18 Drift Cars For Beginners | 5 Essential Tips

Source: Classiccars.com / Rebecca Nguyen photos

Rome, as the saying goes, was not built in a day. The same holds true for anything that demands expertise. In the motorsport of drifting, competitors race to complete a track as quickly as possible by purposefully skidding their vehicles through turns. A lot of practice is required to develop the balance and accuracy required.

Picking the correct car at the beginning of your drifting experience is crucial if you’re a novice. However, it’s best to utilize a secondhand car because you’ll likely smash doors and walls. While there are many inexpensive options that are simple to modify for drifting, many drifting vehicles are extremely expensive.

In order to help you choose a beginner’s drift car, we’ve put together this guide with a list of the vehicles we believe are wise selections.

#1 BMW M3 E36

Source: bringatrailer.com
  • Brand: BMW
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Model Year: 1994 – 1999
  • Engine: S50B30
  • Engine Displacement: 2990 cm3 / 182.5 cu-in
  • Power: 286 PS / 282 HP / 210 kW @ 7000 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Torque: 320 Nm / 236 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
  • Top Speed: 155.3 mph (250 km/h)
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

The BMW M3 is a standard drifting vehicle in many nations across the world, including Europe. It is one of the most popular drift cars in the world. It is a reliable option for a beginner’s drift vehicle.

The E36 offered 3.0 liter straight six engines that ran through five-speed manual transmissions and limited slip differentials. The engine had a 225 pound-feet of torque and standard output of 282 horsepower in European specification.

Although it is not likely that a secondhand M3 E36 would still have that much power, there are fixes that won’t set you back a fortune. Even better, secondhand M3 E36 versions may sometimes be found for about $10,000.

#2 BMW E36 325i

Source: Olympus Digital Camera
  • Brand: BMW
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Model Year: 1991
  • Engine: M50B25
  • Engine Displacement: 2494 cm3 / 152.2 cu-in
  • Power: 192 PS / 189 HP / 141 kW @ 5900 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 245 Nm / 180 lb-ft@ 4700 rpm
  • Top Speed: 233 Km/h / 145 Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-Speed Manual

BMW E36 325i is another reliable and capable drift car that has been in the drifting world for years. This is due to its great power for fun and sideways driving.

It comes in a stock engine that puts out almost 200 horsepower and can even withstand modifications for up to 350 horsepower without a need for a major engine rebuild. Therefore, you can use the stock platform for several years without losing your sleep on breaking things prematurely. You can get a BMW E36 325i in good condition for about $9,000.

#3 Nissan 350Z

Source: rmsmotoring / da.murf
  • Brand: Nissan
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 2003 – 2008
  • Engine: VQ35DE
  • Engine Displacement: 3498 cm3 / 213.5 cu-in
  • Power: 301 PS / 297 HP / 221kW @ 6400 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 353 Nm / 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
  • Top Speed: 250 Km/h / 155 Mph
  • Gearbox: 6-speed Manual

Nissan 350Z is a highly modular vehicle that can instantly be transformed into a drift monster. It was released in 2003 to rave reviews and is the latest in the ‘Z’ car lineage.

The 350Z has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which generates 287 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox transmits the engine’s power to the road. Nissan 350Z had a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 287 horsepower at the flywheel, a 6-speed manual transmission, and a limited-slip differential as standard equipment.

The Nissan 350Z’s strong and reliable engine, manual transmission, and limited-slip differential make it an ideal vehicle for a beginner to learn how to drift in until he or she is comfortable with the sport and confident enough to upgrade their vehicle’s powertrain.

#4 Nissan Skyline R33 GTS-T

Source: Driftworks / FDadam
  • Brand: Nissan
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1993 – 1998
  • Engine: RB25DET
  • Engine Displacement: 2,498 cc
  • Power: 247 bhp @ 6,400 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 217 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
  • Top Speed: 230Km/h / 143 Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

The Nissan Skyline is a high-performance sports coupe that has a history stretching back as far as the Nissan’ Z’ vehicles and is just as spectacular. The R33 GTS-T, produced between 1993 and 1998, was chosen for this tutorial because it is an excellent choice for budding drifters.

