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Used car review

Nissan 300 ZX Turbo

 

 

Once upon a time the world was ruled by Dinosaurs, Terrifying , Vicious, Lumbering beasts, barely evolved from the dawn of time , these creatures went by names like Healysaurus, and Triumph TeeRsaurus, but whilst the big creatures were trapped on their small Island devoid of the challenges to their superiority needed to evolve the species, the creatures on other Islands were developing at a far higher rate, These creatures were called strange names like Cro-Datsun and Toyota-thal.

When the new species began to outgrow their little Island they migrated across the water, and Armed with their large brains, team ethic and rapid evolvement, they began the slaughter of the Old lumbering beasts who stood in the way of their expansion. The fight should have been bloody and drawn out, but the Invaders were armed with a secret weapon, far more advanced than the clubs, rocks, claws and teeth of the opposition. That weapon was the Datsun 240Z and it devastated more British Midlands industry, than the Luftwaffae ever managed. And if that didn't kill all the opposition off, the Rapidly following upgraded 260Z mopped up the opposition.

The 280Z never made it over here , we had to wait until the 280 ZX appeared, but by then the sleek Samurai Coupe had turned into a Plump Geisha girl, by the time the 300 ZX appeared it was a Fat Ex-Geisha girl wearing Mr Ts jewellery. Other sleeker species had arrived and the Z car was now the lumbering Dinosaur, Over Evolved into a parody of its former self .

But the species wasn't ready to die off just yet , Under its new (old)  corporate guise of Nissan, it launched one last attack on the Z car theme , this time though it kept nothing of the old vehicle other than the mean streak embedded in its Gene's.

Hail the ZX300 the Z car that finally moved into the true super car bracket.
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Its unfortunate for the ZX that by the time it was launched, nobody could remember how good the original Z's had been. The ZX is a car desperately devoid of an image, fairly rare on British roads because nobody knows they exist, they are even overshadowed in Nissans own range by the Techno-Fest Skyline.

A look around a Japanese Import specialist will find you ranks of these, stunning performers at Mondeo prices, hopelessly ignored and overlooked by the uninformed, The ZX is almost in danger of becoming a cult car.


This example came in a rather unflattering Blue, which is a shame as the Red or the Black ones (especially the Black) look the biz, to me at least. In the blue though it is the ultimate street sleeper, innocuous looking (for its performance) and understated.

The sharp chiselled looks are just fine, though its quite deceptive, it looks big and wide, get next to it though and it appears Low, Low, Low. From the front its slightly reminisant of an Alpine A610. It looks aggressive from front, rear and 3/4 flank though side on its a bit Stealth come Supra

Best though is its T-Bar roof, one of the few things inherited from the 280/300zx. All the fun of a soft top, non of the leaking, scuttle shaking downsides.


Slipping inside it takes a little while to get comfortable. The steering wheel is non adjustably low set, but the seat is electric so you can drop it further, the downside of this is visibility is noticeable worsened and the electric adjusters are a touch fiddly. Still snuggling down into the tight leather seats the cabin rises up to meet you from all directions enclosing you like a fighter cockpit ( I should imagine). The minor controls all
look a bit intimidating comprised as they are of a single indicator stalk and a raft of multifunction roller dials and small soft touch control buttons. It all looks complicated but it is all at finger tip range so once your brain  has got used to it , its probably quite useful.

Despite the leather if your expecting an interior experience of the Ilk of something like a TVR or an Audi TT your going to be very disappointed, Its all well put together and fitted but it lacks any real or unique flair. That said its light years in front of the Mitsubishi 3000GT.

In Japanese terms the ZX is almost Lotus Elise Esque in its purity of design, it eschews the techno gobbledy gook computer control ride and drive path in favour of good old fashioned Front Engined, Rear wheel drive ,big numbered Turbo power.

3 Litres of 6 cylindered twin turbo push is almost a Japanese blueprint for super car engines nowadays, Japanese Law states 280 bhp max, so that's how much it gets. How much its good for if you chip the boost up , well your guess is as good as mine, 2 Litre 4 cylinder Japanese turbo motors can push out 300bhp reliably so you extrapolate it. Still its drizzling down so me thinks 280 donkeys might just suffice for today.

