The sports-performance image leader in Nissan’s fleet, the 300ZX, had a striking, original shape to announce its thrilling dynamic capabilities. And none of this came about by happy accident. The car was fresh and fast exactly because Nissan set out to repair the Z-cars reputation.
Previous Z & ZX-series automobiles evolved from The famed 240Z of 1970. But while keeping a 6-cylinder power and long hood, fastback styling, the cars grew steadily softer and fatter. Maybe the target buyers were doing the same, in the auto business, sporty images are often toned down over time to broaden a product’s appeal. But by the mid-1980s, enough people of influence within Nissan had recognized that their yaunted sports car was no longer taken seriously as anything but a boulevard Cruiser.
This realization coincided nicely with the beginnings of a far-reaching renovation of product and process in the house of Nissan. So the stage was set for the making of a new generation ZX that would break from recent tradition and capture the spirit of the original Z, reinterpreting it in modern performance and stylistic terms.
Part of the modernization, unfortunately, showed up in the weight specs and in the price tag; the high excitement twin-turbo version punches through the 3000 lb and $30,000 ceiling as smugly as it did the 6-second 0-to-60mph barrier. But you can accept that as part of the deal, because the 1990 300ZX turbo also had poise, refinement, comfort, and quality the likes of which this market segment had never seen. Yes it took 300 horsepower to all this mass, but the boosted 3-liter V6 generated that power smoothly, almost casually, and without excessive turbo lag, noise, or fuel consumption. And yes it took a clever and complex suspension to make this beast feel light and reactive in your hands, but the super HICAS rear steer affect accomplished that.
In the end, the brilliance of the 300ZX lied in its ability, one we saw more and more from Japan in the early 1990s- to deliver knockout performance without the compromises that used to demand.