A turbocharged 2.5-liter straight-six RB25DET engine powers the R33 GTS-T, and a limited-slip differential receives power from the five-speed manual gearbox. Many of the features desirable in a first-time drift vehicle are standard on this model.

#5 BMW E30 316i

Source: bringatrailer.com
  • Brand: BMW
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Model Year: 1987 – 1988
  • Engine: M40B16
  • Engine Displacement: 1596 cm3 / 97.4 cu-in
  • Power: 102 Hp @ 5800 rpm / 75 kW @ 5800 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Torque: 140 Nm @ 4500 rpm
  • Top Speed: 182 Km/h / 113 Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-Speed Manual

The E30 316i is a fantastic car to begin drifting due to its rear-wheel drive, manual transmission, and an engine compartment large enough for an engine change. However, you’ll need to replace the engines because the stock engine lacks the power necessary for good drifting. The LS V8, 2JZ, SR20, and VQ35 engines are among the most often used and simple engine swaps.

#6 Mazda MX-5/Miata NB

Source: Mazda
  • Brand: Mazda
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1998 – 2001
  • Engine: BP-4W
  • Engine Displacement: 1597 cm3 / 97.5 cu-in
  • Power: 110 PS / 109 HP / 81 kW @ 6500 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 134 Nm / 98 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
  • Top Speed: 210Km/h / 131Mph
  • Gearbox: 6-speed Manual

Among car enthusiasts, a proverb goes, “Miata is always the answer!” The same can be said here; the MX-5 deserves serious consideration by anybody shopping for a first drift vehicle. Unveiled in 1989, the first generation went on to become a best-seller among sports vehicles.

The 1.8-liter model is ideal for novice drifters since its four-cylinder engine produces 138 horsepower. However, the factory engine isn’t exactly built for drifting and won’t provide enough power for serious competition.

The car’s mechanical components are high quality and dependable, and it has a naturally aspirated engine. Hence, the Mazda Miata is another excellent choice, especially due to its low weight and small turning circle, which facilitate drifting.

#7 Nissan 240sx S14

Source: carthrottle.com
  • Brand: Nissan
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1995 – 1998
  • Engine: KA24DE
  • Engine Displacement: 2,389 cc
  • Power: 158 bhp @ 5,600 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: Torque: 160 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
  • Top Speed: 235Km/h / 146Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

Nissans are well-known for their ability to drift along a circuit. The best part about most of these automobiles is that you can get them for a reasonable price, despite the fact that they are considered classics. A list of “drift cars” would be incomplete without mentioning at least one model of the Nissan 240sx, which has become the universally recognized symbol of drifting( after the pricey AE86).

The S14 Silvia is often considered the best generation of the 240SX. It is equipped with a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine that generates 155 horsepower; this power is sent to the road via a 5-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential.

The 240sx’s lightweight chassis means you won’t need a lot of power to get it moving, and the car’s inherent balance will have you driving like a pro in no time. The 240SX has to be adjusted before it can drive down the track, but other than that, it’s perfect for drifting.

#8 Toyota Chaser JZX100

Source: Autoevolution / Patrick Jost
  • Brand: Toyota
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1998
  • Engine: 1 JZ-GTE
  • Engine Displacement: 2491 cm3 / 152 cu-in
  • Power: 280 PS / 276 HP / 206kW @6200rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 378.0Nm / 278 ib-ft @6200rpm
  • Top Speed: 155Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

The Toyota Chaser JZX100 is another excellent starting drift vehicle. It boasts a sturdy chassis that will last a lifetime and a 1JZ-GE engine that produces decent starting power.

They are inexpensive, simple to find in good condition, and many mods are available. It has a few improvements, such as a larger turbo, an intercooler, and new headers, which might make this car incredibly quick. It is dependable, and a bargain of roughly $10,000 might last you for years.

