GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Nissan 300ZX (Z32)

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SPEX

Years Represented: 1989-1999
Class: Sports Car / Grand Tourer
Type: Fastback Coupe

Country: Japan 
 Host: GT1, GT2, GT3, & GT4


†Specs below are for a '98 Version R Twin-Turbo from GT2 New Car Lot, as well as the '98 2+2 of GT4.

Price: $41,900 (GT2), $21,990 (GT4--used lot)

Construction: unit steel

Length: 177.9" // Width: 70.9" // Height: 49.4"
Wheelbase: 101.2"
Overhang: 6' 5"
Track: 58.9" [F] 60.4" [R]
Ground Clearance: 5.1" (GT2) 4.9" (GT3 & 4)
Weight: 3,483 lbs.
Wgt. Distribution: 54 / 46%
 

Steering: power-assisted rack & pinion + 4-wheel HICAS
Tires: 225/50ZR-16 [F] 245/45ZR-16 [R]
F. suspension: multilink, coils, anti-roll bar, angled upr. A-arms, lwr. control arms, shox
R. suspension: multilink, coils, anti-roll bar, lwr. angled A-arms, shox
Brakes: vented discs + ABS w/vaccuum asst.


Engine: 3.0 litre DOHC V6

Construction: iron block / aluminum heads 
Aspiration: air to air intercooled twin-turbo
Fuel System: ECCS sequential multi-point fuel inj.
Valves per Cyl: 4
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Bore x Stroke: 3.43 x 3.27"
 

`````````````````````````````GT2`````````````````````````GT4`````
Tested HP:     276 @ 6,100 rpm        278 @ 6,400 rpm
Tstd Torque:
286 @ 3,600 rpm         288 @ 3,600 rpm
 
Lbs. per hp:     12.6                             12.52
HP per Liter:     92                                93.9
Credits per HP: $151.81                       $79.50

GT2 Redline: 6,500 // Rev Limit: 8,000
GT4 Idle: 1,000 // Redline: 6,750 // RPM Limit: 7,200

Layout: Front Engine / Rear Drive

Transmission: 5-speed manual

`````````````````GT2 version R```````````GT3 '89 2+2``````GT4 '98 2+2
0-60 mph: 6.8 seconds               6.383 secs          6.050 secs
0-100mph: 15.2 seconds            15.333 secs        14.350 secs
0-150mph: no test                      no test               39.616 secs
 
400 M:    15.274 @ 100 mph         15.155 @ 99       14.494 @ 100
1 Kilom:
26.848 @ 132 mph       26.592 @ 129      26.039 @ 130
 
Test Track: Not Recorded
100-zero mph: no test                  3.62 seconds        3.93 seconds

Top gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,400

Top Speed at Redline (GT2 version R Twin-Turbo)
1st: 43 mph (7,500 rpm)
2nd: 73 mph
3rd: 107 mph
4th: 139 mph
5th: 177.27 mph @ 6,800 rpm

