When you saw those badges, you knew the car was fast.
(upbeat music) (engine roaring)
But if you buy one today, you might be getting ripped off.
Today, I'm gonna break down which badges are worth it,
and which ones are worthless vanity tax.
When this video is over,
you'll be able to spot a true performance badge and frauds.
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Before I get into the state of badges today,
you need to understand why these badges are so cool
and mean so much in car culture.
Certain manufacturers have always been known
as performance brands.
You got Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren.
They all began as racing brands
which then transitioned into makers of bespoke,
low-volume road cars, and as such,
will always be known for producing cars
which focus almost entirely on speed and performance.
But larger manufacturers out there roll millions of cars
off their production lines each year,
from tiny hatchbacks to huge SUVs.
These cars have a focus on functionality,
fuel economy, and safety.
However, these mass manufacturers carve themselves out
a little slice of performance
by pitching performance versions of everyday cars.
Typically, performance badges have one of two origins:
The first is as the racing arm
of an automotive manufacturer, such as BMW's M,
formerly known as BMW Motorsport.
They ended up producing
the legendary BMW 3.0 CSL, or Batmobile.
This homologation special wherein a manufacturer is mandated
to produce a certain number of road-going versions
of cars they wish to race is
how we got some of our most cherished road cars today.
Following that, BMW Motorsport got to work
producing their first ground-up car
and the first full M car, the aptly named BMW M1.
This, again, was a low-volume homologation special.
All 456 road cars became incredibly desirable
and sold out instantly,
which gave BMW the idea to start applying
their newly formed M badge
to consumer cars, (cash register rings)
the first of which was the 1979 M535i version
of the E12 5 Series.
It featured a whole host of components taken
from BMW Motorsport's stock of racing parts,
even sharing a few pieces with the M1.
It was so different from the regular 5 Series
in almost every aspect,
and really highlights the performance badge idea
of developing a hot, fast version
of a standard road car using technology from racing.
From then on, practically every BMW car
and generation would have an M version,
most notably the M3 and the M5.
Love that E39.
With the exception of low-volume, hand-built cars
such as McLaren and Ferrari, who we mentioned earlier,
performance badges used to be the most exclusive cars
on the road, sometimes even more so.
Performance-badged cars were made in limited numbers
and available only to those
whom performance was the main reason to buy a car
and had the money to do so.
Around the turn of the century, though,
this all began to change.
Other brands had caught up to BMW
and started building badged cars of their own,
and unfortunately, the marketing departments
of these massive manufacturers began to see the potential
in badging other cars as performance badges,
even though they weren't the top-performing versions
of those cars.
So I think it's time to ask,
which badges are good and which ones are bad?
Let's start with the biggest offenders
and make our way to the ones that still mean something.
We trashed on 'em last week, so I think it's only right
that we start with Nissan's Nismo.
Formed in 1984
when Nissan merged two of their motorsport departments,
Nismo went on to develop legends
such as the R31 Skyline GTS-R, the 370Z,
and of course, the Nissan GTR Nismo.
Nowadays though, the Nismo badge is also
on the back of the Juke small SUV,
the Sentra, and the European-only Pulsar.
The Nismo Sentra doesn't make any more power
than the Sentra SR Turbo,
but does come with some slightly better all-weather tires
and larger brake rotors.
It also has lowered suspension.
Unfortunately, this doesn't make the Nismo Sentra
any better than the competition,
according to Car and Driver,
but I will give it props
for coming with a manual transmission,
and honestly, I think the Sentra Nismo looks pretty good.
Back to BMW.
BMW currently produces eight full M cars.
However, they produce an incredible 20 M performance cars,
most of which have very little
in the way of a performance increase,
focusing instead on trim levels and M-like design features.
The M performance line was created
to fill the gap between base BMWs
and the increasingly expensive M cars,
and you can identify them
by the smaller M badge preceding the model number.
They've got upgraded lower suspension,
sports steering wheel and shifter,
and usually some sporty-looking trim,
but the horsepower ratings typically don't get a huge boost.
I mean, does the X2 really need an M performance edition?
Who is buying a little mini crossover and saying,
"Man, I wish this thing had a sportier steering wheel."
It just really waters down the M brand if you ask me.
Audi, who we haven't talked about much,
is also guilty of this.
Building upon the rally and road successes
of the Audi Quattro,
in 1983 they founded Quattro GmbH,
a department responsible for all Audi sports car production.
Then they continued to develop amazing race
and road cars through the turn of the century.
Today though, Audi applies the Quattro
and S names to many of its fairly regular road cars,
from crossovers to hatchbacks and SUVs,
none of which share in Audi's performance heritage,
past or present.
