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Wow...300 hp. Come on, let's all say it together: 300 hp. Kinda makes you feel warm and tingly all over, doesn't it?
Sorry. You'll have to forgive our self-indulgence. For those of us who remember the pre-fuel crisis '60s, there's just something about having 300 beasts under the hood that is simultaneously exhilarating and comforting.
That would explain why the Nissan 300ZX Turbo - the most powerful of 300ZX line - remains so popular among power enthusiasts despite the fact that several other bullets have shot onto the scene since this second-generation model was unleashed in 1989.
The 300ZX has undergone relatively few changes since then, aside from occasional styling refinements and mechanical tweaks to keep it current. The aerodynamic body lines and dramatically pointed nose are essentially the same as previous 300ZX incarnations.
To its credit, Nissan has successfully executed the delicate balancing act between classicism and variety by offering four separate variations on the venerated 300ZX body style: a 2-seater coupe, a 2+2 T-roof, a convertible and the T-roof 2-seater, which comes in normally aspirated and Turbo versions.
Styling refinements for 1995 include a body-colored front fascia and four new body-panel colors: Deep Purple Metallic, Arctic White Pearl, Cobalt Green Pearl and Anniversary Gold.
Our test model was base-priced at $41,799 and came stocked with an array of standard features including a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine. Standard performance features also included the valve-timing control system, sequential multi-point electronic fuel injection system with dual-plenum intake, 5-speed manual overdrive transmission, speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering, Super HICAS 4-wheel steering system, power 4-wheel vented disc brakes, anti-lock brake system and high-performance steel-belted radials.
Exterior standard features on our Turbo included cast alloy aluminum wheels, front air dam with twin intercooler inlets, heated power-remote mirrors, T-roof with removable tinted glass panels, body-colored rear spoiler and quad chrome-tipped exhaust finishers.
Among the high-comfort interior standard features were reclining front bucket seats, adjustable power seats with 3-position lumbar support, cut-pile carpeting (including the rear cargo area), cruise control, remote keyless entry, anti-theft security system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, side-window defoggers, turbo boost gauge, premium Bose audio system with cassette player; air conditioning and dual airbags.
The only optional items on our test Turbo were a leather seating package and a CD player.
What can we say? This aerodynamically buffeted baby looks as if it should be dodging asteroids in Alpha Centauri. From out front, the low-slung air dam gives the 300ZX a gaping, open-mouth look - befitting a predator that's salivating as it prepares to devour its prey.
Like more and more performance and sports cars these days, the 300ZX forsakes accented trim for single-color sleekness. It was only when we got close to our test model that we noticed the hard plastic window trim was jet black and not the same dark green color as the body panels. The mirror housings also extended from gun-metal gray body plates.
The high-performance tires provide plenty of rubber for a car that was born to roar into hard corners and execute slingshot starts. And stenciled into the hub of the stolid aluminum-alloy wheels is a stylized "N" - or is it a "Z?"
Around back, the rear deck lid pops open to reveal a small carpeted 6-in. deep storage well surrounded by enough space for perhaps a half-dozen shopping bags. A horizontal pillar-to-pillar post comes equipped with a pull-down shade that can be anchored to the bottom of the deck lid - thereby providing a protective cover to shield your valuables from overly inquisitive eyes.
OK, so entry into the cockpit is a bit of a scrunch, and we did bang our knees against the steering wheel. And yes, we bumped our head a few times while craning to look out the side window. But what do you expect? Like it's not enough that the 300ZX will send you hurtling through hyperspace? You want copious head- and legroom too?
If necessity is the mother of invention, then limited interior space is its father. Faced with the dimensional confines of a relatively compact performance machine, Nissan engineers have moved a few items around inside, to optimal effect. Instead of cramming the climate-control system into the same mid-dash space as the radio, for example, engineers have imbedded it into a modular housing directly to the right of the steering column. This way, the driver can make the necessary temperature adjustments without averting his or her eyes from the road for very long.
Visibility for lane changes is another story, however. The rear deck window is sloped so dramatically that it seriously compresses the rear-view perspective, and the situation is further impeded by the presence of a rear spoiler. Similarly, the thickness of the rear deck lid posts create a serious blind spot over the driver's left and right shoulders.
Hang onto your hats, fasten your seat belts and batten down the hatches, because when you're cruising in the 300ZX, you are definitely in the eye of the storm. If Nissan ever gets the urge to put more juice into this one - its 0-to-60 pace of 5.2 seconds tops the Porsche 911 - it's going to need FAA approval.
We were likewise awed by the Turbo's 283 lb.-ft. of torque at 3600 rpm, the assured and assertive shifting of the manual 5-speed gearbox and the confidence with which the 300ZX navigated twisty country roads at pulse-racing speeds.
Whatever the situation - whether launching from a dead stop, negotiating a tricky lane-changing maneuver on a busy freeway or accelerating out of a sweeping curve - the twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V6 never failed to deliver the power and performance demands we made upon it.
The Super HICAS 4-wheel steering system ensured that such maneuvers were sufficiently exciting without being too terribly dangerous. During emergency swerves or tight turns, the system's speed sensor and steering-wheel angle sensor worked in conjunction - adjusting the angle of the rear wheels to match the road surface and other driving conditions. This procedure added stability and let us avoid frantic fishtailing, thereby keeping us in control.
The multi-link suspension, hydraulic shocks, and front and rear stabilizer bars conspire to assure a tight, firm ride - perhaps too firm. After several hours of traversing the countryside on a Michigan autumn color tour, driver and all passengers were afflicted with achy tailbones, probably because we kept alternating between the two settings on the adjustable shocks.
The brakes, however, are fittingly grabby for a car with this much muscle. Our test car's brakes slowed us from 30 mph to an assertive, controlled halt in just under 3 seconds.
If you yearn to stand at the helm of a sled holding 300 unwieldy horses worth of turbo-charged power in your hands, the Nissan 300ZX will put you in hog heaven - if you'll pardon the mixed barnyard metaphors.
But the more earthbound types who value cavernous amounts of headroom, hiproom and legroom - or who are easily annoyed by neck-craning lane changes - might want to act their age and opt for something a bit more stately.
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