Top Speed at Redline (GT4 used '98 2+2)
1st: 40 mph
2nd: 68 mph
3rd: 102 mph
4th: 133 mph
5th: 171.75 mph @ 6,550 rpm (2+2)
````````172.34 mph @ 6,600 rpm (2-seater)
 

  
 

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-------------------------EXTERIOR---------------------------

Nowadays, the competition between Japanese sports-car manufacturers is either dead or just about to revive, depending on who you ask. But 10 years ago, several major Japanese car-manufacturers of the '90s firmly had their feet in the sports-car wars of the times...hottest of all was the war between Toyota's Supra, Mazda's RX-7 and Nissan's 300ZX, with Mitsubishi's 3000GT trailing somewhat. 

In the first two games (GT1 & GT2), there are several versions of 300ZX we can experience from the results of this war. There are four different models (not including used cars), which most of the world outside the United States calls the Fairlady. You'll notice that in GT1, there are no 300ZXs...in this game, they're all called "Fairlady ZXs", instead. The reason for this? Way back in 1969 before the original Z was released, some people associated with the car's debut thought the name "Fairlady" sounded wimpy. So in America and some other countries, Fairlady was dropped, but in Japan these cars are still called Fairladys. 

 Anyways, one can choose either normally-aspirated or turbocharged versions of the ZX in either GT1 or GT2. Also, there are two subtle variations of body work: a coupe and the famous T-top, as well as 2-seaters and 2+2s. Whichever car you choose, be advised that these are some of the heavier sports cars in our games. In GT3, PD scaled down to just one model (the '89 300ZX Twin Turbo 2+2). And in GT4, we have three models to choose from, all from used lots, ranging from 1989 to 1998. These include a 2-seater and a couple 2+2s. There are less models in this game since the 350Z also appears, so PD decided to make room for several 350s, which is fair.

Some of you may wonder why I'm choosing to focus on the slightly inferior 2+2 models for this review. It's because only the 2+2 appears in all Gran Turismo games. So for everything I say about the 2+2, imagine the 2-seater is slightly better, lighter, faster, etc. Make sense?

Don't know about the rest of the word, but in America the 300ZX and the Corvette are classic "mid-life crisis" vehicles; cars older men tend to buy when once they've got some money sitting around and want to pretend they're 18 again. Women sometimes buy them too, but typically a mid-life crisis will make them opt for tummy tucks and breast / butt implants. Unlike the Supra and RX-7 (both of which are arguably more race-ready and straddle a fine line between sports and race car), the Nissan 300ZX is an over-burdened, over-stuffed living room that happens to have a 3.0 liter V6 engine, and rolls on four wheels! To some, it has a sleek look. But to others, its looks are too bulbous...too round...not at all like older Z-cars, which it seems Nissan gave more of a sculpted shape. Like the Camaros that appear in our games, the 300ZX is more aerodynamically sound than older models, but it hasn't got as much personality.


To any beginners out there: if you don't have finesse with dual-shock controllers or a wheel, the ZX won't be for you. This is not an automobile for the novice, as the rear-drive Silvia Q's and Sil80 are. If you're new to Gran Turismo 1 or 2 and must drive a 300ZX (because your uncle or your dad drives one), go with a used '95 or '96 car, and don't get the turbo, yet. The normally-aspirated cars are much easier to handle than the turbocharged machines. Consider yourself lucky that you've got a choice. For those who are more experienced with sim-driving....read on. (actually, you can keep reading if you're not that experienced...)

When driven totally stock, the 300ZX handles okay, feels relatively solid, and we can get some cool low and mid-speed drift & slide maneuvers in ANY GT game with cheaper tires shod. It's also very possible to find yourself beating all the competition in easier / intermediate races. Now...racing this car on a more advanced level at a course like Grand Valley or Apricot Hill (both of which include some long, high-speed turns that aren't banked), is another story. The 300ZX will wallow around like a hippopotamus on steroids once it's got some speed going!

The difference between a Supra and a 300ZX becomes obvious fast at this level. Although both cars weigh about the same, give or take 100 pounds, the 300ZX is a tad clumsier..sometimes more than a tad. So the first order on our checklist is to buy some weight reductions if you're going to take this car to more advanced racing (which I assume you will be).

