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Top 15 Best Nissan Sports Cars of All Time
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[This post has been updated for 2019.]
Nissan has always had a good sports car or two in production to satisfy that automotive enthusiast itch. Pretty much anyone who knows anything about the world of automobiles knows about Nissan’s Z cars, SXs and GT-Rs.
This has led to a long history of fun-to-drive machinery that is pretty much impossible to shrink down to a Top 10 list. So I won’t. Instead, I ranked the Top 15 Nissan sports cars of all time. Let us know what your favorite Nissan of all time is in the comments below.
15. Nissan Micra Superturbo
The Micra is and always has been a subcompact commuter car. But in 1989, Nissan unleashed the Micra Superturbo. As the name suggests, the Micra received a turbocharger on its 0.9-liter four-cylinder engine. But nestled under the hood was even more forced induction. Alongside the turbo, there was also a supercharger.
Yup, the Micra Superturbo was twin-charged to produce 108 hp. With a five-speed manual transmission and limited slip differential up front, the roughly 1,500-lb Superturbo was a blast to drive.
The Micra isn’t sold in the U.S., but it is still available in Canada. Nissan currently runs a Micra Cup race series in Canada, proving that there’s something to be said for a cheap, light car with no power being a ton of fun.
14. Datsun Sports
Before the legendary Nissan/Datsun Z cars, there were the Sports models. Prominent during the 1960s, the Sports (Fairlady in Japan) were a series of roadsters that began with the Sports 1000, using a 38-hp 1.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It would be followed by the Sports 1200, Sports 1500, Sports 1600 and, finally, the Sports 2000.
By the time the 2000 arrived, power was up to 133 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which was quite a bit in a 2,000-lb vehicle. More than just performance, the Sports were also good-looking roadsters with a lot of British influence in their design.
13. Nissan Silvia 240RS
In 1983, Nissan wanted a new car to go rally racing, so the company looked at the S110 Silvia (known as the 200SX in America) as a basis. With wider bodywork, upgraded mechanics and a special 2.4-liter version of the FJ four-cylinder engine, the 240RS made 237 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque.
As a race car, it achieved moderate success in world rally racing but never did live up to the potential Nissan had hoped for.
12. Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
Another car created to appease World Rally Championship homologation requirements, the 1990-1994 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R came equipped with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 227 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque.
A big wing, hood scoop, and lower body work distinguished the GTI-R apart from regular Pulsar models. Weight was way up in GTI-R models, some 600 lbs, but at 2,690 lbs, the car was still relatively light for the amount of power it had.
11. Nissan Silvia NISMO 270R
Like the 240RS, the 270R was a one-off special based on the Silvia platform. But unlike the 240RS, the 270R wasn’t meant for rally racing — it was a designed for the track. Based on the S14 Silvia, known as the 240SX in America, the 1994 270R was actually created by Nissan’s tuning arm NISMO.
The 270 refers to the amount of horsepower coming from the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a healthy increase over regular Silvias. Other enhancements included an aerokit and a two-way limited slip differential in the rear.
10. Nissan 350Z/370Z
After a brief hiatus, the Nissan Z car returned in 2002 as the 350Z. Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 making 287 hp, the Z was a two-seat sports car wearing sexy, modern styling for its time. By 2008, the 350Z made 306 hp, better matching its competition at the time.
In 2009, the next generation of modern Z cars came out, called the 370Z. The 370 referred to the increase in engine displacement for the V6 engine, now measuring 3.7 liters. Power was up to 332 hp and the car was actually smaller and lighter than the 350Z. And for even more performance, the is the 350-hp Nissan 370Z NISMO.
9. Nissan Silvia Spec R Aero
For the final version of the Silvia (aka the 240SX), Nissan saved the company’s best special edition for last. Called the Spec-R, this hot-rod version of the Silvia may have used the same 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as some other Silvias at the time, but a lot of other components were changed.
The body and chassis structures were reinforced, the five-speed manual was ditched in favor of the six-speed manual, the brakes were upgraded and four-wheel steering was available. Also available was an Aero package that included a massive rear wing.
8. Nissan Juke-R
How do you make the oddball Nissan Juke crossover a supercar killer? Simply install the GT-R’s mechanics underneath. With a 545-hp 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 powering all four wheels through a dual-clutch transmission, the Juke-R was as nutty as a car concept can get. But this one was actually built.