#9 BMW M3 E46

Source: bmwheaven
  • Brand: BMW
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Model Year: 2000 – 2006
  • Engine: S54
  • Engine Displacement: 3246 cm3 / 198.1 cu-in
  • Power: 343 PS / 338 HP / 252 kW @ 7900 rpm
  • Drive wheels – Traction – Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 365 Nm / 269 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
  • Top Speed: 250 Km/h / 155 Mph
  • Gearbox: 6-speed Manual

The BMW M3 E46 was the younger, more powerful sibling of the earlier E36 model. An all-new inline six-cylinder engine, which has held up flawlessly to this day, helped boost the engine’s output to 338 horsepower straight from the factory.

The M3 E46’s six-cylinder engine generated 338 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, compared to the M3 E36’s 3.0-liter six-cylinder unit’s 243 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque.

The M3 E46 offers more customization options, but its higher price tag makes its increased power less appealing. However, if your budget allows, you should not settle for anything less than an E46 M3.

#10 Toyota JZX-90

Source: Supergdrift
  • Brand: Toyota
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year:1992 – 1996
  • Engine:1JZ-GTE
  • Engine Displacement: 2,498 cc
  • Power: 276 bhp @ 6,200 rpm
  • Drive wheels – Traction – Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 363 Nm / 268 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
  • Top Speed: 145 mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed manual

Although the Toyota JZX-90 has been active in the drift scene in Japan and Asia since the early 1990s, these cars are uncommon to see on Western roads. The Toyota JZX-90 provide several advantages that a beginner drifter would do well to consider, and in most areas, they are more affordable than the E46 M3.

The JZX-90 is not short on power or tuning possibilities with its 2.5-liter straight-six 1JZ-GTE turbocharged engine, which is strong and highly tuneable. The five-speed manual transmission came standard with a limited-slip differential. With a well-balanced chassis and quick engine response, this large, luxurious four-door sedan provides a simple path to drifting.

#11 Nissan 180sx

Source: wallpaperacess / Nissan
  • Brand: Nissan
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1989 – 1998
  • Engine: SR20DET
  • Engine Displacement: 1,998 cc
  • Power: 202 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 203 lb-ft @ 40800 rpm
  • Top Speed: 146 mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

The Nissan 180sx is a legendary drift car. The car’s outstanding natural balance and restricted slip differential made acquiring the challenging drifting learning curve a bit simpler.

One of the biggest aftermarkets today is for the 180sx, with everything from aero modifications to engine parts to drivetrain improvements readily accessible. However, the Nissan 180sx is now out of reach for budget drifters in 2023 due to its increased value, but if you can get your hands on one and take good care of it, it will make a fantastic drift vehicle.

#12 Merkur XR4Ti Turbo

Source: Car and Driver / Pete Lyon
  • Brand: Merkur
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Model Year: 1985 – 1989
  • Engine:
  • Engine Displacement: 2301 cm3 / 140.4 cu-in
  • Power: 177 PS / 175 HP / 130Kw @ 5200 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 271 Nm / 199 lb-ft @3000 rpm
  • Top Speed: 208 Km/h / 129 Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

The XR4Ti was marketed in America as the Merkur XR4Ti and was essentially a German-made counterpart of the European Ford Sierra RS. Therefore, the high-performance Sierra RS, a vehicle created especially to compete in Europe’s Group A racing, was the source from which the XR4Ti borrowed its sporty ergonomics.

The 2.3-liter inline-four turbocharged engine in the XR4Ti produced 175 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. It also included a five-speed manual transmission, completing the ideal combination for a drift vehicle that burns tires.

The XR4Ti is a lightweight, long wheelbase, independently adjustable rear suspension, balanced chassis, and has a fantastic power-to-weight ratio. It was designed as a drift vehicle. Even though the XR4Ti is uncommon, it’s relatively simple and inexpensive to find one because most drifters and tuners frequently ignore them.