The cars in GT3 and GT4 are not immune here. They also feel like over-achievers at first. Once the 300ZX is doing Amateur Leauge races in GT3, or Professional-level or Special Condition races in GT4, things start to change. After this, these cars start to feel more and more ponderous. Again, weight needs to be shaved to solve this.

The 300ZX, unlike its earlier predecessor--the Z car, is heavy because it's loaded with a bunch of components that have nothing to do with racing. Here we have our heated, fully adjustable leather seats, automated climate controls, soundproofing material, dual zone airbags, our side-window defoggers, thick-pile carpeting, interior trim, premium Bose sound system.....you name it, it's an option; and it's all loaded apparently.
 
Therefore, this is a sporty car... but it's a bit of a luxury car as well. About 384 pounds come off after $32,500 + about $80,000 is spent in GT2 for all weight reductions + racing kit. The final low can be anywhere from 2,691 pounds for the '95 2-seater to 2,974 pounds for the '98 Twin Turbo version R. There are so many ZX-cars in GT2, it's dizzying to try and list them all, but you get the picture. Much more weight can be shed if you're modifying any of the cars found in GT1. The lightest would be the Fairlady Z Version S 2-seater, which climbs the scale at just 2,112 pounds! Wow. Compare that to GT4, where the 2-seater still winds up being lightest at 3,350 pounds to start, but 2,779 with all weight removed. Add about 120 pounds to this and you've got an idea of what the 2+2 weighs.

 All these figures are acceptable for a good number of races in each game, but ultimately the 300ZX isn't guaranteed to make it towards the top depending which game you've got, strongly due to weight issues. The cars of GT1 and GT2 can win the World Cup if you're skilled, since any of them can be shod with racing kits and accept titanic power. The FedEx 300ZX-GTS (a prize in GT2) is tops for those who want to simply find the best ZX.

In GT3 and 4, unfortunately, the 300ZX meets its end eventually. In GT3, we can't buy any aerodynamics for the 300ZX (or any other car for that matter) which severely hurts once we're working with...let's say...600 horses. The car in GT4 can be shod with a wing kit, but eventually dies as the game challenges us with its fastest.

All ZX models are limited to only seven shades of color, which includes red, yellow, dark green, and purple on the selectable palette, along with the more professional silver, black, and white shades. There should be something for everyone, but ultimately some folks might be a little disappointed. But don't be: the real-life car only came in six or seven colors, too.


-----------------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN-----------------------


Once you've got the money to afford one of these (some are rather expensive...cost varies in the 30 to 40,000 credit range for a newer car, while a used 300ZX will cost about half this) you'll need to choose which powerplant you would like to have. There are naturally aspirated and twin-turbo 3.0 liter V6 engines. 

A lot of vehicles in the Gran Turismo games don't offer such variety  for the same model, so it's nice to have these options. Most folks will probably go with the twin-turbo, of course, but any of these should be sufficient to get this car moving. Though the 300ZX accelerates with vigor, it feels rather sedated from 2nd gear on up. 0 to 60 is achieved in 6.8 seconds with the twin turbo, and 100 mph follows in 15.2.
†† See Below. ††   

My best results were achieved in the '98 2-seater twin-turbo of GT4, interestingly enough. 0 to 60 in this car ranges anywhere from 5.2 to 5.9 seconds, which is about what the real-life version is rated at. The 2+2 in this game is about a half-second slower to 60 mph, and generally slower overall due to extra weight. Oddly, GT4 cars test faster than GT3 cars, which test faster than GT2 cars (see test results above in the SPEX section). I'm not sure why this is.  

Anyways, the famous 300ZX 3-liter has a wide powerband. Useable torque kicks in nice & early, and during races it's often possible to dig way down to 3,000 rpms and get moving, although in some games turbo-lag limits this action. The engine is flexible enough, torque is plentiful, and yet the acceleration in this car doesn't FEEL as exciting as it should--in any car and in any game. 

Any guesses why? Notice the tall gearing. There lies our problem: 3rd peaks just above 100 mph, for instance.  Yes I know the numbers are there, and the engine never sounds as though it's struggling, but it just hasn't got the right situation to play in. Acceleration runs in a stock 300ZX simply don't burn any extra calories, or pump extra adrenaline thru my veins. The "too much weight" factor also doesn't help here, although weight doesn't always initially affect pure acceleration runs the way gearing does.

