Any widely available car that has had its outer body modified to give the impression of a high performance vehicle.
Aesthetics such as large tailpipes, or “fart cannons,” spoilers, fake hood scoops, big rims, neon lighting strips, imitation badging, fake decals, loud exhaust systems, bright neon paint, and racing stripes ("go faster stripes") are added in an attempt to look fast and emulate professional race cars.
These modifications do not necessarily mean the car has any high performance capabilities. In fact, lowered suspensions, low-profile tires or poorly applied body kits can even add excessive weight and reduce the performance of these cars. Actual race cars have special low-weight bodies which are simply an extension of the car within, more than offseting any losses due to the excess material. Just adding the outer molding won't magically improve the engine. And since race cars don't have to deal with speedbumps or potholes, lowered suspensions and low-profile tires are just asking to be shredded on an average road.
The name may derive from the fact the cars so modified tend to be underpowered Japanese imports, especially Honda coupes. They are also called ricers, rice rockets, rice cars or rice cookers, all terms that should be used with caution because they have Unfortunate Implications, especially if the driver is Asian. The terms, however, originally refer to Japanese cars in general, just like how Italian cars are called pasta rockets for just being Italian. Similar American cars are sometimes given the appellation of wheat burner. In the UK, these cars are said to have been "chavved up", or called a "chavrolet" or "chaviot", a term which should also be used with caution, as it is considered a derogatory term for a Lower-Class Lout. (The drivers have been known for decades as "boy racers".) It has been claimed that the term RICE is an acronym for "Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement", but this is likely a backronym. In Russia, it is known as "ara-tuning" ("Armenian tuning"), hinting at its popularity in the countries and regions of Caucasus.
Such a vehicle contrasts sharply with a “Sleeper” or “Stealth” (known in the UK as a “Q-car” by extension from the naval “Q-ship,”) where the engine, brakes, suspension etc. have high performance modifications, but the outer appearance is of an ordinary stock model, even with body damage or rust.
A Sub-Trope of Pimped-Out Car. Many times invoked/parodied/referenced as an argument against car modification in general. The rough equivalent for trucks and SUVs is the Hummer Dinger.
See also Itasha for the Otaku variant.
Nicely sent up in an advertisement for microwaveable snacks, showing young people meeting to show off their microwaves, complete with flame jobs, spoilers and sound systems.
A series of T-Mobile To Go commercials made fun of this trope, creating a Poser Mobile with a super low profile, gold/flourescent paint, giant "hood rocket," and roof and rear spoiler.
Volkswagen had an ad campaign for the VW Golf GTI that mocked the Rice Burner phenomenon, where Peter Stormare would “unpimp ze auto” in a rather destructive fashion, butchering rapper speak the whole time with a fake German accent.
A later commercial had a middle-aged woman drive to the store in a riced-out Honda Del Sol. The car features a garish paint job and a body kit (which is not painted the same as the rest of the car). The trunk is occupied by a large stereo system preventing the woman from putting her groceries inside. After she gets home, her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend get home in a Volkswagen Touran and he exchanges keys with the mother. As he leaves, the boyfriend asks "Why do we have to take your mom's car?"
A Snapple commercial had two factory workers put various toys and little lights on the Snapple bottles. With the end of the commercial being the foreman explaining to the workers that it was what's inside of Snapple that made it the best tea on earth.
An Australian ad for Medibank Private (a health insurance company) has one of the actors sitting in front of a car like this (with the neon lighting strips lit up) saying how he doesn't want to spend money on stuff he doesn't need.
Takumi Fujiwara's car in Initial D is an aversion to the trope (the only cosmetic changes it undergoes are work-related; the car doubles as a delivery car). The series as a whole has examples that span the entire range between Rice Burner and Sleeper Car.
Later on in the series, it does get at least one Rice Burner modification - specifically, a carbon-fiber hood. Of course, this is after Takumi blows the original engine and his father puts in a Group A racing engine, and he joins Ryosuke Takahashi's super-team “Project D,” which is comprised of the best amateur racers in Gunma Prefecture. And even then it's still pretty much a Sleeper, between the tofu shop advertisements and the general body panel damage.
The hood change is described as functional, as it is yet another way of reducing the weight of the car, while keeping its overall balance. It arrives after lighter front and rear lights, a fiberglass rear hatch and tweaked suspensions. Unfortunately, paint doesn't really sticks on heated carbon fiber, or else Takumi&CO would have probably painted the thing white... they have really no reason to publicize any deviation of the '86 from its original specs; although, by the time the hood comes around, plenty of data have already been collected by various rival teams.