#13 Mazda RX-7 FD3S

Source: hdqwalls
  • Brand: Mazda
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1992 – 1996
  • Engine: 1.3 twin-turbocharged twin-rotor engine
  • Engine Displacement:1308 cm3 / 79.8 cu-in
  • Power: 252 bhp
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 230 lb-ft
  • Top Speed: 250 Km/h / 155 Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

Mazda RX-7 FD3S, like other Japanese sports cars, especially those from the 1980s and 1990s, are typically built with drifting in mind. That’s why many of them are lightweight, run on rear-wheel-drive, and come with powerful engines.

Of all the cars on the list, this one is without a doubt the most difficult to obtain. Even if you had the money, locating one would be quite challenging. It uses the 13B-REW twin-rotor engine, running twin sequential turbochargers. RX-7 drivers enjoy a huge powerband, the car pulling hard all the way to the redline due to the nature of the rotary engines.

These automobiles have fantastic and distinctive designs. Despite having such a small and compact engine, the hood softly slopes towards the front, where the best headlamps known to man are located. So, if you have the cash to spend, Mazda RX-7 FD3S is undoubtedly the vehicle for any die-hard fanatic.

#14 Mazda RX-8

Source: Autocar
  • Brand: Mazda
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 2002 – 2012
  • Engine: 1.3L RENESIS
  • Engine Displacement: 1308 cm3 / 79.8 cu-in
  • Power: 232 bhp @ 8,500 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 211 Nm / 155 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
  • Top Speed: 235 Km/h / 146 Mph
  • Gearbox: 6-speed Manual

The Mazda RX-8 is a terrific automobile that may represent true value because of its elegant design, rear suicide doors, superb handling, and ridiculously low price.

The RX8’s four-seat cabin is adorned with suicide doors that open to the back, making it more functional than the FD RX-7. If you’re as afraid of rotary maintenance as we are, the RX8’s light weight of 1,309 kg makes it a great candidate for an engine change in the future.

Related: Mazda RX-8 Common Problems | Symptoms & Solutions

#15 Mercedes C230 Kompressor (W202)

Source: citycarsw.com
  • Brand: Mercedes Benz
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Model Year: 1993 – 2000
  • Engine: M111
  • Engine Displacement: 2295 cm3 / 140 cu-in
  • Power: 193 PS / 190 HP / 142 Kw @ 5300 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 280 Nm / 206 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
  • Top Speed: 230 Km/h / 143 Mph
  • Gearbox: 5-Speed Manual

Mercedes is perhaps one of the last automakers that spring to mind. It is a supercharged 2.3 liter, four-cylinder engine, as the ideal drift car for beginners to start with. It offers 190 BHP and 280 LB/FT of torque out of the box thanks to the tough M111 engine, which can endure abuse all day.

Even though manual C230 Kompressors are getting harder to obtain, they are still common, and tons of replacement parts are available. The 2.5 turbo diesel might be changed by adding a bigger turbo as an option to the C230, but this would make the drift vehicle more expensive in the beginning.

#16 Lexus IS200 / Altezza (XE10)

Source: sohu.com
  • Brand: Lexus
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 1998 – 2005
  • Engine:1G-FE BEAMS
  • Engine Displacement: 1988 cm3 / 121.3 cu-in
  • Power: 155 PS / 153 HP / 114 kW @ 6200 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 195 Nm / 143 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
  • Top Speed: 215 Km/h / 134 Mph
  • Gearbox: 6-speed Manual

The Lexus IS200 is also known as the Altezza in Japan. This little, sporty sedan is a particularly alluring option for a beginner’s drift vehicle in 2023.

They include a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis, the dependable 1G-FE BEAMS engine, and a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. Although the 158 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque aren’t going to light anyone’s hair on fire, they are more than enough to help you lose traction and gain control of the vehicle.

#17 Ford Mustang

Source: classicautomall.com
  • Brand: Ford
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 2004 – 2008
  • Engine: GT 4.6i V8 (304 Hp)
  • Engine Displacement: 4606 cm3 / 281.08 cu. in.
  • Power: 304 Hp @ 6000 rpm.
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 427 Nm / 314.94 lb.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
  • Top Speed: 240 km/h / 149.13 mph
  • Gearbox: 5-speed Manual

The Mustang is Ford’s iconic sports car. And it is now considered a natural feature because of its long history. In recent years, the Mustang’s power increased to the point where it can compete with high-end European automobiles.