In 2015, Nissan has introduced the Juke-R 2.0 utilizing the GT-R NISMO’s mechanics, which are good for 600 hp and 481 lb-ft. That should propel the subcompact crossover from zero to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds.
7. 1969-1973 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R
These are the cars that started it all, the original Skyline GT-Rs. They would set forth decades of incredible sports cars produced by Nissan and make the Skyline and GT-R automotive icons.
First arriving in 1969, the Skyline GT-R came equipped with a 160-hp 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. In 1973, a second generation of the Skyline GT-R would arrive powered by the same 2.0-liter six-cylinder, but only last a single year before being discontinued.
6. Nissan 280ZX/300ZX Turbo
The Nissan ZX cars would replace the original Z cars in 1978. The first model was the 280ZX that came with a 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine making 145 hp. In 1981, a turbocharger would be added as an option, increasing power to 180 hp.
In 1983, a second-generation ZX arrived, now offering a 3.0-liter V6 in naturally aspirated or turbocharged form. By the end of this model’s run, the turbo engine made anywhere from 200 to 227 hp depending on the market.
In 1989, the final 300ZX would enter production. A two-seat or 2+2 configuration was available as well as a 300-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. It was one of the iconic Japanese sports cars of the 1990s, a period of time in which many consider the golden age for Japan’s auto industry.
5. Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS
Similar to the thinking behind the Juke-R, in the 1990s, Nissan took the Skyline GT-R’s mechanics and stuffed them under a grocery-getting wagon. Called the Stagea Autech 260RS, this conversion was a lot more seamless and more affordable than the Juke-R Frankenstiening.
Just like the R33 Skyline GT-R, the top-of-the-line Stagea included the legendary 2.6-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine that produced a highly underrated 276 hp. A manual, all-wheel drive, turbocharged super-wagon sounds like the stuff enthusiast dreams are made of, and it was.
4. Nissan 240Z/260Z/280Z
Nissan’s Z cars have an iconic status that few other sports cars have achieved. When the 1970 240Z (Fairlady Z in Japan) came on the market, it was instantly heralded as a poor man’s Jaguar, which had a lot to do with its similar styling.
Powered by a 2.4-liter six-cylinder engine, the original Z weighed just more than 2,300 lbs and made 151 hp. In 1974, the engine was enlarged to 2.6-liters and thus the car’s name changed to 260Z. Just one year later, an even larger engine became available in the 280Z. Although the car’s weight had increased, power was now up to 170 hp.
To this day, many consider these original Z cars some of the best-looking sports cars ever produced.
3. Nissan GT-R
After the discontinuation of the Skyline GT-R, there was a gap left at the top of the Nissan performance hierarchy. To fill the void, Nissan would create a purpose-built, no-nonsense sports car called the GT-R. Powered by a turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine, the GT-R has earned a reputation for destroying more powerful, far pricier competition.
Originally making 478 hp in 2008, the GT-R can now produce upwards of 600 hp in the crazy-quick NISMO form. But power is just one aspect of the GT-R’s incredible performance. The dual-clutch transmission and advanced all-wheel-drive system make sure laps around the track are completed as quickly as possible.
2. Nissan Skyline GT-R R32-R34
There would be no modern GT-R if it weren’t for the R32, R33 and R34 Skyline GT-Rs. The R32, R33 and R34 codes signify the three generations of Skyline GT-Rs that were sold from 1989 until 2002. Based on the Skyline coupe and sedan, these unsuspecting all-wheel-drive cars could beat a lot of impressive machinery on the street and the track.
With the exception of a few one-off specials like the 400R, all versions of the Skyline GT-R used a turbocharged 2.6-liter six-cylinder engine. Adhering to the self-imposed horsepower limit of 276 ponies, the underrated GT-R continued to increase torque over its 14 year run, hinting that power really was increasing as well.
1. Nissan R390 GT1
In the mid-1990s, if a manufacturer wanted to race in the top tier at the 24 hours of Le Mans, the racecar had to be based on a road going vehicle. This led to crazy one off creations like the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, Porsche 911 GT1 and the Nissan R390 GT1.
With a 3.5-liter V8 hooked up to a sequential six-speed transmission sending power to the rear wheels, the R390 GT1 looked like a Le Mans prototype for the streets because, well, it was. Only two cars were ever built, but one is in the hands of a private owner.
With a top speed of 220 mph and the ability to dispatch the quarter mile in just over 11 seconds, the R390 GT1 was one of the fastest cars of its time.
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