JDM - General

These Are the Greatest AWD Japanese Sports Cars!

AWD is a great mechanism to provide exceptional grip and speed and is a very suitable choice for a performance sports car.

The Benefits of Having AWD In a Sports Car

AWD cars have not always been associated with performance. Prior to the 80s, AWD was mostly used in heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks and lorries. But there were a few early adopters who clearly saw the benefits of using an AWD system, even in a sports car.

Although an AWD-system results in higher weight, it is offset by a large increase in grip. For example, a 500 hp RWD car would likely struggle to put down grip from a stand-still whereas an AWD car likely wouldn’t even give off more than a tiny tire squeak.

While an unsophisticated AWD system would hurt a car’s handling, a purpose-built AWD system such as Nissan’s ATTESA system would actually benefit the car handling properties as power is distributed to the tire with the most grip.

And as sports cars receive more and more horsepower it is also becoming more popular to utilize AWD-system. Modern hot hatches have around 400 hp nowadays, that wouldn’t really work out that well if they kept their normal FWD systems.

6. Mitsubishi GTO

During the 90s the Mitsubishi GTO was heavily praised for its speed and grip. The top-trim came with a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 that produced around 300 hp (US). To put the power down the GTO came either with a 5-speed manual (and later on a 6-speed) or a 4-speed automatic.

Technology-wise, Mitsubishi went all out on the GTO. Along with its constant all-wheel-drive system came active aerodynamics, adaptive suspension, and four-wheel steering. It was no wonder Mitsubishi called it their flagship at the time.

The GTO could go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, something, not even the R32 GT-R could manage.

Looking back, the GTO had to be one of the best AWD sports cars of the 90s. Even if the GTO came from a less ‘favorable’ brand you can’t ignore its performance.

5. Toyota GR Yaris

A modern Japanese hot hatch, the GR Yaris has often been quoted as being the perfect enthusiast car on the market – and it certainly has the performance to back that up.

The GR Yaris is powered by a 1.6L 3-cylinder engine, but don’t let the size fool you as this little engine produces about 260 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. That is enough to accelerate you from 0 to 60 mph in around 5.3 seconds.

Despite having an AWD system the GR Yaris just weighs in at around 1,280 kg (2,822 lbs.) which is surprisingly light for a modern-era car.

But what makes the GR Yaris truly great is its advanced AWD system. The Yaris is paired with differentials on each axle and can send power to the axle with the most grip. So, whether you’re on snow, gravel, or rainy surface this AWD system will allow you to get as much grip as possible.

4. Toyota GR Corolla

Unfortunately, people living in the U.S. was not able to purchase the GR Yaris as it was not made available for this market. However, you don’t have to wait long as you’ll soon get something even better, the Toyota GR Corolla.

The GR Corolla is very similar to the Yaris, it shares the same all-wheel-drive system and engine, but everything has been amped up a little bit more from the GR Yaris.

The engine now produces around 300 hp, and the suspension and AWD system has gotten more aggressive. And so has the exterior with its ridiculous good-looking wide-body kit which resembles one of the WRC Rally cars. It also comes with a triple exhaust, that’s right. And you don’t have to worry, it is very tastefully done.

The GR Yaris was very good, so the GR Corolla must be incredible.

3. Subaru Impreza

The Impreza, maybe the most famous rally car of all, has an outstanding rally history, with numerous victories under its belt.

The Subaru Impreza used a 2.0L Turbocharged F4 (EJ207) engine, with the WRX 555 homologation variant producing roughly 280hp (300hp). The Subaru Impreza was a riot, equipped with a six-speed transmission and Subaru’s famed 4WD technology.

Subaru invested heavily in building the perfect rally car, and it paid off. The Subaru handled incredibly well and was surprisingly simple to operate thanks to its advanced 4WD system. The Boxer-4 engine appears to outperform the competitors’ Inline-4s.

The street version, the Impreza WRX STi also proved to be an exceptional sports car. Often seen as one of the first ‘usable’ Japanese sports cars as it was fast and excellent in the snow but could also very easily be used for something like grocery shopping or picking up the kids.

2. Mitsubishi Evolution

The Mitsubishi Evolution took over where the GTO left and made it better. The Lancer Evolution put comfort features and elegance aside and completely dismissed commutability or even reliability. Their only thing on their mind was to create the most performance-oriented AWD sports car ever. And they did.

In the late 90s, and early 00s the Evolution Lancer was more or less unbeatable in the World Rally Championships (WRC). It won rallies in the North of Sweden, took home victories in the deserts of Africa, as well as winning the gruesome rally of Monaco.

The Evolution Lancer has always featured a 2.0L turbocharged I4 with power hovering around the 280 hp mark. However, the UK actually received two one-off models the FQ400 and FQ440 with 400 and 440 hp respectively, and which could go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds! Very much thanks to its AWD system that allows for the utmost grip.

Unfortunately, the Mitsubishi Evolution Lancer got discontinued and ended with the 2015 model year being the last of its kind.

1. Skyline GT-R

Credit: Tennen-Gas

The R32 GT-R is sometimes seen as the ‘Miracle’ car as it did things many did not think would be possible. It was even nicknamed ‘Godzilla’ by the Australian Motor Press as it was more or less undefeated on the race track.

Part of its success came from its 2.6L twin-turbocharged I-6 engine, but perhaps more so, from its revolutionary 4-wheel-drive system known as (ATTESA E-TS).

Prior to this particular car, most sports cars with an AWD system struggled a bit in the handling department due to weight and power distributions. So when Nissan entered the R32 GT-R in several races against rear-wheel-drive Ford and BMW’s most thought that this Skyline would be gotten smoked in the corners, but that was not the case.

Between 1990 and 1992, the GT-R completely dominated the Group A Championship, winning three times in a row, as well as the Bathurst 1000 twice. However, its own success would eventually become its demise. The Nissan GT-R was eventually banned from races due to its clearly superior 4-wheel-drive system.

E. Lindgren

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