One story arc in Over Rev deals with the "Stock Car Wolf," an aspiring auto engineer who was obsessed with his father's "perfect" designs to the point that when his car was stolen and vandalized into a Rice Burner, he turned into a Knight Templar who challenged owners of modded cars to race against his stock model, with the stipulation that if (when) they lost, their cars would be taken and stripped of their mods. It takes losing to a "super stock" car - one that has been "modded" with subtle improvements to the original parts (in reality, restoring the original vision of the car engineers, before the marketing department messed up the specs) - to make him see reason.
The difference is, though, that those customizations are done by professionals who know how to finely tune the car's performance to make the spoilers practical.
However, that didn't prevent the producers from suggesting extremely inane and impractical modifications like having an in-car fishtank or a set of PSP conveyor belts in the trunk, the source of the "Yo dawg, I heard you like X" meme. This led to West Coast Customs leaving the show.
Evaluated on Top Gear, when the presenters attempt to get a Renault Avantime as fast as a Mitsubishi Evo. In addition to more thoroughgoing work like adding new brakes and suspension, Richard Hammond bolts on a large spoiler (which merely slows the car down). After failing to get the Avantime up to the Evo's speed, the presenters conclude that most of the money and effort spent on tuning cars is wasted.
Another challenge had a hill-climb between a pimped-out Peugeot 306 and an 1963 Austin Healey Sprite. In keeping with the trope, the Healey won it.
However, the race was pretty close and much of the Peugeot's pimping involved giving it a massively oversized engine. Unfortunately the car was unable to apply more than about 1/3rd of the horsepower it generated to the road. Partially this trope then, but not entirely: the changes made to the car were also functional.
In the "find the perfect car for a 17-year-old" challenge, Richard Hammond fitted his car with a body kit. Needless to say, it didn't stay attached very long.
When the presenters went to a drag strip in the USA with a Lexus LFA, the new Aston Martin Vanquish and an SRT Viper and saw that they were up against young people in Mitsubishis and Subarus, they assumed that their victory was a foregone conclusion based on this trope. They discovered that their super cars were useless because their opponents had put as much effort into the engine bay as they had on the bodywork.
Due to the rules of the show, Monster Garage was an inversion of this. For all of the modifications they did, the cars had to look stock, barring any obvious changes that were needed because of what kind of monster they were making that week.
One such monster was the Honeybee Drift Car, one of the world's most uncool cars (Jesse liked it for that very reason), which was gutted and filled with the insides of a Nissan 350Z. At one point, they noticed the two cars has different wheel bases and the 350Z's tires would be sticking out of the Honneybee's chassis; Jesse said the whole point of the build was to keep the Honeybee's uncool look, while giving it the heart of a beast.
Every Need for Speed game from Underground to Undercover. Especially when you do it without putting any actual performance upgrades into the car first.
Worst of all, they don't affect performance whatsover - positive or negative, with the exception of ProStreet, in which they add drag, downforce and weight.
The two Underground games enforced it with the "star rating": the more expensive your body work or your paint job was, the more stars you had. The first game used the star rating as a multiplier for your in-game score; the second game, meanwhile, enforced a minimum star rating in order to advance to the next stage of the storyline.
The Midnight Club series has a few of these in the first two games, but the trope really starts to become prevalent in DUB Edition, where you'll find legions of AI racers with riced vehicles. The AI becomes more tasteful about designing their rides in Los Angeles, though.
And that's not even getting into the cars players can create in DUB Edition and Los Angeles. Giant spinners and underglow on a Lamborghini Murcielago, anyone?
Forza Motorsport has a paint editor that lets you rice up cars. Quite a few people spent more time putting Lucky Starcharacters on their cars and selling them in in-game auctions than they did actually racing them. Along with that, many of the less exotic cars have a number of body kit and spoiler options, though most are lighter than the stock body parts on the car.
Chan Jaoming seems to embody this spirit in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. During one mission Huang has to disable other cars in a street race so that Chan's flashy-but-terrible car can win.
Customizing was one of the new features made available in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - though some cars are much better suited to it (hint: an actual sports car can take more modifications and already goes fast anyway). In keeping with the trope, most of these will make no difference whatsoever to the car's performance, a notable exception being the Nitro Boost.
In Saints Row 2, absurdly extravagant modifications are available for pimping out the most mediocre rides.
This is probably a Take That aimed at a certain rolling stock operating company who painted one of these historic locomotives in its in-house colours, which didn't look a whole lot better.◊ Railfans in the UK were not amused.
There was a time when Volvo thought a great way of patronizing a whole generation of buyers was by releasing versions of their cars that came prepackaged with this crap.
Some PC enthusiasts use "ricer" as a term referring to extravagantly pimped-out PCs where people have paid a fortune to load up on cosmetic things like LEDs, when that money could have gone towards actually improving performance.