It'll make you cry.
The US has no shortage of imports for gearheads to choose from. That said, we always want what we can't have, like every single Nissan Skyline. What's worse is that sometimes when we do get what we want the car is modified, meaning not as awesome as it is overseas. This is sometimes due to different emission and safety regulations. Other times it's a business decision. Regardless, it's pretty crappy, especially for those who waited so patiently for these cars to come stateside. Here are five cars that were seriously modified upon arriving in the US.
First up we have the Mercedes-Benz 190e Cosworth 2.3-liter. Compared to its four year run in Germany beginning in 1983, the US version only saw two years, 1986-87. With those two years came some pretty hefty engine changes. Mercedes and Cosworth teamed up to make the initial engine, and gave it 185 horsepower with 10.5:1 compression and four valves per cylinder. With much lower compression (9.7:1) and various emissions attachments, the US version ended up making 167 horsepower when all was said and done. The engine was weaker overall, producing just a 6800 rpm redline as opposed to Germany's 7200. It still looked absolutely badass, however.
Next up we have the Subaru WRX. The JDM spec WRX debuted in 1992 packing a nifty turbocharger. It had twin viscous differentials and all-wheel drive. It came with a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine, with 237 horsepower and a five-second 0-60 mph time. It also was able to complete a quarter mile in 13 seconds. The JDM STi version came out in 1993 with 247 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds. The US' first WRX came in 2002. It had 227 horsepower out of its 2.0-liter engine, so in other words the US waited ten years to get a weaker engine, due probably to emissions. Apparently the US was fine with these changes, as Car and Driver put it on its top ten list for 2002-2003.
Injustice prevailed though, as not until 2004 would the US get its very own STi. One of the primary differences between the USDM WRX engine and the JDM engine is the fact that its closed deck, which is much stronger than the US' open deck. It won't warp as easily so it's better for boost and more robust. Aside from being right hand drive, the JDM and USDM WRXs are almost the same, save for minor differences like the front grill.
The E36 BMW M3 is the most criminal on the list. Produced from 1992-99, it wasn't even supposed to come out in the US. In Germany, its engine, based on the M50 platform, got individual throttle bodies and BMW's VANOS valve timing system. All this gave the car 240 horsepower out of 3.0 liters. After a rigorous letter campaign and no doubt much deliberation the M3 finally came to the US in 1995 but was altered to be without all of that awesome engine technology. In order to sell appropriately at a price based on how much it would cost to manufacture, the US got the older, more basic M50. This didn't make a difference for performance numbers.
The US version made the same amount of horsepower as Europe's 1992 M3. It was popular though, as almost the same amount of cars were made in the US as in Europe but in half the time. The US might have gotten the E36 M3 in 1995, with the same specs as the 1992 Euro-spec version, but by that time the Eurospec had evolved. In 1995, the European M3 got the 3.2-liter engine, producing over 300 horsepower and a six-speed transmission. Sure the US got the 3.2-liter engine eventually, but was stiffed the extra power. The US 3.2-liter still made 240 horsepower.
Fourth down this list is the Evo. Yes the US did get the Evo VIII, but it took more than 10 years for it to happen. Before the Evo VIII got to the US there had already been seven other generations, with the car winning rally races since gen two. The Evo VIII wasn't altered for performance, admittedly, but for a time the US was denied a rally car in the form of this twin scroll turbocharged rally sedan, bred from generations of a race car tuned specifically for rally racing. It certainly is a great injustice, especially considering the WRX came out three years prior. The only difference between the two versions is a tune, as the JDM Evo makes 300 horsepower, where the US' makes 290.
The final (and perhaps most appalling example) is the 1988 Nissan 180SX. In the US the 180SX came out under the 240SX badge in 1989 with a 2.4-liter inline-four, producing around 130 horsepower. The JDM-spec 180SX came with either a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter inline-four or a different option. The naturally aspirated engine made just about as much power as the 2.4-liter unit. However, the JDM 180SX received an additional option in the form of a turbocharged 2.0-liter CA18DET engine producing 174 horsepower. This engine wasn't sold in the states, but it is illegal to have, at least in California. Thanks to emissions regulations the engine will not pass a legitimate smog test.
Crueler realizations have never been met. In fact the 240SX in the US never got its turbocharger. The only difference the US' 2.4-liter engine ever saw was the switch from single overhead cam (SOHC) to dual overhead cam (DOHC) for the 1991 model. The DOHC engine was kept until 1998 when the car was discontinued.