Its no wonder Car and Driver called it “A phoenix missile you can guide yourself.”
One of the first cars to be designed in a Computer Design program (CAD) with aerodynamics as a priority would look different than any other car to ever be conceived. The sweeping nose into the large, exaggerated wheel arches gives the Nissan 300zx, a performance Grand Touring car, the look of the much more expensive super cars from Lamborghini and Ferrari. Even today the design of the 300zx has held up to the test of time and still looks absolutely brilliant. The design was so refined that Lamborghini, after being purchased from Audi, bought rights to use the 300zx’s headlights on their 6th generation Diablo, one of the most iconic super cars of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The 300zx offers the best balance between performance, practicality, and price.
Getting into the car is a bit like purposely falling onto the pavement. The suspension is so low some may have difficulty getting into or out of the car. This however leads to great fun later on. Once I got into the car surrounded by leather and velour, I could understand why this car was classified as a GT car and not a super car, it’s comfortable, the one thing super cars were not. There’s automatic climate control, more seat adjustments than a dentist’s chair, heated windows and mirrors, Bose stereo, and on the Twin Turbo, T-Top roofing. The seats are bucket style racing seats with large adjustable side supports to help hold you in place under fast cornering, something the 300zx also does extremely well. The cockpit, and I’m calling it that on purpose, is one of the most beautiful in the sports car world. All the materials used blend together to form an orgy of pure function and fashion. All buttons usually placed in the center console of a normal car are instead placed on either side of the steering wheel much like the cockpit of a plane. The simplicity of the dash is what makes it beautiful and sophisticated at the same time and it’s a great space to be in.
Behind the dash and firewall sits Nissan’s new VG series engine. It is a three litre V6 twin turbocharged engine manufacturing 300 horsepower. To control all of this power the car sits very low to the ground and has independent suspension as well as rear wheel steering. This allows the car to travel through corners at .91 G’s before the corner turns into a drift, hence the seat supports. That’s the same level of g-forces as a modern 2016 race-spec Corvette produces when cornering. In order to be able to push the car through a corner like this there must be power, and there’s plenty of it.
The five speed manual gearbox delivers the whopping 300 horsepower to the rear wheels resulting in a lot of burnt rubber if you look at the clutch funny. Driving this car hard is one of the best experiences that I have had in driving ever, and I have driven a 400 horsepower Dodge Challenger. If executed correctly, releasing the clutch at just the right RPM will lead to acceleration from 0-60 in a blistering five seconds. That’s quick enough to beat your friend to the next red light and still have time to select your favorite track on your CD player before he catches up.
Part of this acceleration is due to the fact that the car was designed in a wind tunnel with computer design software and has a gearbox so solid and refined it feels like running a butcher’s knife through butter. The car’s aerodynamic design helps to channel air onto the rear spoiler of the car to force the rear tires into the road to maintain grip. The aerodynamic nature of the car also forces air flowing over the hood of the car to travel so seamlessly that there isn’t any wind noise or turbulence when reaching the top speed of 160 miles per hour. Nissan nailed the performance and design of this car and the proof lies in its racing heritage. The 300zx won 24 hours of Daytona in 1994, 12 hours of Sebring in 1995, and Mosehead Grand Prix in 1995 just to name a few.
So the 300zx is comfortable, easy to handle, and blisteringly fast. But how practical is it? The answer is very. The 300zx coupe has enough room in the trunk to fit two large men into quite easily. To accompany the amount of cargo space is also, surprisingly, 24 miles to the gallon. Granted, when refueling, premium fuel is required, however, that number is astounding for a car that will blow the socks off a Mustang from the same generation.
Excellent cargo space, fuel economy, luxury, speed, and handling. What more could someone ask for in a car designed to be a performance Grand Tourer. Unfortunately all of these features are not free however. The Nissan 300zx Twin Turbo comes in at $43,579 US. That’s a steep price to pay when a Corvette of the same year costs $10,000 US less. But the Corvette just can’t compete with the 300zx because the Nissan isn’t just about going fast like the Corvette. The 300zx is a car that can be driven to the outskirts of Hell allowing you to give the devil an evil grin and after all that can be toned down to become comfortable, practical, and most of all luxurious. So, whether it’s a “Phoenix Missile” or a dignified luxury GT car the 300zx will impress even the most stubborn of petrol heads and that is why it will go down as one of the greats.