The Evolution of the Nissan Z Explained!

The Evolution of the Nissan Z Explained!

The 240Z is the first of the Z cars and arguably the best looking. The long hood and sloping fastback give the car its iconic profile.  The 240Z has classic lines and a simplicity and elegance that has definitely withstood the test of time. Originally equipped with a 151-hp 2.4-liter straight-six engine paired with a four-speed transmission and fully independent suspension, the 240Z had solid performance for its day. The 260Z and 280Z that followed boasted more power from increased engine displacement. Unfortunately due to changing regulations, the 260Z and 280Z came equipped with larger bumpers that detracted from the clean lines of the original design.


Following the success of the 280Z came the 280ZX. While this car kept many key design elements of its predecessor, the 280ZX fell short in many ways. It was wider, longer, heavier and more of a grand tourer than a true sports car.  The styling of the car lost some of its elegance and in some ways looks like a 280Z gone wrong.  Performance was also down to just 135 horsepower from the 2.8-liter engine.  Thankfully in 1981 the 280ZX Turbo variant arrived to restore lost power to an impressive 180 hp. It is also worth noting that this was the last of the Z cars to be released under the Datsun badge.



The Z31 300ZX arrived in 1984 with a switch of the long standing straight-six to a V-6 engine configuration for improved weight distribution and efficiency.  The naturally aspirated version produced 165 hp, while the turbocharged engine made 200 horsepower.  The new 300ZX shed the curvaceous body style of former Zs and was styled similarly to contemporary sports cars of the late 80s with pop-up headlights, squared-off lines, and angles. Overall, time hasn't been too kind to the Z31 which is generally considered the black sheep of the Z family.


The Z32 300ZX was the most remarkable styling transformation the Z car had yet seen.  It was lower, wider, and had a longer wheelbase. With its the wedge shape design, the car had almost exotic lambo-esque appearance.  The new bodywork was a vast improvement over the Z31 with its faired-in fixed headlights and the 300ZX saw similar performance improvements to match.  The twin-turbo V-6 produced a whopping 300 horsepower and the twin turbo models came equipped with Super HICAS four-wheel steering.



The 350Z burst onto scene in 2003. It sported the VQ-series V6 engine producing 287hp. Both six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmission were available. The styling of the 350Z was well received as a modern take on the original 240Z styling.  It had rounder and more modern lines than its predecessor, but still had a muscular and sporty feel.  The 350Z was strongly embraced by car enthusiasts and the aftermarket making it an instant classic.



The 370Z promised significant improvements over the 350Z but only modestly delivered.  The VQ-series engine displacement was increased to 3.7 liters and was good for 332 hp.  The 370 was wider and lower and faster than the outgoing 350 and more muscular styling and sharper lines.  It introduced the boomerang shaped HID headlights and front fangs, though the fangs would disappear in a future version of the model.


The New Nissan Z is the latest chapter in the Z-car evolution. The Z draws its styling from the original 240Z as well as the 300ZX models. The new Z retains the classic sports car proportions of a long hood and a short rear deck. It creates a design that is completely modern, yet immediately identifiable as a Nissan Z.  Under the hood, the twin-turbos make a triumphant return with over 400hp.  While it is refreshing to finally see a new Z car, the new styling has left the car community divided, especially with the large rectangular grille. 

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