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Ten factory hot rods we think manufacturers could and should build

Since about the time General Motors dropped a massive V8 into the Pontiac Tempest to make the GTO, manufacturers have been taking existing bits and pieces to make factory hot rods. That proven formula is a win-win solution for enthusiasts and automakers. We get fun new cars, and car companies don't have to spend much to create them.

That being said, sometimes it seems like manufacturers forget about this possibility, leaving some really great vehicles without performance variants, that to us seem really easy to bring to market. With this in mind, we've compiled a list of ten cars we like that would be even better if they got some love from the parts bin.

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Subaru BRZ with WRX flat-four

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We love the BRZ and its corporate twin, the Toyota 86. However, many people wish there was an option for more factory power. There is a relatively simple way Subaru could fulfill these enthusiast's wishes: the WRX's turbocharged flat-four engine. The  WRX version has a turbo and makes 268 horsepower, but is otherwise pretty similar to the BRZ's naturally-aspirated engine. The top mounted intercooler system might make for a bit of a packaging challenge, but there's always the front-mount solution. BRZ fans have been asking for this for years. Subaru, isn't it time you gave them their wish?

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subaru brz
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Jeep Wrangler with EcoDiesel V6

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The Jeep Wrangler is about the best off-roader you can buy in America right now. You know what's great for off-roading? Torque. You know what has lots of torque? Diesel engines. So you can probably also guess that a diesel-powered Wrangler would be a match made in heaven, and the better fuel economy would be icing on the cake. For some reason, though, FCA has yet to give us one. It would be easier now than ever before, since the company offers a VM Motori diesel V6 in the Ram EcoDiesel. The good news is that FCA may have finally figured this out, as a Wrangler test mule was recently spotted making diesel noises.

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jeep wrangler
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Mazda3 with CX-9 turbo inline-four

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What we have here is a serious no-brainer for Mazda. It would be tremendously easy to build a high-performance 3 out of parts bin powertrains, thanks to the recently-launched CX-9. The company already has a turbocharged four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and a seriously impressive 310 lb-ft of torque, which is well within range of other hot hatches. On top of that, an engineer revealed that it fits very comfortably in the 3 and the 6. If Mazda really felt ambitious, they could probably even add the CX-9's AWD system, which clearly can handle the power. Come on Mazda, give us the Mazdaspeed3 we've been waiting for, and give the Subaru WRX another real competitor now that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo is no more.

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mazda mazda3
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Cadillac ATS with Camaro SS V8

Now we already know the Cadillac ATS has a high-performance variant in the ATS-V. However, as good as the twin-turbo V6 is in that car, the 455-horsepower V8 in the Camaro is such a fantastic engine. It sounds amazing at full tilt as well, without resorting to piping in fake noises from the speakers. And since the Camaro and ATS share the same platform and base powertrains, it should be an easy swap. As for how it could be marketed, perhaps GM could crank out some extra power from the ATS-V, and then sell a V8 version as the V-Sport model.

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cadillac ats
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Honda Fit with Honda Accord Sport inline-four

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The Honda Fit is, in many ways, the company's most amazing car. It combines a stunning amount of space in a manageable, efficient package, and even manages to be reasonably fun to drive. The newest one is a bit duller than previous versions, but imagine what it'd be like with the Honda Accord Sport's 189-horsepower four-cylinder. It might be a tight fit (no pun intended), but a version of the Accord's engine was in the Civic for the Si, and the old Civic's standard engine is in the current HR-V. The HR-V is based on the Fit platform, so in a roundabout way, this might work. A Honda Fit Type R would be pretty wild.

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honda fit
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Chevrolet Cruze with Malibu 2.0-liter turbo inline-four

We've been long overdue for a real performance compact from Chevrolet. In fact, it's been six years since the excellent Cobalt SS left the market. An entire generation of Cruze came and went without a sporty variant. We think it's high time this changed, and the current Malibu has a perfect engine for it. The turbo 2.0-liter engine in the midsize sedan makes 250-horsepower. That would be a little less than the last Cobalt SS, but we imagine GM engineers could coax a bit more out of the engine. Put it in the Cruze hatchback, and Chevy has a perfect cross-town rival for the Focus ST.

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chevrolet cruze
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Hyundai Elantra Sport with Sonata 2.0L turbo I4

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We haven't had a chance to drive the Elantra Sport yet, but it seems like a decent sporty entry in the economy-car segment. However, we think Hyundai can do better than the 201-horsepower turbo 1.6-liter four-cylinder. Why? Well, Hyundai has a turbo 2.0-liter four in the Sonata that makes an extra 44 horsepower. That would put the Elantra squarely in the high-performance compact realm. The good news is, we'll probably be seeing a faster Elantra soon, since the company will be releasing an N version of the i30, which will come here as the Elantra GT.

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hyundai elantra
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Chevrolet Colorado with Camaro SS V8

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Like the Cadillac you just read about, the Colorado shares a V6 with the Chevrolet Camaro, as well as many other GM products. This means that we're pretty sure it wouldn't be too difficult to drop the Camaro SS's V8 into the engine bay of Chevy's littlest pick-up. In a lowered, 2WD version, it would be an awesome hot rod truck in the vein of the Dodge Ram SRT-10, or the Colorado's distant relative, the GMC Syclone. It could even be put into the upcoming ZR2 off-road variant to become a mini SVT Raptor.

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chevrolet colorado
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Jaguar XE with F-Type R V8

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The Jaguar XE is the company's lightest and smallest entry. It happens to be quite enjoyable to drive in its present forms, too. But in the same way we love the absurd, 707-horsepower Charger Hellcat, we'd love to see Jaguar stuff the F-Type R's beastly V8 into the little XE – call it a Hellkitten, if you will. It should be relatively straightforward as well, since the XE shares powertrains and a platform with the XF, and Jaguar told Australian publication Drive that the new chassis is capable of fitting a V8. Think of it as a good candidate for an XE-R model to go after the Germans in the high-performance realm. Of course the odds of it happening are slim, since the company hasn't even given the bigger, more prestigious XF an extra-fast version yet.

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jaguar xe
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Nissan Versa Note with Juke NISMO turbo inline-four

The Nissan Versa Note is a thoroughly competent car. It's spacious, economical and in the SR variant pictured here, it looks nice. It's not terribly exciting though. That could be rectified by making a NISMO version with the Juke NISMO's turbocharged 197-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder. In fact, in doing so, the Versa Note would become a better car than its donor. It comes in at a few hundred pounds lighter, and it's far more practical. It wouldn't be as funky, but it would probably be more fun. 

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nissan versa note
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