The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were the ‘golden era’ of the Japanese automotive industry, with sports car after sports car rolling off the production line from a host of the nation’s manufacturers.
Mazda had it’s unique turbocharged rotary powered RX7, Mitsubishi revealed its GTO/3000GT across the globe and Toyota launched the twin-turbo RZ Supra to take the fight up to Nissan’s renowned ‘Godzilla’ R32 Skyline GT-R.
But parked alongside these ‘JDM monsters’ was another beast, the Nissan Z32 300ZX – or Fairlady Z – a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 produced from 1989 to 2000 for the Japanese market.
Nissan’s 300ZX was the first vehicle marketed following the introduction of what is known as the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’, where Japanese vehicle manufacturers agreed no production car would have more than 206kW of power.
This led to car makers de-tuning or restricting their cars’ power levels, which was quickly able to be unlocked through aftermarket parts such as intercoolers, exhausts, boost controllers and tunes to drastically increase vehicle power beyond factory claimed numbers.
Fast forward to 2023 when the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ has ended some two decades ago, Nissan has re-imagined it’s sleek Fairlady through the launch of the Nissan Z, where the core elements of the 300ZX remain at heart, but with a hefty power increase and technological advancements to bring it into the modern era.
Having previously owned a Nissan 300ZX, when Mount Gambier’s OGR Nissan gave The SE Voice the tip a brand-new Boulder Grey Nissan Z Coupé was at the dealership to take for a test run there was no arm-twisting needed for me to hop behind the wheel.
On the outside the exterior styling resonates a modern blend of the manufacturer’s 280Z and 300ZX, with the roof line, rear quarter window and iconic tail light design giving an instant sense of nostalgia.
A sleek and pointy front end flows along the side of the vehicle with clean lines to a somewhat bulkier rear, where twin exhausts are framed by a stylish rear diffuser.
Large brake callipers are tucked behind Rays Engineering forged 19-inch wheels to help the Z Coupé stop on a dime, with the brand highly-regarded among the JDM tuner scene for it’s lightweight, high quality and stylish wheel designs and the brains behind one of the most iconic aftermarket Japanese wheels ever created in the TE37.
Despite there being more than 30 years difference between the Fairlady and Nissan Z Coupé, hopping behind the wheel had a sense of familiarity of being at home in the hot seat.
A quick look around the interior and you know this car means business. While somewhat cosy for driver and passenger, the seating is low to the ground and contours the body to keep you firmly in place for support when slinging through turns and there is a no-nonsense approach to all media and vehicle instruments.
Everything has a place and things like USB charging ports and a wireless smartphone charge pad ensure the car is equipped with all the modern day essentials while remaining true to its core as a real driver’s car.
Although the Z features a high-quality 8-speaker Bose system with AppleCar Play and Android Auto, my time spent behind the wheel was completed with the window down, listening to the vehicle’s exhaust note.
Firing the 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 engine to life, popping the car into gear and setting of for the first drive in the Nissan Z brought on an instant feeling of knowing ‘this is going to be a blast’.
Within seconds of leaving the dealership it was clear the vehicle makes a statement on the road. Cruising along Mount Gambier’s main dragway on a busy Tuesday afternoon gave pedestrians plenty of eye-candy to look at, with countless head turning and finger-pointing as the car drove by.
While all engine vitals are displayed neatly on the main dash cluster where you can further tweak any modern conveniences such as traction control, vehicle dynamic control, intelligent cruise control and alerts like traffic sign recognition, lane departure warnings and tyre pressure sensors are on show, it was refreshing to find three analogue gauges housed neatly in the centre of the dash.
These gauges display battery voltage, turbo fan speed and most-importantly boost pressure, which lets you know just how much fun you’re having when taking to the streets.
The way the Nissan Z drives and handles was an absolute dream. While the wide 275/35/19 rear tyres help keep the rear end planted in most situations, there is no doubt that on the track this is a car that will happily slide the back end around to take full advantage of its 298kW powerplant with 475Nm of torque to boot!
Gear shifts are firm and crisp and for lack of a better word, very ‘Nissan’, with the six-speed manual gearbox reminding me of other sports cars from Nissan’s past with how precise and snappy each shift feels.
While the Nissan Z is feature packed in its Coupé form, there are car lovers out there like myself who always crave a little more.
Nissan has not forgotten about these enthusiasts, with a NISMO Z edition on offer with a suite of enhancements including tuned powertrain, suspension and chassis, 19-inch NISMO forged alloy wheels, as well as NISMO Sports+ mode, tuned launch control and traction model as well as Recaro seating with matching black interior and NISMO steering wheel.
If you’re interested in hopping behind the wheel of your own Nissan Z, pop in and see the team at 33-41 Penola Road or contact the dealership on 8724 1111 to get the party started.