarket parts available for it. If you want to modify your car, the 240SX is a great starting platform.
There are a few things to keep in mind when modifying your 240SX:
- You'll want to pick the right engine. The stock SR20DET is a great option, but many other engines will fit in the engine bay.
- You'll need to choose the right suspension and tires for your driving style. A lower suspension will improve handling but may make your ride less comfortable.
- You'll need to decide what kind of appearance modifications you want to make.
- You can go for a more subtle look or go all out with a body kit and big wheels.
No matter how you modify your 240SX, plenty of aftermarket parts are available to help you do it. With a little work, you can turn your 240SX into a unique car that will turn heads everywhere you go.
6. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 Miata has been a popular tuning platform for decades. Its lightweight chassis and rev-happy engine make it ideal for modifications, and it is one of the best cars to turbo.
There are endless ways to modify a Miata, but some of the most popular upgrades include turbocharging, suspension upgrades, and weight reduction. These mods can make the Miata an incredibly fun and fast car.
If you're looking for a great platform to start your tuning journey, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is a great choice.
7. Subaru Impreza WRX / WRX STI
The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI are some of the most popular tuner cars on the market. Both cars come with a turbocharged engine that provides ample power for modification. The WRX STI is the more performance-oriented model, and it comes with a more powerful engine and a six-speed manual transmission. The WRX is available with a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic.
Both cars are well-regarded for their handling and steering response. They have a rear-wheel drive layout, which is ideal for tuners who want to add wider tires and wheels. The suspension can be tuned to your liking, and plenty of aftermarket parts are available for both models.
If you're looking for a tuner car with plenty of power and performance potential, the Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI should be at the top of your list.
8. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
If you're looking for a tuner car that can handle both street and track, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a great choice. With its turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, the Evo is capable of some serious performance. And thanks to its rally-bred pedigree, it's also a blast to drive on twisty roads. Plenty of aftermarket parts are available for the Evo, so you can easily customize it to your liking.
9. Volkswagen Golf/GTI
The Volkswagen Golf/GTI is often considered one of the best tuner cars to modify and one of the most easily modifiable cars, thanks to its well-rounded performance and handling. You can easily upgrade its turbocharged engine with aftermarket parts, and its suspension can be tuned to improve grip and handling. The Golf/GTI can be transformed into a serious performance machine with a few simple modifications.
10. Toyota 86 / Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ
The 86 is a true driver's car. It's light, elegant, and balanced, making it a blast to drive on both the street and track. While it doesn't have the most powerful engine in its class, the 86 makes up for it with excellent handling and braking. And thanks to its rear-wheel drive layout, the 86 is also one of the best cars for drifting.
11. Scion FR-S
The FR-S is another great option for those looking for a fun car to modify. Like the 86, it's lightweight and agile, making it great for both the street and track. It also has excellent handling, thanks partly to its rear-wheel drive layout. The FR-S is powered by a 2.0L boxer engine that produces 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque.
12. Subaru BRZ
The BRZ is essentially a rebadged version of the FR-S. That means it shares the same great attributes as its Scion counterpart. It's lightweight, nimble, handles great, and is powered by a 2.0L boxer engine that produces 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque.
13. Mazda RX-7
The Mazda RX-7 is a tuner car legend. It's been around for decades and has been modified by countless enthusiasts. The sky is the limit when it comes to modifying an RX-7, but a few mods are essential if you want to make your RX-7 stand out from the crowd.
First and foremost, a good set of coil overs is a must. This will improve the look of your car and dramatically improve handling. If you're serious about making your RX-7 perform at its best, then a set of coil overs is a must.
Another essential mod for the Mazda RX-7 is a good exhaust system. Many options are available, so do your research and find one that fits your needs and driving style. A quality exhaust system will not only improve performance but also give your car an aggressive sound that will turn heads whenever you drive by.
Finally, if you really want to take things to the next level, consider installing a turbocharger kit. This will drastically improve performance, giving you mind-blowing acceleration and top speed. Of course, this is a more advanced mod and should only be attempted by those with experience working on cars. But if you're up for the challenge, a turbocharged RX-7 will definitely be one of the fastest cars on the road.
14. BMW 3-Series (E36)
The third generation of the BMW 3-Series is commonly known as the E36. It was produced from 1990-2000 and was a huge hit in the world of tuning cars. Its popularity stemmed from its great handling, wide range of engine options, and affordable price tag.
One of the most common mods for the E36 is upgrading the suspension. You can add stiffer springs or coil overs to improve grip and handling. Another popular upgrade is to install aftermarket brakes to improve stopping power. Many also swap out the stock wheels for wider, lighter-weight options to help improve performance.
There are endless possibilities when tuning an E36, which is why it remains one of the most popular cars to modify today. Whether you're looking for more power, better handling, or just want to make your car unique, there's a mod out there for you.
15. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic is often lauded as being one of the best tuner cars of all time. That's because it's relatively affordable, reliable, and easy to work on. Plus, there's a huge aftermarket scene for the Civic, so you'll never lack parts or support. When it comes to modifying your Civic, the sky is the limit. You can go for performance mods like a cold air intake and exhaust system, or you can go for cosmetic mods like a new body kit and paint job. No matter what route you take, the Civic is sure to be a blast to drive.
Which Tuner Cars Get Your Motor Running? GoodCar Wants to Know!
Think you have another of the best cars to modify that should have been on this list? Let us know! If you are in the marketing for tuner vehicles that you can tap into your inner gearhead with, GoodCar can help you find cheap tuner cars at a price that will make you smile!