As for JDM cars, and Nissan more specifically, legendary models such as virtually all generations of GTRs, the 350Z or 370Z, or perhaps even many Silvia variants, are usually what come to mind first. However, there is another vehicle that emerged from Nissan’s factories nearly 40 years ago, and while many car enthusiasts may have at least heard of it, it still remains under the JDM radar.
We’re talking about the twin-turbo Nissan 300ZX, a masterpiece of machinery that quickly rose to the pinnacle of sports car performance in its day, boasting great power and better looks, in addition to being also highly customizable.
The 300ZX is the predecessor of the legendary 350Z and 370Z models, but it could be even better than its younger siblings when fully analyzed. It has immense mechanical prowess in a highly desirable and advanced package, and even today driving one would no doubt prove immensely enjoyable. Let’s get into the details.
Two 300ZX generations: Z31 and Z32
The first generation 300ZX was rated Z31 after its initial release in 1983, and it underwent a 6-year production run during which almost 330,000 units of the model were sold mostly in overseas markets. Its top-spec version came in the form of a 3.0-liter turbo V6 that developed 229 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The 4-seater RWD coupe could go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 miles per hour.
In 1989, Nissan unveiled the second generation Z32 300ZX, featuring a redesigned exterior and new engine options. Even though only around 164,000 were produced, it comfortably outperformed its predecessor in every aspect and became one of the most popular sports coupes of its time.
300ZX Twin-Turbo Performance Specs
Two power options were made available by Nissan on the second generation 300ZX. Both featured a 3.0-liter V6 with variable valve timing and dual overhead camshafts, but one added two turbos and two intercoolers to the mix for a total output of 300 horsepower and 283 pounds. – torque foot. The twin-turbo, which could be mated to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic transmission, could erupt from rest to 60mph in around 5.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 155mph, although several tests have claimed it could actually hit 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. That’s a scary performance for a vehicle that’s nearly four decades old.
The Nissan 300ZX Twin-Turbo offers impressive driving dynamics
Power and good looks weren’t the only things the second-gen 300ZX brought to the table, as thankfully, extremely capable handling abilities were also part of the package. The Twin-Turbo Nissan 300ZX featured four-wheel steering in an RWD configuration, which was virtually unheard of in most cars at the time, and in fact is still a fairly rare feature even today. today. Add to that a relatively light body and ultra-precise steering, and you had a vehicle with impeccable handling, comparable to Porsches without the slightest exaggeration.
The only notable downsides to the performance of the twin-turbo 300ZX were turbo lag issues early in the rev range and brake fade. However, it’s worth mentioning that when fully grown, the 300ZX’s brakes were more than capable.
The 300ZX is beautiful inside and out
The second-generation Nisan 300ZX is, in all honesty, immensely beautiful no matter what perspective you choose to look at it from. The newly designed body featured sleek rectangular headlights up front on a slanted nose that fed into a muscular and aggressive bumper. The curvy side view highlighted the 300ZX’s sleek stance and aerodynamic shape, leading to a winged rear end with handsome dual exhausts and a protruding bumper, complete with an iconic 4-line taillight setup.
The cabin inside the 300ZX was padded and trimmed with feel-good materials throughout, the seats were comfortable and grippy, and the driver’s seating position was perfect. The technology was as good as you could ask for at the time, with easily accessible and easy to use cockpit controls.
In short, the second-generation 300ZX twin-turbo Nissan Z32 was the best sports car you could buy at the time and at its price. It was virtually flawless in every important aspect, both in terms of handling and comfort, proving to be one of the best executed Nissan vehicles to date. With a starting price of $36,000 in 1991 (equal to $78,000 today), the 300ZX was by no means cheap, but it was worth more than every penny.