Home » Which Car Desperately Deserves A Performance Variant?

Which Car Desperately Deserves A Performance Variant?

Performance Variant Crosstrek Xt Topshot

Be it a chassis that craves more power, styling that requests more speed, or the absurdity of making something slow go really quickly, some cars just goad you into wanting a performance variant. Think Ford Fiesta ST, Lexus GS F, or Mercedes R63 AMG. However, much to the chagrin of many enthusiasts, not every car gets a performance variant. So, here are a few that deserve a faster version.

Subaru Forester Xt

Back in the early 2000s, Subaru had a problem: The Forester was beloved by those in snowy climes, but the stock 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated boxer four would run out of puff at high altitudes. This was solved using the only method Subaru knew – by dropping in a turbocharged engine and calling it the Forester 2.5 XT. The results were astounding. Car And Driver tested one with a manual gearbox and found it to run from zero-to-sixty in 5.3 seconds. That’s quicker than a Nissan 350Z and a Honda S2000, and tied with a Jaguar XJR. A most devious four-wheeled embodiment of British aristocracy would merely be side-by-side with a frumpy Japanese crossover that had a dryer vent stuck to its hood. Sensational.

Screen Shot 2023 02 28 At 2.26.13 Pm

Roughly twenty years later, Subaru isn’t the same company it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that lightning can’t strike twice. All the ingredients are there for a surprisingly zesty crossover, it just requires a bit of courage. See, Subaru already builds the WRX in the same Gunma, Japan plant the new Crosstrek will be made in, and both ride on the same SGP architecture. Everything from engine to gearbox to differentials to front subframes could be carried over from the WRX to create a Crosstrek XT, which would absolutely print money in high-altitude locales. Sure, some revisions would be required, but the bulk of the hard work already exists in Subaru’s parts bin. While a Crosstrek XT won’t embarrass a Nissan Z, it’ll certainly surprise an MX-5 owner or two.

Tiguan R

Here’s another performance variant that would require very little effort: Did you know that Volkswagen makes a Tiguan R? Not in America, mind you, but Europe gets a 316-horsepower Tiguan with a torque vectoring rear differential and an available Akrapovic exhaust system. Why is this not here? Well, the European Tiguan rides on a wheelbase 4.3 inches shorter than that of the American model, so a new driveshaft and new side skirts would be required at the minimum. Otherwise, I reckon it’s largely game on. Imagine a vehicle for the family who’s outgrown a Golf R. Maybe they adopted a second labradog or need space for a second pram. Whatever the case, a Tiguan R sounds just about perfect.

2023 Toyota Sienna 25th Anniversary 022

While fast crossovers are all well and good, nothing beats a minivan as the ultimate family hauler. Toyota has a hard time building enough Siennas to meet demand, but they’d have an even harder time if they took the Hybrid MAX powertrain from the Grand Highlander, dropped it in the Sienna and gave the van proper sports suspension to create a TRD Sienna. Imagine an all-wheel-drive minivan with 400 lb.-ft. of torque. The children would never be late to school again.

Ford Maverick Hybrid Xlt 03

Let’s set the record straight: Street trucks are the shit, have been the shit, and will always be the shit. I will never look at a tastefully-done street truck and not think fuck yeah. Even the Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme with its meager-by-modern-standards output is just cool, and Ford is sitting on a prime opportunity for a Maverick ST. Take the 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine out of the outgoing Lincoln Corsair, pair it to a six-speed manual gearbox from a Focus RS, shove the whole thing in a Maverick and then add the torque-vectoring rear diff from the Maverick Tremor. Boom, now you have a nigh-on 300-horsepower drivetrain that can party.

Next, drop that sucker to the ground on 20-inch wheels, bolt on a Redwood-sized rear anti-roll bar, add a body kit louder than a Joyryde set, bolt in a set of Recaros, paint the whole truck a lurid shade of tangerine, and suddenly you have the ultimate all-in-one Ford. It would haul car parts as well as ass. Long live the fast Ford.

2023 Infiniti Q50s 05

Alright, I supposed I should offer up an actual performance car idea that isn’t a fast crossover or something. Here goes nothing: Infiniti Q50 IPL. It’s no secret that Nissan is planning a hopped-up Nismo version of the new Z, and the shared FM platform means that the powertrain bits will largely bolt into an Infiniti Q50 sedan. Push power north of 400, stick a manual gearbox in the tunnel, use the console from the European-market diesel model to fit the shifter, chuck in a limited-slip diff, throw steer-by-wire in the bin, and sell that sucker for $60,000. I’ll admit, it’s a niche vehicle, but if all the bits exist then why not?