Close gearing is recommended for all races except the mega-speed series of GT1. Nissan's factory-set gearing is really tall, especially 4th to 5th; in fact, 5th gear is almost useless unless one has taken some weight off the body. In GT3 and 4, a stock gearbox is okay for alot of racing once you've got more power to work with, but many will opt for full-custom gearing anyway. 
 
Using an automatic is really bad for many courses like Route 11, GrindelwŚld or Autumn Ring, since it constantly causes the engine to rev too low, sometimes far below the proper horsepower area, so go with a manual gearbox (unless you suck at shifting gears). On courses like the Test Track, Red Rock Speedway, High Speed Ring, or Midfield, long straights can be fully plundered with stock gearing, since this car offers us a top speed of 170+ mph totally stock. It also comes standard with a useful 6,500 rpm tachometer in GT1, GT2, and GT3. In GT4, the redline gets raised slightly to 6,750. Since peak power is located somewhere in the low to mid-6,000s (stock), we do have some room to work with if we've got a manual transmission, but (again) automatic tranny people will miss out on those extra revs after redline. This is an engine that can tolerate some redlining.  

Depending which game you've got, the 300ZX can be modded with alot of power, or really a lot of power.
 
In GT1, naturally-aspirated cars can only make it to 314 hp, hence they're best for novice drivers, but twin-turbos near 670 with a stage 4 system! In GT2, power gets upped. Now, Version S natually-aspirated machines can make it to nearly 400 hp, while the Twin-Turbo socks damn-near 700. If that's not enough for you, the 2+2 in GT3 can be loaded with up to 4 different turbos and will eventually near 900 horsepower! That's some stoopid power, there! The kicker is you really can't USE all this power in this game! Unless you're doing a Test Curse run. Without aerodynamic aids, this power is just about useless for racing, especially up against real race cars. 
 
GT4? 300ZXs can be equipped with 5 different turbo systems if you buy parts from Blitz, HKS or some other Tuner Shop parts plaza. In this game, ultimate power doesn't rate as high as in the 3rd game, but it's still up there. We have 825 bhp @ 6,400 rpms and 644 foot-pounds with a stage 4 system (stage 5 is slightly less). This is still plenty...more than I've certainly ever needed! There isn't much turbo-lag at this level, surprisingly. Also of note is that with this much power, that tall stock transmission no longer feels so cumbersome...if anything, it starts to feel a bit short!


†† March 13, 2005: I recently took a '95 300ZX 2+2 with normally-aspirated tuning (233 hp) to the test tracks and got to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which is probably due to the fact that I'm a better driver than I was when I originally wrote this review in June of 2004. By the way, the real-life 300ZX with natural tuning also reliably does 0 to 60 in about 6.5.
GT3
When I track-tested the car in GT3, I found I could manage a 0 to 60 time of 6.383 seconds (5.866 when dropping the clutch in 2nd gear at 5,500 rpms) and 0 to 100 of 15.333 (14.83...).



--------------------------CHASSIS / HANDLING-------------------

I think the main difference between the 300ZX and its hottest competition, the Supra, really starts here. Both cars have fantastic engines, distinctive looks, but the way each car delivers its message is significantly different.

When stock, the 300ZX has some decent tires on it, as well as above-average spring rates, but these parts are made for highways with an occasional twisty road thrown in during Sunday drives. It is notable that real-life testers of the 300ZX never have anything really bad to say about it. But if you're actually gonna RACE the 300ZX, the suspension, brakes, and sometimes limited-slip needs to be upgraded to handle the weight above, and the mannerisms this car ultimately starts to display. Notice: lots of dipping....leaning....diving, and squatting. This is not a taut, race-bred Supra or a nimble RX-7. 

As was said before, the multilink suspension and tires should both be beefed up if you're going to race this car in serious events. In real-life, the 300ZX has 4-wheel steering, simliar to that found in Skylines, which helps to keep it stable in slower races. In GT4, I think they did manage to model this HICAS steering system a bit better than in earlier games, because you'll notice that despite the leaning and other negatives this car displays, it also does manage to get around slower, tighter turns with a lack of understeer that feels downright graceful at times. But once power is up, the heavy ZX really starts to fishtail and lose traction. So a limited-slip is recommended here in some games earlier than in others.

