If you have a love of cars, then you likely also have a love of going fast, but all too often, it seems like cars which go fast are too expensive for most people to even dream of attaining them. Well, the simple fact is that your car doesn’t have to roll off of the assembly line ready to race, as you can bring it to that point yourself.
The term “tuner” is often used to refer to Japanese imports that have been improved with aftermarket parts, however, you’ll find that cars from all around the world can be tuners. And this list is going to cover options from Japan, as well as Germany and the United States, and all of these cars can be improved for pure performance.
While you can swap the air filters and change the exhaust tunes on nearly any vehicles, you’ll find that some are particularly suited for the task. Whether they have a suitable chassis, suspension, or if they were designed with racing in mind, cars will be far more likely to make tuners that will perform well.
The Honda Civic is an immensely popular platform for tuners thanks to its relative ubiquity, being one of the most popular cars in North America. That being said, not every model of Civic will be ideal for tuning, and you’ll typically want to opt for hatchback models thanks to their better handling when improved.
One of the best parts of the Honda Civic is that you can replace the performance chip in the engine so that you can get more out of it. This is particularly true for turbocharged models, so if you’re looking to tune up your car without having to improve the valve, cams, or anything mechanical, then the Civic should be right for you.
The Nissan 240SX has long been a favorite of tuners, and due to that, you’ll find no shortage of garages which specialize in modifying this car. Along with the countless garages that you’ll come across, there is also a wide range of cosmetic aftermarket upgrades on the market like new bumpers and side skirts.
As with many tuners, the 240SX already features excellent handling and will be able to accommodate additional power without too much of an issue.
I would recommend changing up the aspiration of your car by adding either a turbocharger or a supercharger, as that is the most cost-effective method of gaining some horsepower. Of course, you’ll also want tires that can handle the added strain.
While the Subaru WRX is mainly known as an excellent rally car, you’ll find that it can also be tuned relatively simply. I would recommend using an exhaust kit and a new air filter so that you can improve the flow to the engine, speeding up the rate of combustion and improving your available power across the RPM range.
The Subaru WRX can also benefit immensely from having its engine chip reprogrammed. If you fail to reprogram the chip, it will try to cut power to the engine to prevent it from damaging itself if it were in its stock configuration.
A major benefit to parts that are made for the Subaru WRX is that they are relatively common which also makes them more affordable than parts for other cars.
The Toyota 86 is a car that was developed together with Subaru, and it is also marketed under their badge as the BRZ. This car uses a boxer engine with natural aspiration, and it is designed with tuners in mind, as the engine is not all that powerful, but the handling is designed to handle increased output.
The low and sporty suspension helps keep the center of gravity low, and the car features an exact 50/50 front/back balance. If you want to tune your Toyota 86, then you’re going to want to focus on improving both the horsepower and the torque of the engine.
The Honda S2000 is a beloved roadster manufactured by the Japanese automaker, and it is often compared to the Mazda MX-5 in that it is a sporty, fun, and immensely customizable roadster. In its stock configuration, this light little speedster produces about 240 hp, making it a speed demon right off of the assembly line.
When you modify your S2000, you’ll want to be careful not to push it too far, to the point that it starts to stray out of its performance envelope. For this reason, if you are considering seriously tuning your S2000, you’ll want to invest in tires which are designed for high performance.
You should also improve the brakes, as those that come stock on this car are adequate for its stock performance, but they don’t cut it when tuned.
The MX-5 from Mazda, also known as the Miata, was once the most popular sports car in the world, and it is still one of the more affordable options. While the stock MX-5 does an excellent job of feeling sporty due to its low weight and excellent suspension, it simply isn’t all that quick.
However, this is the story of many tuner cars, and with improved tires, the Miata will be able to handle corners at surprising speeds. The main advantage of this car, when compared to other models, is that it is an approachable choice for beginner tuners from both a tuning and driving perspective.
Modifying this car is a relatively simple task, and even when you do, it can handle the added power comfortably.
Whether your Mustang is equipped with the powerful 5L Coyote V8 or if it comes with the weaker EcoBoost power unit, you’ll find that it can benefit immensely from a few upgrades.
EcoBoost Mustangs should be tuned with a focus on engine power, as that will help bring it up to the level of the Mustang GT. If your Mustang is already producing 460 hp courtesy of the roaring V8 under the hood, we would recommend better tires and even an aftermarket spoiler for improved downforce and cornering performance.
If you want to go even further, feel free to improve the horsepower output of the Coyote, though we’ll warn you that the acceleration will be startling.
Much like the Miata, the Golf is typically known as a car that is fun to drive in its stock configuration (especially the GTI models), but they aren’t the fastest around.
Induction kits and cams are some of the most common upgrades for the golf’s engine, allowing you to squeeze more power out of the RPM band. While more modern versions of the Golf feature AWD, older, front-drive options should be fitted with a limited-slip differential, improving traction.
Overall, the Golf is a car that is small, lightweight, and can be made exceptionally powerful, all while still being a relatively convenient daily driver.
Last but not least, we have the Mazda RX-7, one of the most legendary tuners ever to come out of Japan. Since this car uses a rotary engine, you won’t be able to install many of the same upgrades that you can use on a piston engine. If you’re looking to improve power output, you should focus on the exhaust and the intake.
If you’re trying to improve the compression of your rotary engine, it will have to be ported, which consists of expanding the ports that lead into the rotor compartment. You will likely also have to install a chip on the car to ensure that it can make the most efficient use of the power you have added to it.
With all of these additions to the engine, be sure to focus on handling improvements like better tires and chassis reinforcement as well.