The bubble in the 90s popped as the yen became too expensive. Around 96 we lost many of the “best” Japanese market cars because they simply became too expensive. What was once a $40,000 car became $60,000+ in terms of the 4 Japanese “supercars” that were sold here... only in a span of 4 years.
As a result they changed. Instead of building very Japanese cars the Japanese decided to build German cars for some reason. This persists until today, Toyota/Lexus for example are obsessed with chasing the German Dragon. All their money is spent on this and it SHOWS.... shows in terms of all the enthusiast cars in the Toyota brand are dead right now aside the 86 which is a joint venture. They had the formula somewhat right in the 90s in JAPAN when the lexus products had 1JZGTE engines with 280hp that we didn’t get here and the chassis were getting rave reviews. Ironically the cars were very similar in configuration to a 135i for example.
The example I will use is the Galant.
The Galants also had hatchback and wagon variants like in this video:
The 8g galant (or in this case legnum, whatever same car) in that video is a post-burst car.
A 7g Galant is a rather odd car if you look at it today. It had ALL the tech goodies, the LanEvo transmission and AWD, and typical early 90s japanese “goodies” like all wheel steering. It was light for a car like this at 3100-3200lbs.... so less than a modern STI. It had a 6A12TT twin turbo V6 engine that is a 2.0L that revved to 8000rpm that sounds amazing. It has the same engine as the FTO before that engine had MIVEC (roughly mitsubishi vtech). Towards 96 they pretty much could not afford to build it anymore.
The 8g Galant seems far more familiar. It’s 500lbs heavier and has a regular sized V6 at 2.5l engine with a regular redline with twin turbo. It’s AWD system is less comparable to the period evo, has the problematic 3000GT trans, and it doesn’t have 4 wheel steer. It basically is a B5 S4 and is targeted at such complete with all the ordinary luxuries involved in such a car. No risks are taken here. Nothing overbuilt. The people expecting a truly Japanese car like a RX7, R32 GTR, EG Civic Type-R, or 7G Galant VR4 will not notice much similarities.
Pre-bust that 8G galant would have more tech goodies than the previous generation like GPS like the Mazda Cosmo had, probably would have put in the MIVEC FTO engine in with twin turbos like the previous gen, and would be much lighter and a more sporty vehicle much like all the cars out of Japan decades prior. This car exemplifies the malaise that is to come.
Speaking of the Cosmo the bubble basically made a wizard’s car like that extinct. The line went extinct in 96 right when all this happened.
You can see this across the model line in Japanese companies coming sooner or later depending on the vehicle in question. For example the shittyness was injected into the Honda Civic post-EG at the turn of the century, the Fairlady lost the twin turbo engine at 2002 when it’s competition were only increasing power, RX7 became the RX8 aroud the same time, the GTR had to become a 6 figure supercar. Elsewhere the Soarer with Toyota (lexus SC) was replaced with one infamously called “the worst car in the world”. Toyota had in the 90s been chasing the German dragon earlier than other companies with success. Towards today this wouldn’t last long to where now when you compare a Lexus to a BMW they don’t come close and most critics savage them. When you’ve been coming close for 20 years and in that time you downgraded your vehicles and BMW adopts what you did you are not going to get far. To put it another way it’s like coming out with a WoW clone MMORPG like Rift or Warhammer only for World of Warcraft to adopt the things you introduced and keep doing what it was otherwise doing right.
Hyundai testing a hot hatch mid engine car on the NUR is what you would see out of pre-bubble bust Japan. Same with the Focus RS, far more advanced than it’s STI competition. The STI has also been increasing in weight with the same power since introduced in this country. Typical of a Japanese product.
The sporty and luxury vehicles are now simply Japanese takes on German cars rather than Japanese cars with the luxury vehicles especially chasing the German dragon. The economy cars instead become more and more “economy” and bland much like the 90s US competition. Instead of defining their segment like they used to they became their competition and let Ford, for example, define it with cars like the Fiesta ST. If I were to think of what would a modern Supra look like I think of the M235i and M2. Not the GTR, not the NSX, and not the 370Z. Which makes sense why they are partnering with BMW for the new “Supra” (actual name to be determined), because THEY have been building Supras (in proper WoW adopt what they introduce form) for over a decade now and Toyota hasn’t built a car like that since 2002.
Lots of news points to things changing. Also the new Miata and Civic Type R for example have been out. However, the introduction of a competitive engine in Infinitis hasn’t quelled the “these cars are just not good” criticism of the post G37 vehicles and Toyota can’t build anything reasonably priced and good without hand holding from a 3rd party. What results will NOT be Japanese. If you are expecting an overbuilt car with ahead of it’s time performance from the new “Supra” (real name yet to be determined) and have it be affordable be prepared for disappointment. 1993 is LONG gone.
edit: Thank Kinja for refusing to accept any image uploads from me.