The Nissan 300ZX Turbo Kicked Off A New Era Of Japanese Performance


The 90s ruled, and not only because of Super Nintendo.

Nissan launched a new Z car, internally called the Z32, in 1989 and it was immediately clear from its exterior design alone that this car had great potential. In the US, it was billed as the 300ZX, and today it’s rightly earned its status as a representative of a new class of Japanese high-performance sports cars. But it was in 1990 when the twin-turbo 300ZX came out, and it had a 78-hp advantage over the NA version. Speaking of which, under its hood was a 3.0-liter V6 and with the turbos added produced 300 hp and 283 lb-ft of torque.

When Motor Week reviewed it that year, it’s only real competition was the C4 Corvette, but that was about to change. The 1990s are often regarded as the golden era of game changing Japanese performance. We’re referring to the likes of the Mitsubishi 3000GT, Toyota Supra Turbo, and the first generation Acura NSX.

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While the 300-hp Nissan 300ZX may not have been quite as exotic as those rivals, it still packed quite a punch. It was also a more sophisticated car over the C4 (which wasn’t a particularly hard thing to accomplish, let’s be honest). The twin-turbo 300ZX featured some advanced tech for its time, such as optional four-wheel steering. Styling wise, it was actually one of the first production cars to have been designed with the aid of a supercomputer running CAD software. The 1990 Nissan 300ZX was a sophisticated machine (for a then base price of $33,000 it ought to have been) and, along with its upcoming Japanese comrades, proved American sports cars had some catching up to do.

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