 

 

 

The one thing about all Japanese super cars, is that they are all benign enough for your "granny to go shopping in " well that's the established logic anyway. Its strangely something Japanese super cars are often criticized for, " They don't feel special at normal speeds" is the normal put down. Fine if you need pop eye steering, He-Man pedals, and railway points gear change to tell you the car is "SPECIAL", and have the motor skills of a circus juggler to balance the clutch and throttle, look elsewhere, if you just need the
Speedo needle to rotate as fast as possible for the least money look no further.


Anyway were driving through the traffic, the progressively powered steering giving just enough feel at lowish speeds , whilst being finger tip light at a crawl. The gear change is positive rather than slick, but gives a real feeling of solidity, your either in or out no ifs buts or maybes, Its a rare modern change , one that still gives the feeling that you have taken part in some mechanical process. The clutch is much the same positive, slightly meaty feeling, its not too difficult with modern hydraulics and friction materials to make a
light clutch hold 280 brake, but I still prefer it to feel like my left leg is doing something.

Off the round about through a 90 degree left-hander, up a short straight and in to a bend which unfurls gently, we are on light throttle, about 3000 rpm, cruising gently towards the lights 400 yards away. "benign enough for your granny to go shopping in " is drifting gently through my brain, slowly out my ears , then quickly downwards, where it promptly bites me in the Ass.

Turbos spin up, huge mid range kicks in , tyres lose overwhelming struggle with overpowering torque, rear end steps, not wiggles, steps out, WIDE, awaking me from my normal state of half slumbering stupor. Its caught fairly easily, but I don't need warning twice, and my new found respect has me keeping a tight grip on the wheel for the rest of the Journey. To be fair to the ZX it was on old tired tyres, and the drizzle was doing a good job of polishing the road to a fine sheen, but it does illustrate well what can go wrong, in a
rear driven car when you break grip as opposed to the fairly dumb, but safe action of a FWD car.

All this isn't to say the ZX is a bad handler, on the contrary, I'm fairly sure in the dry it would corner with a glued on like grip. In the wet it still displayed fine sharp accurate steering and when the turbos were not interfering would hold a curve with a perfectly flat riding poise.

Anyone who thinks 280 horses are not sufficient for most circumstances, probably needs their head testing. On modern trafficked roads, or in the wet its plenty, you would need to be faced by some very exotic competition, to lose a traffic light grand prix in this baby.

Raw figures don't really relate though how much grunt this car seems to push out through the mid range. Plenty of cars put out 250 plus brake, but it would be interesting to see the torque curves all graphed, because My bum keeps telling me its got a stack more than the opposition. It may be an illusion but its a convincing one, once the Turbos are on song you can ride along on the thunderous torque, barely needing to touch the gear change, to stomp most everything in sight.


The cabin is standard super-coupe wedged in front and useless rear. The rear seat could probably seat a couple of small children or double amputees at best. That's backed by a very average boot , but hey this is supposed to be an impractical super car, not an MPV so we can forgive such shortcomings. Visibility would be very good if it wasn't for the low set wheel forcing you far lower than necessary. Rear vision and vision through the big mirrors is excellent though, making tight manoeuvring a breeze , (not something all super cars are capable of).

As an everyday proposition the ZX probably is not quite as practical as the Mitsubishi 3000, though lack of gadgetry means its probably going to work out cheaper to run in the long term. But compared to the cost and stress of running something like a Porsche, TVR, or Lotus. Being a Nissan of course we would be very surprised if it wasn't stone axe reliable. Insurance is of course going to be a problem, but what fast car isn't. Okay it doesn't carry the Badge kudos of the specialist super car makers, but then it doesn't carry the inflated parts and servicing prices either.


So time to pick I've got a little money to spend, not fantasy car league but enough for something a bit flash, I've got the choice of a ZX, 3000GT , boring looking stuff like Imprezas or maybe a couple of obscure Japanese imports, or at a push perhaps an XJS what to buy, hmmmm , hmmmm, hmmmm, the ZX looks pretty good for the money to me.

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