Audi's S line cars are borrowing more
and more accessories and styling cues
from the performance-oriented S, RS, and R cars,
yet in terms of specifications,
they are no different to the base-level SE cars,
so that's a little egregious to me.
Another main way performance brands tend to materialize is
as independent tuning shops who, over time,
develop a relationship with a specific manufacturer
before usually being bought out and brought in-house.
This is true of German mark AMG,
which was founded in 1967 as an engine tuning shop
by some former Mercedes employees,
and worked successfully with Mercedes for years
before being bought out
and brought into the Daimler-Mercedes Group in 1999.
While full AMG cars are fitted with hand-built AMG engines
and feature ground-up suspension and handling redesigns,
the AMG Line Mercedes,
of which there are frankly way too many to count,
offer some AMG styling
and a few token suspension and braking upgrades,
some as minimal as painted brake calipers.
Huge effort is spent fitting AMG-line floor mats,
shiny silver sports pedals, carbon-fiber effect trim,
and our friend, the sports-tuned exhaust.
For example, the cheapest way into true AMG ownership is
to buy the A45 AMG S.
Thanks to its AMG tuning,
it is the fastest A-Class by a huge margin,
and has been referred to by many as a super hatch,
thanks to its 415 horsepower.
415 horsepower in a hatch?
What? (man mimics explosion)
Zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds.
It's faster than a new 911 Carrera.
Compare that though to the AMG Line A-Class,
which, at a cost of $2,000 over the standard SE A-Class,
gets you 18-inch AMG alloys, (metal clanking)
AMG side sill panels, a diamond grill.
It essentially has the same internals
as the standard A-Class:
same stop speed, same zero to 60, same everything.
It has all the looks of the performance models
with none of the additional performance.
Do you see what I mean here?
I don't like this.
Ford Performance puts their ST badge,
which is a little bit lesser to their all-out RS brand,
on the Fiesta and Focus,
as well as producing special performance-badge versions
of the Mustang and F-150, namely the Shelby and Raptor.
I've gotta say that in my opinion,
almost all these cars are great,
particularly the Fiesta and Focus ST.
Love those freaking things.
However, I do think that Ford compromised the ST badge
as soon as they made an ST spec
of their compact SUV, the Edge.
I've driven the Edge ST, and while it is pretty quick:
I mean, I don't know. (laughs)
It feels nothing like a traditional ST car,
which is a shame.
Ford have since put out the Explorer ST,
which I think indicates their intentions
for the ST badge in the future.
Also, anecdotally, I think I've only ever seen one Edge ST
on the street, so I think it was all for nothing sales-wise.
With ST, the highs are really high
and the lows are kinda low.
(engine roars) (upbeat music)
In 2009, after what felt like an eternity of speculation,
Toyota announced the return of the Supra:
a three-liter engine, 340 horsepower,
and a silhouette to make a grown man weep.
This is the resurrection of the Supra brand
and also the crowning achievement
in the reinvigoration of the GR,
or Gazoo Racing performance badge.
That's right, it's called Gazoo.
Toyota have come in hot for 2019 with a brand-new
performance-badge car delivering actual performance.
I rode in a Supra GR at an autocross
and that thing freaking ripped!
Also in 2018,
they won both their first World Rally Championship
and their first outright 24 Hour of Le Mans victory,
all of which helped them
in honing their performance-badge road cars,
all good signs for the future of Toyota and GR.
Go Gazoo, baby.
Hyundai have also got in on the performance badge thing,
launching their own N brand performance,
headed up by none other than former of BMW M
and the father of M cars, Albert Biermann.
With their born-in-Namyang, honed-on-the-Nurburgring ethos,
Hyundai M have produced a series
of seriously good performance cars
since the formation in 2015,
jointly developing with their motorsport arm,
who in 2019, won their first-ever World Rally Championship.
Good job, guys,
which I think proves that the N badge is good.
They are gonna make some N line cars this year,
so we'll see.
We'll see, Hyundai.
I'm watching you.
I'm watching you.
Last up is the badge that was least diluted
by the manufacturer: Honda's Type R.
It's kind of a cop-out right now
because there's only one car with the Type R badge,
the Civic Type R,
but if you look through the badge's history,
you'll see a ton of great cars
that were truly meant to perform.
The DC2 Integra Type R is a dream car of mine.
I must own one.
These badges mean a lot to nerds like me.
It's my opinion
that manufacturers should not trade their heritage
for a boost in sales, like some of these brands
on this list are in the process of doing.
If they're not careful, people might forget
what these badges stood for in the first place.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at nolanjsykes.
Follow Donut at donutmedia.
We got cool shows coming out this year.
We say that every year, but, I mean (laughs)
See you next time.
Christmas break was great.
That thing freaking rips!
That thing freaking rips!