Digging through our website metrics in our weekly rundown of which stories are the most popular, along with what social media posts generate the most interest, it's not at all difficult to narrow down a group of the most popular modern vehicles. This group tends to carry as much disdain as it does celebration, depending on what side you stand. We've seen the introduction of a long-awaited model that has never been available in the U.S. along with a comeback of sorts for an iconic nameplate both stoke the fires of online hate like no other.
For a moment, let's forget about sales numbers and manufacturer forecasting goals and instead focus on just how these intended "tuner-friendly" vehicles came up short and what we'd like to see adjusted from the OEMs.
Toyota Supra MkV - The Most Hated
Never has there been as much uproar and anger aimed at a once highly-anticipated debut like that of Toyota's A90. Take a step back and realize just how much fandom and folklore surrounds the other-wordly MkIV and you realize Toyota really had no chance of winning the enthusiasts over right away. When most think of the Supra nameplate, their minds go straight to 800-plus hp, sleek, modded versions that flood Instagram with many forgetting or not even aware of the fact that there are three generations of Supra that existed long before the bright orange one they saw on the big screen with body graphics drawn by a toddler.
From a power production standpoint, the masses were banking on a newer version of the iconic 2JZ-GTE and instead were met with a Bavarian B58 turbo straight-6 mill that sent shockwaves through heavily trafficked social outlets. To rub salt in the wound just a bit further, no manual option is available, either.
And while the aftermarket continues to churn out performance and mostly widebody aesthetic upgrade options that seem to be helping the enthusiast market come to terms with the cross-pollinated offering, we still feel like there was a real potential for greatness right out of the box had the numbers made sense to the manufacturer and they'd developed something more in line with the previous two generations' engines. The stigma associated with the BMW joint venture certainly won't wear off anytime soon.
What we'd like to see:
This isn't a shocker at all, but development of a Toyota (perhaps working with Yamaha once again) engine would have been a great starting point, even with the BMW collab. Also, a move that would go completely against the current state of the auto industry but go a long way in appeasing the true performance audience would be, at the very least, an option for a 6-speed manual. I know, I know, the auto trans is faster, more precise, etc., but the end-user's desire to have a closer connection to newer cars is already tough, given the sophistication of modern day electronics and portly curb weight numbers, but stirring that stick shift at will is guaranteed to overshadow at least some of that.
Civic Type R FK8 - Toning it Down
Honda fans that reside in the U.S. had been waiting impatiently for a Type variant of Honda's top-selling Civic line up for over two decades when the announcement of the FK8 finally hit. Based on a global chassis platform, the first Civic Type R to be offered in the U.S. would rely on the K20C1 that had already spent a few years powering the European FK2 CTR. From a power standpoint, the new R certainly delivered, offering turbocharged power and newfound torque that replaced the sky-high redline that the hotter Civic models had always been well known for. So, what's the problem?
It's been three years now and many still have an issue with the wild, in-your-face styling of the FK8. The numbers don't lie and the angular cuts, strategically placed about the body, contribute to the cars impressive track prowess but at the cost of subtlety. Massive 20-inch wheels are often the first step in customizing the Type R and far more often than not the sizing is widened and knocked down a few inches.
The faux vents that vandalize most new car offerings these days have become a staple for some reason and even when Honda took notes from the masses and decided to update the look of the 10th generation Civic's front and rear bumper side grills, they smoothed the surface and added a color matched line to break them up rather than just clearing them out to make them somewhat functional. A change was welcomed but not what fans were looking for.
What we'd like to see:
The European market recently saw the introduction of a Sport Line model that tones things down considerably with a subtle rear wing, smaller wheels and an interior with far more black material to replace the bright red that dominates the standard R model. Sell through in the U.S. has been positive so we don't see this happening, but we wonder just how many more might make it into the hands of enthusiasts that simply can't get beyond the wild style of the currently available model.
