If there's ever been a Nissan worthy of an E! True Hollywood Story, it's the Z. It's all there: instant fame upon its debut, lots of sex (OK, maybe sexy bodywork is more accurate), an unsavory weight gain, a turn to anonymity, a wrongful death and then, finally, miraculous rebirth.
Playing a starring role in all of this is the fourth-generation Nissan 300ZX. Debuting for the 1990 model year, the 300ZX was the quickest, fastest and best-handling Z to date. Even when viewed from a modern-day perspective, the top model, the 300ZX Twin Turbo, still has a dazzling stat sheet. To wit: a twin-turbo V6 engine belting out 300 horsepower, a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension and available "Super HICAS" rear-wheel steering. Depending on which published road test you look at, the 300ZX Twin Turbo could reach 60 mph between 5 and 6 seconds flat.
The Nissan 300ZX could also outrun just about every competitor at the time. It couldn't, however, outrun fate. The car's costly technological hardware combined with the U.S. dollar's weakness against the yen in the mid-'90s drove the price up, effectively killing this former sports car bargain. Nissan stopped importing the 300ZX to the U.S. after the '96 model year.
For someone interested in a used sports car, this 300ZX and its depreciated pricing are very tempting. But there are caveats. Though the car has a pretty good reputation for reliability, Nissan did pack a lot of technology into it that can go wrong. And since it's a sports car, the odds of finding one that hasn't been wrecked, beat on or modified by a dim-witted previous owner are quite slim. Make sure you do a thorough inspection and obtain as much of the car's history as possible before considering a purchase.
Most recent Nissan 300ZX
There were four models available for the fourth-generation Nissan 300ZX: a coupe, a "2+2" coupe, a convertible (from 1993 and up) and the 300ZX Twin Turbo coupe. The 2+2 had an approximately 5-inch-longer wheelbase to provide room for two vestigial rear seats.
Regular 300ZXs came with a 3.0-liter V6 that produced 222 hp and 198 pound-feet of torque. The Turbo had a modified version of the same engine. Thanks to intercooling and a single turbo for each cylinder bank, it produced 300 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Power was applied to the rear wheels through a standard five-speed transmission and limited-slip differential. A four-speed automatic was optional. Turbo models fitted with the automatic were rated at 280 hp.
The Z coupe's hatchback body style provided a fair amount of utility, and the roof could be either solid or a T-top design with removable panels. In its first few years, the Nissan 300ZX consistently impressed reviewers with its attractive styling, power and handling performance. If there were complaints, they usually involved the car's curb weight, which hit 3,500 pounds in Twin Turbo form.
Changes to this generation Nissan 300ZX were minimal. In 1992, a driver-side front airbag became standard. The following year was the first year for the convertible. In 1994, Nissan made a passenger-side airbag standard. For the car's final year of 1996, Nissan discontinued the Turbo model's variable camshaft timing. Horsepower was still rated at 300, though some Z enthusiasts claim there was a slight actual power drop because of the change.
For information about the previous-generation 300ZX and a complete history of the Nissan Z, please view our Nissan Z Car history page.