The Nissan 300ZX is – in our view – one of the “unsung heroes” of 1990s Japanese performance motoring.
Ok, prices have been skyrocketing of late and they are rapidly approaching classic status (if not already there – read our article here on whether or not the 300ZX will become a classic) but they have never quite achieved the same cachet as the Nissan Skyline GTR, Toyota Supra, or Mazda RX7.
This is perhaps because the 300ZX was a bit more of a GT-type car, at least with regards to handling.
However, you cannot deny that the 300ZX was a very stylish and attractive car in its day, and continues to be one of the most aesthetically-appealing designs that Nissan has ever produced.
A lot of time has passed since the 300ZX was first launched (particularly the Z32, which most of us think of when imagining the 300ZX).
First launching in the late 1980s, the 300ZX well-received and considered a very strong performer in its day. Nonetheless, car technology has evolved and developed substantially in this time. The levels of performance that the 300ZX were able to achieve in its heyday might not be seen as so impressive now.
But are 300ZX fast?
In this edition of Car Facts we take a look at the Nissan 300ZX (Z32) to determine if it is still a fast car by today’s standards.
Performance “standards” have moved on substantially since George Bush Sr was still sat in the White House – so how does the 300ZX stack up?
Nissan 300ZX 0-60mph Time
The easiest way to see if 300ZX are fast is to look at 0-60mph (100kph) acceleration times.
Whether the 300ZX is quick around a track or not is much more difficult to ascertain, in the sense that you have more variables to control.
In this article we are primarily focused on whether or not the 300ZX is a quick car in terms of straight line acceleration.
With the Nissan 300ZX, it’s also important to bear in mind that not all examples are turbocharged. In fact, there are many naturally aspirated 300ZX out there, so we will look at the acceleration performance of both the twin turbocharged and naturally aspirated variants.
From our research, these seemed to be the most accurate figures we could find:
- Twin turbo manual – 5.3 seconds (although we have seen as low as 5 seconds flat quoted)
- Twin turbo automatic – 5.8 seconds
- Naturally aspirated manual – 6.5 seconds
- Naturally aspirated automatic – 6.8 seconds (we have seen has high as 7.1 seconds quoted)
Please note that these are the most reliable figures we can find from our research. It’s entirely plausible (in fact likely) that there are performance differences between various manufacturing years, and even sale regions. 0-60 times can also be affected greatly by the tyres used in the performance test, the skill of the driver and even temperature/weather conditions.
In fact, this raises an extremely important point when considering how fast the 300ZX is (or any car for that matter). 0-60/100 acceleration times are notoriously difficult to “standardise” and replicate accurately. It’s not uncommon to see variations in outcome of up to half a second.
What matters is that even by today’s standards, the 300ZX remains an impressive performer.
Consider that the Nissan 370Z Nismo (the best Z-Car that you can still buy – and therefore the closest modern equivalent to the 300ZX) completes the 0-60mph dash in around 5 seconds, you really aren’t losing much in the way of acceleration performance if you compare the twin turbo model of the 300ZX.
If the 300ZX can still “hold its own” with a modern performance car from the same manufacturer, it’s hard to call it a slow car.
Conclusion – Are 300ZX Fast?
The Nissan 300ZX is still a fast car by today’s standards, particularly the twin turbocharged model (remember, not all 300ZX are twin turbo).
The naturally-aspirated model is not quite so impressive, but coming in at about 6.5 seconds for one with a manual transmission it is still going to be quicker than the majority of cars on the road.
The low-to-the-ground nature of the 300ZX, combined with its relative lack of driver aids that you might find in a modern performance car are also going to help to make it feel faster than it is.
Do bear in mind that time and mileage will have taken their toll on all but the best condition/maintained Nissan 300ZX examples.
Therefore, don’t be shocked if you buy a 300ZX and it isn’t quite as quick to 60mph/100kph as claimed. Also bear in mind that acceleration time figures are notoriously unreliable for a whole host of factors.
There is no doubt that the top end of the performance car market has definitely “moved on” from what was considered very impressive in the 1990s. We now have super hatchbacks like the Audi RS3 capable of dispatching 0-60mph in 4 seconds (even less if some tests are to be believed). This is performance that was beyond the vast majority supercars of the 300ZX era … and in some respects this insanely accessible performance has warped our perception of what fast actually is. While there’s no doubt that even fairly mundane family cars are now able to accelerate at a pace that was reserved for sports/performance cars in the 1990s, the 300ZX still holds its own very well.
If you are thinking of buying one of these awesome cars, then make sure you read our Nissan 300ZX buyer’s guide here before taking the plunge. In this comprehensive guide we walk you through finding and buying a great example of the 300ZX. With prices climbing on these cars, it’s important that you source and secure a good example, rather than wasting your cash on a potential money pit!
We would also love to hear your opinion. Do you think the 300ZX is fast? Leave a comment below – it would be great to hear from you.