After eight years on the market and enough widebody conversions to make you dizzy, Toyota and Subaru announced that despite the decline in sales, the 86 and BRZ would be re-introduced as a second generation offering. You would think sales would remain high, given the fact that enthusiast cries for a compact, relatively lightweight chassis with a front-engine/rear wheel drive layout that's affordably priced would be the ideal car to build. Some might think the model run was a bit too long without substantial change, while others credit its lack of grunt produced by its naturally aspirated Boxer as something that's long needed an upgrade.
Though the car was intended to offer a balance that equates to fun behind the wheel, flicking through the twisties or attending your local auto-X or track day, fans have been clamoring for a turbocharged option since the very beginning. Early in 2020, the brands announced the new generation models would offer more power (we can only assume turbocharged power) and a more refined interior with the current gen. catching some flak for its less-than-stellar materials and layout.
What we'd like to see:
Obviously, we want to see the 86 (or, as it will be called, the GR86) along with the BRZ get a taste of boost. This would open a new door to performance and hopefully cause a jolt in the aftermarket. Some new lines would be appreciated, as well; with almost a decade with essentially no major body changes to shake things up, it's high time it saw a new outward appearance along with a more premium cabin.
Admittedly, if a boosted version is in fact brought into the mix, it might make things a little awkward with the 2.0L turbo Supra recently unveiled. The similarities could in fact stunt the power output of the 86.
Nissan 3?0Z - Long in the Tooth
After Nissan ceased production of the 300ZX due to a brutal market battle dominated by the uprising of the SUV, coupled with a price tag much like some of the other '90s Japanese sportscar favorites that pushed it completely out of contention, the Z badge wouldn't be seen again for about a decade. What some might not recall is a 240Z concept car making the rounds in the late '90s that was quirky but kept the idea of the Z lineage alive. Nissan had also instituted a restoration program for original Z cars (whatever happened to those cars, anyway?) and finally, in 2002 the 350Z ushered in a new Z era. In 2008, the 370Z took over and ran all the way up to present day.
To say the Z car is long overdue for a new model is an understatement and what happens next will play a major part in Nissan's performance car future. The R35 is now priced well out of most enthusiasts' ability and a new 3?0Z (perhaps 400Z?) will be tasked with holding up the reasonably priced sportscar segment.
What we'd like to see:
A more modern machine is probably going to be heavier than the previous 2 models but keeping the weight as low as possible is critical as it's often the most criticized point. Power production will of course be up from the 370Z but how much is still a distant estimate. Based on how many manufacturers are relying on turbocharged powerplants to make power efficiently and reliably, it's certainly not out of the question. Getting closer to or eclipsing the 400hp mark would be nice. From the teaser that Nissan recently released, though heavily shadowed, the upcoming Z design looks to borrow more from its distant past in regard to design. The big question now is what's under the hood and will it be shifted by the end-user or the car's ECU?
Acura Integra or RSX - Timing is Everything
Ok, this isn't a modern vehicle and in our eyes, never came up short but are long gone and sorely missed - leaving fans wondering what happened. Still very relevant for Honda's brand extension, it's been about 14 years since the Acura branch has offered a sporty, entry-level coupe for the masses. These days, potential buyers interested in jumping into the Acura family at the lowest price point are only offered the ILX sedan. Based on the ninth-generation Civic sedan platform, it has yet to catch on with the aftermarket and fans have been longing for an RSX replacement or better yet, a return to form with the beloved Integra which spanned three generations, the latest of which still serves as one of the most highly sought after project car platforms.
What we'd like to see:
While social media will tell you that it has to be AWD and producing big horsepower numbers right out of the box, we see it more as an opportunity for Honda/Acura to showcase their engineering talents. Imagine a continuation of the Integra or RSX line that takes the same FWD development that currently supports the Civic Type R and applies it to a sleeker, less boy-racer finish, trimmed with the finer touches that once separated the Integra from the Civic. Must-haves would include a turbocharged powerplant, manual transmission and a sticker price that would come in somewhere above Civic Si pricing but below the CTR's MSRP.
With Acura announcing its return to the Type S trim and its renewed interest in performance, it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce a Type S or, *gulp* even a Type R model to act as the brand's official entry-level coupe, giving buyers the option for Honda's 5-door CTR or Acura's 2-door "whatever" model.