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Prices for some 2000s Japanese cars have soared in the used market, while others remain within reach for most gearheads.
The golden age of Japanese cars undoubtedly shaped the automotive landscape as we know it today, gifting gearheads worldwide an avalanche of fast, fun-to-drive sports cars. Although Japanese car culture introduced remarkable engineering, striking designs, and epic quirks through the '80s and '90s, their overall influence and grip in the automotive space gradually loosened by the turn of the 21st century. JDM cars from the 2000s are arguably not as revered as the models from the previous decades, but they still reigned supreme over rivals from Europe and the U.S.
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Nonetheless, the 2000s ushered in an era of legendary sports cars unencumbered by the gentlemen's agreement that yoked most of their predecessors. With the desirability for JDM cars spilling over from the '90s, prices for some of these Japanese cars have soared in the used market. In contrast, others remain within reach for most ordinary gearheads. Let's analyze Japanese cars from the 2000s and discern which models are worth every penny and which are ridiculously overpriced.
The two-seat 350Z coupe kicked off the fifth generation of Nissan Z-cars for 2003 and ended a relatively short 6-year production hiatus in the U.S. Regarded by some enthusiasts as a modern classic, the 240Z-inspired 350Z carried forth the tried and tested tradition of a front-engine with a rear-wheel-drive layout.
The Nissan 350Z boasts a 287hp 3.5-liter DOHC VQ35DE V-6, while the 35th-anniversary models introduced in 2005 house updated versions of the VQ35DE V-6 with 300hp on tap. Although the 350Z is typically well-built and reasonably reliable, the specialist nature and hard life endured under pedal-happy owners means some well-maintained models will only cost around $12,000.
Mitsubishi launched a limited series Evolution VI model commemorating Tommi Mäkinen's prodigious achievement of clinching a fourth consecutive Drivers' Championship in the 1999 WRC season. The Tommi Mäkinen Edition kicked things up a notch with tarmac suspension, quick-steer gear ratios, single large bore circular tailpipe, front strut tower bar, 17-inch alloy wheels, MOMO steering wheel, and Recaro bucket seats.
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Mitsubishi fitted the Tommi Mäkinen Edition with a 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC intercooled/turbocharged 4G63 delivering the same 276hp as the standard Evo VI. The actual production numbers are still in dispute, but good condition TME examples will rarely cost below $66,440, with pristine examples going for as much as $140,000 at auction.
The MR2 symbolized a key landmark for Toyota, allowing the automaker to penetrate the small, inexpensive, mass-produced sports car niche. The third-generation MR2, dubbed the MR-S in Japan and Spyder in the U.S., marked a departure from previous models through its convertible body style and very low curb weight.
Unlike its predecessors, the MR2 Spyder only came with one engine variant; a modest 1.8-liter naturally aspirated 1ZZ-FED four-cylinder capable of 138hp. Today, the MR2 Spyder makes the perfect candidate for tuning or a passionate track day build project, making it well worth the $12,000 price.
In 2007, 300 units of the already-impressive third-generation Civic Type R received the Mugen treatment, sold exclusively in Milano Red for the Japanese market. The Mugen RR improves on the standard FD2 Type R through a new body kit, a 22lbs weight reduction, retuned suspension, upgraded brakes, 18-inch wheels and tires, and Recaro sport bucket seats decorated with the 'Mugen RR' logo.
In addition, Mugen upgraded the 2.0-liter K20A inline-four powertrain with Mugen parts like ECU, camshafts, and exhaust system to deliver 237hp, a 15hp boost from the regular Type R. The low production numbers render the Mugen RR a rare collectors' car, but the $127,000 valuation for a well-maintained example with low mileage is still debatable.
The infamous Mazda rotary engine started with the 1967 Cosmo and ended with the RX-8 introduced in 2004. Mazda designed the RX-8 to be more practical than the beloved RX-7 and sportier than the legendary Cosmo. Despite being underpowered compared to its predecessor, the front-engined, rear-wheel-drive RX-8 made its mark with innovative engineering and impressive driving dynamics.
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Mazda mounted a 1.3-liter RENESIS 13B-MSP Wankel engine behind the front transaxle, available in either four or six-port variations with output ranging between 189hp and 232hp. The RX-8 has developed a reputation for unreliability over time, but most of these complaints can be traced back to poor maintenance from previous owners. Nonetheless, the Mazda RX-8 is worth every penny of the $14,000 price should you land on a well-maintained example.
The Honda/Acura NSX was undeniably exotic through its unique appearance, mid-engine layout, and impressive performance figures. Although it was rare for a '90s supercar to be associated with reliability, the NSX surpassed expectations with its typically Honda steadfast reliability and low maintenance requirements.
As if that wasn't impressive enough, Honda introduced a Type-R variant of the NA2 NSX exclusively in Japan for the 2002 model year, limited to 140 units. Besides weight reduction, the NSX-R benefited from an enhanced, hand-assembled 3.2-liter DOHC V-6 capable of 290hp. Unsurprisingly, the rarity of the NA2 NSX Type-R has seen examples sell for over $400,000.
Out of all Miata iterations, the NC generation that debuted in 2005 is often one of the most overlooked in the used market. Critics raised concerns that the NC was a heavier, softer, grown-up version that compromised the lightness and minimalism of its predecessors. Despite the minor additional weight, the NC boasts athletic handling and, on some versions, a power-retractable hard top. There were also the quieter cabin, more comfortable seats and a smoother ride compared to its predecessors.
Furthermore, Mazda equipped the NC generation Miata with a 168hp 2.0-liter MZR LF-VE DOHC inline-four, more potent than the NA and NB engines and almost as fast as the turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata. Since it's the most underrated Miata generation, the NC enjoys fair prices in the used market, with lower mileage examples available for about $15,500.
After production of the R34 GT-R ceased in 2002, NISMO resurrected the nameplate one last time to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2005. The R34 Z-tune project involved rebuilding 20 second-hand examples of V.spec R34s into the strongest road-going GT-Rs, relying on technology borrowed from endurance racing Gr-A GT-Rs, Nürburgring specifications, and GT500 Racing GT-Rs.
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The heart of the R34 GT-R Z-tune is a 500hp 2.8-liter RB26DETT modified Z2 with an upgraded ECU, racing pistons, and connecting rods and camshafts. This special edition car became affectionately known as the 'Mother of all GT-Rs' for its stellar performance capabilities, a rare JDM collectible with a price tag of around $500,000.
By the turn of the millennium, Honda had made a mark in North America with the Civic Si, the NSX, and the Integra Type R, but the S2000 presented a different proposition for Honda fans. The S2000 roadster was the complete package, offering an impressive combination of chassis, powertrain, gearing, drivability, and handling that most of its competitors failed to match.
Equipped with Honda's revolutionary VTEC variable valve timing, the fuel-injected 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine produced 240hp. Honda gave the S2000 several minor updates throughout its lifetime, including an upgraded powertrain to a 2.2-liter and a Club Racer variant aimed at track use. The S2000 CR demands well over $50,000, but the standard model is available at a more approachable $27,800 price point for a well-maintained example.
The LFA program began as a straightforward research and development project headed by Toyota, but it later transformed into a bespoke Lexus development program aimed at creating a thoroughbred supercar. The 500-limit production run saw Lexus hit the apex of racing modification, carbon fiber development, and weight optimization to earn multiple awards throughout the LFA's production run.
The 4.8-liter DOHC V-10 under the hood utilizes forged aluminum pistons, titanium connecting rods and valves, variable valve timing, and individual throttle bodies to generate 553hp. Lexus tailored every LFA for the owners, meaning each example is unique concerning interior colors, stitching, fabrics, custom brake caliper paint, and custom rim options. Lexus LFA prices are appreciating in today's used market, with excellent examples costing about $730,000.
Simon Kim has always been passionate about machines since childhood, and this has grown into an obsession well into adulthood. As an avid reader and creative content writer, he finds joy and fulfillment in sharing his love for cars and bikes with other machine heads. Currently, Kim seeks to deliver exciting and informative articles on HotCars. He enjoys music and art and dabbles in active sports and virtual gaming in his spare time.