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Top 10 - Cars To Modify

Updated on March 7, 2014

Top 10: Cars To Modify

Just a few short years ago, sub 6-second 0-60 times and 8-minute Nürburgring laps were the exclusive domain of hyper-expensive supercars. Now you can buy a sedan that can do those things for less than $30K. If that kind of performance isn't enough for you, all these affordable rides can be made to go even faster.

We've compiled a list of the 10 best "everyday" cars to modify. Yes, these are the most popular cars to trick out, but they're popular for a reason. Not only is each one of these cars a solid performer, they all enjoy a massive amount of aftermarket support as well. The nice thing about these top 10 cars to modify is that if speed isn't your thing, plenty of dress-up items are available for them as well.

No.10 - Dodge Caliber SRT-4

Dodge's Caliber-based SRT-4 may not set hearts aflutter the way its Neon-based predecessor did, but with its 300 horsepower, turbocharged engine and bargain-basement price, it's definitely worth a look. The Caliber SRT-4 is a muscle car for Gen-Y: a budget-minded chassis, obscenely powerful engine, and it'll go like stink in a straight line. We wouldn't want to take the SRT-4 on a road course, but it is good fun on a drag strip.

Recommended mod: The Dodge Caliber SRT-4 really, really needs a limited slip differential. Those 300 ponies we mentioned earlier are all hitting the pavement via the front wheels, and they determine which direction the car will turn -- even while driving in a straight line.

No.9 - Chevrolet Cobalt SS

MSRP: $23,525

Like the Corvette, the Chevy Cobalt SS shows that when GM lets its engineers loose, it really can build some world-class sporty rides. The Cobalt SS sports a 260-horsepower direct-injected turbocharged engine, a suspension tuned on the Nürburgring, a cool no-lift shift feature, and a $500 LSD option that really should be mandatory. Chevy benchmarked the Lancer Evolution when designing the Cobalt SS and created a FWD sports car that's easily as good as -- if not better than -- the mighty Integra Type R. It even held the production FWD Nürburgring lap record before a stripped, caged and Lexan-windowed Renault came along.

Recommended mod: Like the Corvette, the Chevy Cobalt SS shows that the cost-cutting bean counters still get their way when it comes to interior accoutrements. The Cobalt SS does get a more aggressive seat, but the buckets still need more lateral support for track duty. We'd toss at least the stock driver's seat for a proper racing bucket.

No.8 - BMW 3 Series

MSRP: $42,200

If other manufacturers are always trying to benchmark this car, you know it's gotta be good. One could pick up any 3 Series and be happy, but for our money, the best 3 (without an "M" before it) is the latest 335i coupe. This Beemer combines genuine luxury, genuine performance and a twin-turbo straight six that is said to be underrated at 300 horsepower so as not to steal the old BMW M3's thunder. The only downside to the 335? Its cost. Expect to shell out $40,000 for one with decent specs.

Recommended mod: We've used "ROM tune" a bit too much in this article, but the turbocharged 335i can see some significant power gains with a new ECU and exhaust. We'd enjoy the car as-is, only adding a set of lightweight racing wheels and sticky tires.

No.7 - Ford Mustang GT

MSRP: $30,095 est.

No explanation necessary for this automotive icon. Few cars can match the Mustang's combination of good looks, performance and price. And if you need more performance, the list of go-fast goodies made for the 'Stang is positively huge; you'd be hard-pressed to find a car with more aftermarket support. The latest 2010 Mustang GT gets a new look, hugely improved interior and 15 more ponies than last year's model. This 315 horsepower V8 even gets a trick sound tube connecting the intake to the cabin. It sounds like a cheesy idea, but once you hear that throaty growl in the cabin, you'll be thinking that this sound tube is the greatest invention since toilet paper.

Recommended mod: We think that the 2010 Mustang GT is plenty powerful as-is, so we'd leave the engine alone for now. Though the '10 handles much better than the '09 car, we feel that tightening up the handling with the Ford Racing Handling Pack (seen on the old Shelby GT) would make this already stellar car that much better.

No.6 - Scion xB

MSRP: $16,420

With all the other performance-minded rides on this list, it seems odd to put the xB on here. But then, who would have guessed that a diminutive, underpowered box would take the tuning world by storm? The newest xB grows in size and power, and its steady stream of aftermarket support seems to be turning into a raging river. As it stands, the Scion xB has more dress-up accessories than Barbie.

Recommended mod: A "bB" badge. Just kidding; this newest xB is actually called the Corolla Rumion in Japan. Add a bB badge at your own risk. We'd choose to add a TRD supercharger: 200 horsepower and a factory warranty -- sounds perfect to us.

No.5 - Subaru WRX

MSRP: $24,995

What isn't there to like about a rally-bred turbocharged sedan (or wagon) with a sub 6-second 0-60 mph time and room for five? Subaru's WRX hit the scene in 2000, with a face that only its mother could love, but it quickly established itself as the go-to ride for rallyists, road racers and guys who just like to go fast. The newest WRX is still just as ugly, but as it now packs a 265 horsepower wallop, is better than ever.

Recommended mod: The 2009 Subaru WRX has 41 more ponies than its identical '08 predecessor. For those with the older car, the general "first step" everyone agrees on is a ROM tune and turbo-back exhaust. This latest WRX is a bit softer than the GD-chassis car, so those with the newer, more powerful car may want to stiffen things up with a good set of coilovers.

No.4 - Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

MSRP: $25,685

Mitsubishi's latest Lancer Evolution has grown in power, capability, size, refinement, and price. While we'd love to save some cash and buy the more pure Evo IX MR, the thought of paying to repair any and all honing damage frightens us. Instead, we'd pick up Mitsubishi's latest Lancer Ralliart. It shares the Evo X's drivetrain (minus a differential), engine (minus 54 horsepower) and paddle-shifted dual clutch transmission (minus the S-Sport mode). While there's no doubt that the Evo X would shame the Ralliart on a racetrack, on the street the two vehicles feel almost identical. The Ralliart is an awesome car at an awesome price. And as Evo X owners start modifying their cars so that they can brag about their rolling parts lists, smart Ralliart owners will be able to buy the lighter (and still great) Evo X parts for a song.

Recommended mod: The Lancer Ralliart is a very balanced car, and we'd be hesitant to perform any mods that might upset this balance. That said, renowned tuners like AMS and GST are seeing gains of more than 30 horsepower to the wheels with nothing more than a ROM tune, so we'd start there.

No.3 - Nissan 370Z

MSRP: $29,930

Rather than rack our brains trying to figure out a clever way to describe why this iconic Japanese sports car is so good, we'll just say this: Nissan's Z is great because it's pure. It's a pure sports car and doesn't try to be anything else. It has a potent 332-horsepower motor, spins the correct wheels (the rear ones) and is perfectly balanced. The fact that it looks good is just an added bonus.

Recommended mod: The Nissan 370Z is a car that is so perfect, so well designed, that we can't help but think that performing any ill-conceived mod would ruin the car. And official NISMO parts still don't have a set release date. That said; a few body-lightening, carbon-fiber pieces would be a nice start to a 370Z build.

No.2 - Volkswagen GTI

MSRP: $23,230

The original hot hatch is still one of the best. Volkswagen's sport-tuned Golf has enjoyed a rabidly loyal following around the world for decades now, and the car's popularity shows no signs of waning. North America still doesn't have the newest GTI, but the car we do get still sports VW's venerable 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four, and the available DSG transmission is every bit as good as everyone says it is.

Recommended mod: Just like the turbo Volkswagens of old (well, a few years ago), the current 2.0-liter mill responds very well to an ECU tune. The ECU tune is a cheap and simple mod, and dyno charts show that this upgrade gives massive horsepower and torque gains all through the rev band.

No.1 - Honda Civic Si

MSRP: $21,905

The car that launched the import tuning scene as we know it today still soldiers on. With its 197-horsepower, 2.0-liter motor, the new Civic Si is the most powerful Civic ever sold in the U.S. This new car also has one of the best 6-speed manuals in existence, an LSD option and an extremely balanced chassis.

Recommended mod: Honda is good about squeezing every last drop of power it can out of its motors, so it would be costly to squeeze any significant amount of power out of the Civic Si's naturally-aspirated K20. Instead, ditch the horrendously ugly stock wheels and replace them with lightweight racing wheels. Then wrap those rims in stickier tires and enjoy the improved performance and looks.



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    • ManbeardTheHuge profile image


      5 years ago

      There are some good choices on that list, especially the BMW 3-series!

    • onlyoneadam profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice work - Golf GTI has always been a great car.

      I think the Toyota GT86 / Subarau BRZ ? Scion FRS is possibly the hottest tuning car right now, very evident at shows like SEMA

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow very nice cars specialy BMW 3 Series.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i love that car, i will definitely love!

    • sapientzeal lm profile image

      sapientzeal lm 

      6 years ago

      Nice list of cars! Good work!


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      No.2 is my favorite :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A Chevy Cobalt SS for under $24,000 is amazing value. Proper racing bucket should definitely be an addition, especially when I test out the 260 horse-power!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The #1 is a honda huh? I've heard that the subaru impreza is really good too.

    • samcuj71 profile image


      6 years ago

      I feel the need, the need for speed. Great selection of pure muscle cars.

    • Jonas69 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      good choices =)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Honda Civic is great car.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I like the yellow chevy, yellow is very compatible, I wish I'm gonna have it soon.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Honda Civic... and just bought it last week. The price is about $23,240 now. This time already modification it. Nice lens...

    • cdltraining lm profile image

      cdltraining lm 

      7 years ago

      I think for $25,000, the Subaru WRZ is great value. These cars have wicked acceleration and great handling for a relatively low price tag...

    • umarshehzad lm profile image

      umarshehzad lm 

      7 years ago

      I am in love with ford mustang GT.

      nice lens gave it a thumbs up.

    • danzuc76 profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens, lots of good ideas.

    • jceschin lm profile image

      jceschin lm 

      8 years ago

      Good ideas in a nice lens.

    • Clipperguy profile image


      8 years ago

      Only mod I have made to my xB 6.0 is a Hurst shift knob... But love it.

    • Jonas69 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      I agree with you

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I think best car is bmw

    • Autotuningstore2 profile image

      Todd Schafer 

      9 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I wouldn't have thought the honda would be # 1 with the WRX, Evo and 370 in the list.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      honda civic perfect

    • Jonas69 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      I agree with you

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      mitshubishi best

    • Jonas69 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      very interesting...


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