Good news is: in GT2 and 3, a totally stock suspension and brakes will take the Fairlady / 300ZX thru most of the beginner races, and it is possible to win the Clubman and GT2 National A-license series with these parts, but it is very hard to do so. In GT1, forget it..you'll need to start getting suspension helpings from NISMO once you're tackling the Clubman. In GT2, Sports tires do well, but quickly lose their effectiveness once the horsepower gets above 350 or so. In GT3, you'll need racing tires earlier than this.

I've also driven these cars in GT4, on both N tires and Sports. In this game, the 300ZX drives as in no other previous ones. There is a lack of oversteer, BUT there's now additional understeer (big surprise). But everything else is generally good. On N2 "comfort" tires and a stock suspension, the 300ZX is surprisingly fun. The car can lightly or heavily trail-brake into corners (your choice), find its racing line (as long as you don't over power it), and throttle-oversteers predictably...sometimes ending with a nice semi-drift. Driving on sports tires erases some of this fun, but provides us with more capabilities for racing. The 300ZX never quite feels as good as a Supra, though, till you start tuning. Although there is understeer, it thankfully doesn't dominate everything in this game. At all times, I gotta admit the 300ZX can be compliant and race-worthy, but eventually you gotta start tuning it heavily, especially as more and more power gets added.

Despite the weight, the 300ZX is a blast to drive around tracks you know well. It will drift more readily than lighter Nissans, and can be more expressive and exciting to drive due to the higher level danger in this car. As you raise the power, it goes from being a sporty auto with a large comfort zone to a dangerously aggressive machine.

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---------------------------PROS---------------------

1). Good power, acceleration, and 170+ mph top speed in an unmodified car. In the real-life versions, speed is electronically limited, and for good reason, but thankfully we don't have such limits.

2). Several engine options as well as choices of body style (2 seater or 2+2) in the first 2 games, and in GT4.

3). A challenging car for RWD drifters. At times the 300 ZX handles like a 4th-gen Mustang, but with taller gears, so keep those revs high.

4). Stock tires good for unmodified racing in lower levels. Experienced players wont need racing slicks till the engine is stuffed with a Stage 2 turbo. The car in GT4 displays a wide variety of behaviors on different tires, all of them useful somewhere. Or at least fun.

5). Low profile body + a stocky girth + all that weight = a highly stable sports coupe.

6). GT1 & GT2: some ZXs (the '95 Turbo used car and both '98 Twin Turbos) get massive power (650+) when tweaked with all the goods. And just wait till you raid NISMO's parts department in GT3 & 4! Cars in GT4 can also be equipped with 5 stages of intercooled turbos, rather than 3 or 4. In any event, each stage of turbo (and sometimes natural power) represents a significant chunk of new horsepower to play with.

7). Racing kits available for all 300 ZXes from GT1 or GT2.

8). Depending on the game, some of these cars (used ones, particularly) are priced to move.


---------------------CONS-----------------------

1). Somewhat high price of some versions doesn't guarantee absolute performance. About half the money you spend on this car is paying for creature comforts you'll never get to enjoy as you armchair-race.

2). Heavy. In some games, Fairladys REMAIN heavy, too, after weight is lopped off. GT3 & 4 versions are also heavy, but can at least be box-springed with some phat power.

3). Tall gearing makes for uninspiring acceleration.

4). Suspension, brakes, tires, and sometimes limited-slip needs to be upgraded before entering intermediate events.

5). As the power goes up, the Fairlady's trusty lower-speed stability goes down. Fishtailing, spinning rear-wheels, and some understeer gladly show up to happily greet you like an annoying friend. Not a car for beginners.

6). In the first 2 games, the lesser 300 ZXes can't be tweaked as far as the Twin-Turbos. Pay attention and get the right version early.

7). Since the gearing is tall, automatic gearboxes aren't very effective in most 300 ZXs, even though the torque band is wide and peak power happens before the redline.

8). GT4 only: the highly-sought 2-seater in this game is very rare. It can take lots of time to hunt one down in the late-90s used lot.

9). Some don't like the looks of the 300 ZX generation, which appears "fattened" and ill-defined when compared to earlier Z cars.
 
 
 
Originally Published: June 15th, 2004

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