Although the vast majority of the Mustangs are usually tuned to hit the drag strip, it can actually be a fantastic drift car. Prior to owning his incredible RTR-X Mustang, one must, however, spend years honing their drifting skills with the least acceptable Mustangs available: the SN-95.

#18 Nissan 350Z

Source: pinterest.com
  • Brand: Nissan
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Model Year: 2003 – 2008
  • Engine: VQ35DE
  • Engine Displacement: 3,498cm3 / 213.5 cu-in
  • Power:301 PS / 287 HP / 221 kW @ 6200 rpm
  • Drivetrain: RWD
  • Maximum Torque: 353 Nm / 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
  • Top Speed: 250 Km/h / 155 Mph
  • Gearbox: 6-speed Manual

Nissan created the 350Z with the traditional front-engine, rear-wheel drive drivetrain of a sports vehicle. Its mechanical features make the Nissan 350Z the ideal beginner drift car. It has a strong and durable power plant coupled with a manual gearbox and limited slip differential, ensuring that you learn the ropes and advance your drifting skills.

This car should see you through until you feel ready to increase your car’s power level significantly. Nissan 350Z was equipped with a durable 3.5-liter V6 engine that produced 287 horsepower at the flywheel and was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with a controlled slip differential as standard equipment.

Top 5 Things Each Drift Car Needs

People, especially beginners, frequently overdo it when getting a car ready for drifting and overlook certain vital parts. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of the five essential things you need in a drift car.

1. Front Engine

The front-engine setup is ideal for novice drifters. They aren’t as quick as mid-engine cars but are simpler to operate than those with engines in the trunk.

In order to make quicker transitions, many professional racecar drivers (depending on the regulations of each competition) strive to move the engine as far back as possible, which is excellent for them but not so great for beginners.

2. Rear Wheel Drive

If you want to do drifting properly and enjoy your drifting experience, it is essential that your drift car is a rear-wheel drive. This is because you are using the power to encourage the back of the car to overtake the front. Therefore, if you want to avoid collecting a large number of McDonald’s trays, stick with RWD.

3. Cheap Accessible Parts

There must be a good reason why cars such as E36 sell so well. They are quite cheap. Because of their widespread adoption, there is an abundance of both brand-new and pre-owned replacement components for these cars.

Drifting a rare automobile expertly will get you major cool points. However, nobody cares what kind of automobile you’re driving while still a student. So as a beginner, it is essential to go for a cheap drift car with cheap and accessible parts.

4. LSD or Welded Diff

I used a really worn-out LSD for my first dry drift day. My friend accomplished it with a welded differential in essentially the same vehicle. While getting the automobile to slide sideways wasn’t difficult, he found it to be a lot simpler, especially during transitions.

This is because everything moves in a straight line at the moment when the automobile switches from moving to the left to the right. Now, if your diff is open or loose and you don’t strike it with enough speed, one wheel will desire to grip and throw the other into a one-wheel spin.

This might result in smoke and can be shamefully disclosed by someone more knowledgeable. However, the back wheels will spin much more readily with locked diffs as they are much more predictable. This is a huge benefit, especially while learning.

5. Decent Seat

A skilled drifter will appear calm and at ease from the inside out. Although lateral pressures might cause some bouncing around, you won’t have to worry about losing your balance or banging your knee on the transmission if you’re sitting in a sports or bucket seat.

Also, you need to feel more connected to the automobile and aware of its movements from an early stage. So, you may acquire a simple bucket seat from a forum or online auction site. However, you’ll need FIA certification if you want to take it on the road.


To master the appropriate drifting skills, you must practice for many hours. Most importantly, you need a good drift vehicle to start off. In light of the foregoing, I have given you a wide range of drift vehicles you can purchase to help you get started in the world of blazing tires, engine squeals, and everything else awesome about drifting.

However, before making your choice, also keep in mind the aforementioned essentials for a drift car in order to make the right choice.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments