GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Tommykaira ZZ-S Coupe

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SPEX

Years Represented: 1999-2000 
Country: England & Japan
 
Host: GT2, GT3, GT4, & GT5 
Class: Sports Car
Type: 2-door coupe 
 
 
Price: $59,500 (GT2, GT3, or GT4) Prize (GT5, Gold B licenses)

 
Length: 142.9" // width: 68.5" // Height: 43.3"
Wheelbase: 93.5"
Overhang: @ 4' 1.25"
Track: 55.9" [F] 58.3" [R]
Ground Clearance: 4.72"
Weight: 1,477 lbs.
Layout: Mid Engine / Rear Drive
Tires: P205/50ZR-15
Suspension: double wishbone
Brakes: vented discs
 
* specs & testing below from GT2 
 
Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline-4
Tested hp: ```193 @ 7,200 rpm
Tstd Torque:
145 @ 5,800 rpm
Aspiration: normal
Fuel Syst: 4 Keihin carbs
Valves / Cyl: 4
bore x stroke: 3.39 x 3.39"
Compression: 10.0:1
Credits per Hp: $308.29
Lbs. per HP: 7.65
Hp per Liter: 96.6
Redline: 7,500 // Rev Limit: 8,000
Transmission: 5-speed manual
 
 
*track testing for the car in GT2
 
0-60 mph: 6.967 seconds
0-100mph: 16.587 seconds
 
1/4 Mile: 15.790 @ 95 mph
1 KM:
27.342 @ 127 mph

Brakes: 100-0: 4.508 seconds
Test Track: 1:42.833
 
Top Speed at Redline
1st: @39 mph
2nd: 65 mph
3rd: 98 mph
4th: 129 mph
5th: 169.93 @ 8,000 rpm
 

 

 

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------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY-----------------

What do you get when you cross a sports car with a frisbee?  Here we have one of the most famous cars of Gran Turismo, which has a funny name that sounds more like a brand of designer jeans than an automobile. The Tommykaira ZZ-S first made its appearance in GT2, and has made the cut for all later games so far. There are other, faster Tommykaira models, but let's focus on the cheapest, most accessible one for now.

I don't know what your experience was, but again Polyphony has surprised the hell out of me, opening my eyes towards yet another car that I'd otherwise know nothing about. I've simply never heard of the ZZ-S, or Tommykaira, and I doubt I'll ever see anything they make in person. Tommykaira was started by two ex-racers over in Japan, who combined their last names (Tommy and Kaira) to form their company name. How did this happen, I wonder?  Did they flip a coin to see who would get to go first?  We could all be driving Kairatommys, perhaps.  Before making their own, these guys were involved with tuning contemporary models found around the market, including Benzes, Nissans, Subarus, all sorts of cars, but they mostly focused in Japan, which was easiest for them since they lived there. 
 
The ZZ-S Coupe  was made in extremely low numbers (just 200) at a plant in Norfolk England, then shipped to Japan. I'm gonna assume most of those 200 ZZ-S Coupes are over in Japan, somewhere. I'll put money on that. There's a surprising lack of information on Tommykaira, even in this modern age where everything has its own wiki page, there's not really much to read about the Tommykaira ZZ-S, or any of their models. There were several models made though, including the Z, ZZ, ZZ-S, ZZ-II, and ZZ-III. As this lineage goes from left to right, things go from friendly to menacing. The Z probably packed less than the ZZ-S' meager 194 hp, but the ZZ-II and ZZ-III make well over 500 horses. 
 
As I bought the Coupe (GT2), I couldn't help but compare it to another car made in England--the Lotus Elise, and a few other websites agree with me. But as I tested and raced the ZZ-S, I was pleasantly surprised with a capital P..uh and S. The light weight, mid-rear layout, and its smallish dimensions had me thinking the ZZ-S Coupe would be a swishy car thru turns...slipping and sliding like a stick of oleomargarine on a hotplate (as the Elise is prone to doing), but nothing could be further from the truth, at least in this game. As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself. This info belongs in the Handling section below, but you get what I'm saying, right?
 
The car's fiberglass-reinforced plastic body and its aluminum chassis sit on a steel subframe, which guarantees super light weight from the getgo (lighter than most Kei cars, in fact). We start with a very acceptable 7.65 pounds per power ratio in GT2. In later games, the car's engine may need to be broken in (or its oil changed) before we see these magic numbers, but close enough. The bottom line is: just because this one hasn't got much power, doesn't mean it hasn't got its place.  Early versions of the ZZ-S Coupe were probably not so acceptable to the general public: they lacked such niceties as a radio, soundproofing, and even the gear linkage was exposed!  But there's a reason for this; the Z lineage were supposed to be made for those who wanted to take their cars from street to track. Well hey, this is what you get when you hire ex-RACE drivers to build your dream machine! Later on, the ZZ-S was cleaned up a bit before enjoying a 5-year production stint. 
 
From game to game, we get a rare glimpse into all of their best models: the ZZ-S, ZZ-II, and ZZ-III are all available in GT2, but the ZZ-III (the wildest of all) was not included for later games. At this writing, I haven't raced the II or III, nor have I raced any of the GT3 or 4 versions of the ZZ-S, though I will eventually...I promise. Right now it's looking like that'll happen in early 2010. ;) I have driven and raced the ZZ-S of GT5, and we'll see what that's like in a moment.

Weight reductions are minimal, of course, and aren't super-necessary. There are just four colors for sale...a bit disappointing, and in some games we can win the ZZ-S as a prize. I was kinda hoping to show up at Mid-field Raceway in an intimidatingly hot orange car, or perhaps a true metal-flake the metallic blue version I bought doesn't seem to pack any sparkle...and I KNOW the Playstation is capable of creating that metal shine, even in GT2...I've seen it on plenty of Miatas and Supras. Alas, we can't get a broader range of colors until PS3-era games.  
 
 


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

As I suspected, as soon as I saw this car's specifications, bore & stroke, and other data, I believed the 2.0 liter inline-4 this car is packing is really just a reworked Nissan engine...the same as found in the Primera, 240 SX / Silvia K's, some Skylines, and many other non-racing commuters like the Sentra and Altima. The main difference are 4 Keihins sitting over the block. These are motorcycle carburetors...a bit of a departure from the usual, expected fuel-injection. Though I'm not sure what (if any) advantage is made here, it's a good, trustworthy powerplant, if not altogether the speediest.
 
 
Zero to sixty acceleration was a bit below average during my GT2 testing--considering the low weight to power ratio. Overall acceleration is downright disappointing in the 400 meter and 1 kilometer stints. It was similarly tepid during the three Pacific Regional GTs in which I later gunned my ZZ Coupe, but everything else about the engine and its power is sweet. For one thing, there's the 170 mph top speed, which could be ignored if we were behind the wheel of a Skyline, Corvette, or a Jaguar, but considering the fact that we're working with JUST 193 horsepower, this is  exceptional.
 
Launch-off from first gear creates actual wheelspin in GT2, which is odd considering the Trueno-ish torque and mid-engine layout, but is merely a symptom of the car's light weight not creating absolute traction. It also seems (when shifting gears later on) that the transmission is too tall...causing the engine to fall below its torque band again and again. But if you look at the nifty power charts found in some games, you'll see that the Nissan engine possesses a slightly sloped, nearly-flat torque band from about 4,000 rpm up towards the peak power area, so twist isn't something that's needed to be concerned much about during races, there are other ways to pwn in this one, trust me!  Just like it does in a Silvia, the supply of what seems to be meager power can be doled-out when needed, making the motor at least reliable. We won't always need those higher revs.
 
There are just two turbo upgrades in GT2 (without intercoolers) available from the aftermarket. After dropping $60K on the ZZ-S and bundling its engine with several more thousand credits of parts, the total resulting power seems bleak and depressing. 279 horses, according to Pupik's website. In GT5, I raced the ZZ-S in the Tuning Car Grand Prix and MR Sports Cup. We got slightly better results in this game: 323 horsepower at max, with a Stage 3 turbo system. And as seen many times before, it doesn't seem like there's much we'll be able to do with this sort of power, right?    
 
There's more to the story though, as there often is...so don't hit the restart button on your Playstation just yet...
 

----------------CHASSIS / HANDLING------------------
 
GT2
Like I said, during the GT Regionals at Midfield, Seattle, and Laguna Seca, my ZZ-S was maxed out with a Stage 2 turbo, port / polish, crank balancing, computer, and racing exhaust. The competing imaginary pit crews all smirked when they saw the dyno results, in which the Tommy's 2.0 spooled out just 283 horses with 201 ft-lbs. of torque. One of the Viper team dudes even spit a wad of Skoal into my cockpit, walking brazenly away as the rest of the crew laughed. But..... they stopped laughing later on during the 3 lap sprint, when the Tommykaira STIR-FRIED their sorry asses!
 
During some easier races, you know, B and A license stuff, you'll find the ZZ simply kills. With minimal suspension tuning and stock tires, it's still got the advantage of light weight, and handles like it's glued to the tarmac. And this really surprised me, for I was expecting a lot more slidey oversteer like you'd find in an Elise. I think the 2 extra inches of rear track helps, but I'm just guessing here. Acceleration in these B & A events isn't something you'll need to worry much about, because you'll be out-handling the bots to the point of mass overkill.
 
Now take Tommykaira's finest sprite to tougher I-C and I-B races,  and you can expect to suffer from poor acceleration, but everything else will now be in your favor. Again and again at the start of each race, I found myself watching as the sim cars got far ahead, especially at Mid-field and Seattle (not so much at Laguna Seca). By turn 1, I worried that the ZZ-S Coupe was hopeless...should I just start my game over and chalk a set of losses?
 
... Hell NO. Halfway through any of these courses, my easter egg purple 2-seater started to shine!
 
At Mid-field, I was in the lead by the time I faced the dreaded turn 7 sharp left-hander. During LAP ONE. Mind you, this doesn't seem all that exceptional, until you realize the wimpy power the ZZ-S is working with. In some cars with 100 or even 150 hp over the ZZ, I'd still be working on the leader during the final lap...I've been there plenty of times, but the ZZ-S somehow makes this even easier. There is more of a challenge once those super-soft slicks are taken off and replaced with some mediums, but even with these tires, wins still come easily to those experienced.
 
Minimal body overhang, an overall small size, and light weight guarantee the ZZ-S will be able to squeeze ahead of that RX-7 when it wouldn't seem possible...without slamming it. Without even TOUCHING it. Great for the replay, folks...and great for the ego, as well. In Gran Tursimo, there's nothing else like the Tommykaira ZZ-S Coupe.
 
GT5
The main difference between GT2 and GT5, so far as racing goes, is there's a lack of rubber-banding in GT5. There's a lack of punting and pit-maneuvering as well; GT5's drivers are much more polished and respectful. Though I've never driven these in GT3 and 4, I am guessing that the ZZ-S manages to display more oversteer than usual, compared to some other sports cars.
 
In GT5, what we've got is something which feels a lot like a Lotus Elise: lots of options, lots of personality, etc. There are good things, and there are bad things. A couple of bad things?  Lack of stability, especially over bumps and grids, which often must be tiptoed over, if you don't want to lose your line. Even though the engine isn't putting much out, too much gas at the wrong moment can cause the rear to get squirrely, and if it's getting bounced around when this happens, this is not good.
 
The car also has a habit of taking turns wider than we'd think, especially as gas is re-applied. The front hardly understeers, but the entire car's orbit often gets pushed to the outside in slight amounts, and even though the ZZ-S is a very small car, we can't just grip grip grip out of those turns all the time. Not in GT5, anyways. Another problem is with braking. Not the brakes themselves, but the car's lack of weight + its rather narrow tires. Braking distances don't have to be super-long, but it's a good idea to often try starting early, anyways. Just in case. Because if the ZZ-S can't lock into its driving line early, this is okay because this one still often has some options, but it's better to not need these extra options in the first place, see?
 
On the other hand, trail-braking is definitely one of these options. And tires never overheat, even during some hard cornering, there's simply not enough weight above them for this to happen. This means we can often take this car to its very limits, cornering-wise, yet still be able to manipulate some spontaneous driving lines, in and around some slower cars. The rear-end has some amazing traction too, limited-slip devices are never needed here. LSD will cause more harm than good, trust me on that!
 
The ZZ-S is not as much of a killer as it was in GT2, but this is mostly because I didn't equip it with the very best tires in GT5. At the Tuning Car Grand Prix, I was using hard racing slicks, and I used soft sports at the MR Cup. Overall, the ZZ-S can't win every race it enters anymore. There's not enough power available, and the car's handling is much more snakey than it was. But those that it does manage to win are always close, pulse-pounding excitements.  
 
And now a few words from our sponsor, who has a habit of saying good things but then follows these with not-so-good things.
 

PROS

1). Exceptional and unexpected handling qualities. Pure drifters may be disappointed by the ZZ-S Coupe's minimal sliding thru turns, because really this is a very grippy vehicle. GT5's version can probably be drifted though.
 
2). Extreme maneuverability. With light suspension work, you can get this one to go where it wants on the tracks, and do things heavier cars will cry over.
 
3). Smallish dimensions. The ZZ-S fits in between other cars, and its light weight often guarantees it won't be stuck there long.
 
4). Weight is among the lowest of Gran Turismo. Decent power-to-weight right from the start. Race kit available in GT2.
 
5). Tall 5-speed and 8,000 RPM limit allows a high top speed without revving out. It'll be awhile before you need full-custom tuning.
 
6). Mid-engine weight offers plenty of late-corner traction...rarely creates the expected tail-swinging.
 
7). At the racetracks, I found I could take the ZZ-s much much further than I thought it would ever go, even with power rating below 300 in some situations. This is not a car deemed for slow laps in the Compact Car Series. 

8). Cutesy, sportscar-ish looks. Nothing too weird or fancy. Aerodynamically-sound, without resorting to a super-dart shape.

9). Minimal understeer, and oversteer is often the helpful kind.

10). GT5: visibility is cramped, but the driver's side and center mirrors are both useful.

 

CONS


1). The price is a bit steep, not cheap. In GT5, the ZZ-S can be won from golding B licenses, and rarely appears as a used car.  
 
2). Great handling overall, but on bumpy tracks the super-light ZZ does get skittish. The race kit in GT2 can help us fix this, but in later games it's all up to us to keep this one pointed as we want.
 
3). Some countersteer is needed when (on occasion) the car happens to get sideways. It happens, but not too often.
 
4). Lack of interesting body colors to choose from, in games which offer us some choices.
 
5). Lots of wheelspin in 1st gear if we're not careful. Acceleration is generally less impressive than it seems once we start looking at the numbers.
 
6). Lack of a 3rd stage turbo in GT2...though this isn't much of a Con....this is what the ZZ-II is for. Go win one (GT2). Or buy one (GT4).

7). Bigger, heavier cars tend to pinball the ZZ-S around, as they often way hundreds, sometimes thousands more pounds.


 

Originally Published: November 10, 2005
GT5 content added: August 9, 2015 
 

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