Anyway, I’m just spitballing ideas here. What I really want to know is what vehicle you think deserves a performance variant. Do you wish Mercedes-AMG would build an E63 Coupe Black Series? Do you dream of a really fast Mitsubishi Mirage? Are you tickled pink by the thought of an inappropriately zesty Toyota Prius? Whatever the case, I want to hear from you.

(Photo credits: Subaru, Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford, Infiniti)

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73 Responses

    1. I live in Utah (high elevation) and have been saying for years a Crosstrek XT would be a money printer, but I’m just guessing they already sell all of them they can build (at least according the the barren Subaru lots). Why bother building a better one when people buy what you already have?

  1. I have always felt that (and this is important) RELATIVE TO THEIR POSITION IN THE MARKET all cars should have a very stripped down base trim, a “posh” trim with all the creature comforts and a performance trim. I’d still expect the lowest trim BMW 2 series to be lux than the fancy version of a Chevy Trax, but by the same token, I bet someone would buy a quick Trax.

  2. The Mazda5 should have had a performance engine. C&D actually built a Mazdaspeed 5 using a donor Mazdaspeed 3 and it was great. With hindsight the early GDI turbo is a bad choice as Mazda’s least reliable piston engine but a 2.5 Skyactiv G would have been enough oomph.
    The greatest make a snail fast was Car Magazine’s 2CV turbo which used the tiniest blower they could find to turn a tin snail into something entertaining.

    1. You could always be a bad aviator and measure elevation in ASL. But if you’re happy with your ASL altitude but your AGL = 0, then you’re in for a bad day flying around.

  3. I think it’d be cool if Ford would go ahead and put out a Mustang Ecoboost that’s maxed out with all the aftermarket performance boost parts and tune.

    There are people out there that have made Ecoboosts that blow away the GT and I’d like to see Ford make it happen from the factory.

    1. Yeah, a new SVO with some cues, like maybe a biwing spoiler. Of course, SVO became ST, so it would have to be that, but it seems a fairly easy thing to do. Maybe they just don’t see a market.

  4. Jeep Wagoneer Fuck It Hellcat Everything Edition. How has nobody else said that yet? Sigh. Y’all are slacking.

    Mitsubishi Mirage has been mentioned, but just mentioned. No actual plan. Of course I have a plan. One that Mitsubishi could actually build. And should.
    First of all, Mitsubishi Mirage RalliArt would be the correct name. And remember, there are very strict space and chassis limitations here. Open up the front grille, call the machine shop, and let me introduce you to the Mitsubishi 3A92D3T.
    The same 1.2L. The same compression. Except now we’re going to take a second pass on the balancing, tweak the cams, turbocharge it, and intercool it. Remember, the Mirage already has the exhaust up front and a reasonably healthy 6500RPM redline with a pretty stout block. The 3A92D3T’s cams don’t get much; more fuel pressure, overlap adjustments, and a bit of exhaust lift. The real magic’s a 7000RPM redline and boost with a very small turbo. Seriously, tiny. Target threshold is 2500RPM – minimal lag. VGT would be nice, but that’s just too expensive.
    Suspension? A very modest -5mm, bump spring and rebound a touch, solid front sway, solid rear sway, and swapping the P175/55R15’s for Kumho Ecsta PA31 P195/50R15’s.

    And now you’ve got not merely a credible pocket rocket, but a real budget threat. A very, very real one. You’re talking about a sub-$30k pricetag, 120HP+, and a 2200lbs package. That’s not ‘drive a slow car fast.’ That’s a significantly better power to weight than a Miata.
    More importantly: it’s something actually buildable. All your cost is in the 3A92D3T development and certification. We’re not changing the 5 speed manual, just cryo treating internals. Rear brakes stay drums. Wheels, we’re just gonna OEM Enkei Compes. Everything besides the engine is “our budget’s $50 and we’ve got a week.” That includes fitting the engine and intercooler. (We’re stealing it from the Renault Clio.)

    The biggest problem is the 3A92’s barely squeaking by emissions and is built by MDC Power. Not Mitsubishi. And their “partners” hate them, which is why I didn’t say “just drop in the HR09DET” or the HR10DET at 100HP.
    Plus, Mitsubishi needs something that isn’t depending on someone else to make something credible. They need incredible. They need a car to follow the Galant Ralliart, a car that made the journalists stop dead in their tracks and go “holy crap, this car is amazing.”
    And most importantly of all, it needs to be true to their roots. To go all the way back to the Mitsubishi 500 Super Deluxe. The Mitsubishi Colt 1000F. They need a new Doug Stewart, a new Flying Sikh (Joginder Singh,) a new Andrew Cowan.

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