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Many feel a connection to Nissan whose slogan is “innovation that excites.” Nissan is the fastest growing full-line automotive brand in Canada based on twelve-month year over year rolling sales and the sixth largest automaker in the world. Globally, Nissan produces a wide range of passenger cars, trucks, SUV’s and commercial vehicles.
“There’s never been a more exciting time at Nissan than right now. At the end of October, we once again shattered our own monthly sales record, while also marking Nissan’s 27th consecutive month of sales growth in Canada,” commented Steve Rhind, director of marketing at Nissan Canada Inc., in an exclusive interview for Wheels.ca. “For over two years, Nissan has weathered the ebb and flow of the market, with an arsenal of high-quality product offering Canadians the right vehicle at the right time.”
Nissan Motor Company started in Yokohama Japan in 1933. Until 1983, Nissan automobiles in most export markets were sold under the Datsun nameplate. In 1984 the Datsun was phased out and the Nissan brand was phased in. In 2013, Nissan announced the re-launch of Datsun as a brand targeted at emerging markets. Nissan launched their Infiniti luxury line in 1989.
Nissan has a reputation for building Japanese quality, reliable vehicles with modern styling, good performance and value. I have owned three Nissan vehicles and driven many of their models. I’m a fan of Nissan, Datsun and Infiniti. My choices are subjective based on my personal taste and taking into consideration sales success/popularity, performance, styling and innovation. Let us know what’s on your top 10 Nissan list in the comments section at the end of this article:
10. 2003 – 2009 Nissan 350Z
After a seven-year hiatus (in North America) a new Z-Car was back in Nissan showrooms in 2002 (as a 2003 model) with the launch of the 350Z. The fifth generation (Z33) of the popular Z series was a huge success and very well received by the automotive press and sports car enthusiasts. The 350Z was of particular importance to Nissan as a vehicle to showcase the company’s performance and technology advancements during a time that the product line had become stagnant. Only available as a 2 seater coupe and convertible, the 350Z had many trim packages and special editions including a NISMO version. In 2007 the VQ35DE V6 was replaced with a new VQ35HR V6 producing 306 horsepower and 268 ft-lb of torque. The 350Z has endured as an extremely popular tuner car with an abundance of aftermarket performance parts available. The Z33 was also featured in the 2006 film The Fast And The Furious Tokyo Drift, adding to its cult following.
9. 1993 – Present Nissan Altima
Globally, Altima is Nissan’s best selling vehicle so rather than choosing a particular generation, I want to acknowledge Altima’s 23 years of production as one of the most important vehicles in Nissan’s product line. A mid-size mainstream sedan and coupe, it competes against segment rivals Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Altima is available in a variety of trim options and a 2.5L 4 cylinder or 3.5L V6 plus a Hybrid variant. The current fifth generation Altima boasts segment-leading safety, performance, technology, fuel efficiency and value making it a winner and one of the most significant vehicles in Nissan’s current model line. The majority of Altima’s are built at Nissan’s production plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.
8. 2010 – Present Nissan Leaf
“At Nissan, we’re enormously proud to be the world leader in zero-emission vehicles. We launched the first mass-market fully-electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF in 2010, and it remains the best-selling electric vehicle of all time, with more than 190,000 units sold globally” said Steve Rhind from Nissan Canada.
LEAF stands for Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car. The 2016 LEAF with a 30 kWh battery will travel 172 km on a full charge. LEAF has received multiple awards for it’s environmentally friendly powertrain plus owners will realize great savings compared to operating a gas car. All-electric vehicles such as LEAF are not practical for everyone but a good option for city commuters who can live with a limited driving range.
7. 1982 – Present Nissan Maxima
While generations of Maxima’s vary in terms of quality and popularity, I want to acknowledge Maxima as an important vehicle for Nissan and the longest standing nameplate in its current product line. The Maxima is a mid-size luxury sedan which Nissan calls its four door sports car. Indeed the current eighth generation Maxima is athletic with a low wide stance and sharp muscular lines. The 3.5L V6 churns out 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque mated to a smooth CVT transmission with Drive Mode Selector and manual mode. Maxima’s are built in Smyrna Tennessee primarily for the North American market. It is an important flagship model for Nissan as it embodies the brands’ latest technology and performance in a modern sport sedan. It sits above Altima and below the Infiniti Q50 in terms of price and features.
RELATED: 2016 Nissan Maxima Review
6. 1963 – 1970 Datsun Sports Roadster
The Datsun Fairlady Sports Roadster was the predecessor to the legendary Z -Car series. The Sports Roadster evolved through the 60s with the engine growing from a 1.5L inline 4 to a 2.0L making 133 horsepower and a top speed of 193 km/h. More than just great performance for the times, the Sports models were a stylish roadster with British influence in their design. A coveted collectors car, the last model 2000 Roadster was a fun affordable car with a proud motorsports racing heritage.
5. 1989 – 1998 Nissan 240SX
A 2.4-liter inline 4 banger powers the rear-wheel drive 240SX. The early KA24E had a single overhead cam and KA24DE had dual overhead cams producing 155 horsepower. There were two distinct generations of the 240SX, the S13 (1989–1994) available in coupe, hatchback and convertible, and the S14 (1995-1998) was coupe only. The 240SX was a fantastic car for it’s affordability and handling capabilities thanks to front MacPherson struts and a rear multilink suspension plus being relatively light weight (2,700 lbs). This sports car is still very popular today for it’s tuning capabilities with strong aftermarket performance parts support. It can be tuned as an amazing drift and track car. The 240SX is known as the Silvia/180SX/200SX in other markets.
4. 1968 – 1973 Datsun 510
What stands out most when I drove a friend’s 510 is how many looks, smiles and thumbs up I received. Folks remember the 510 as a stylish, affordable, reliable family car that was fun to drive, and still is. Dubbed the poor man’s BMW, the 510 is light and agile with four-wheel independent suspension and rear wheel drive. The 1.6L or 1.8L inline 4 was not that powerful but produced enough get up and go to garner unprecedented motorsports and rally wins in its class. The 510’s simple mechanical design allows for many parts to be interchangeable with other Datsun and Nissan models so the car is easy to modify and very popular amongst tuners and enthusiasts. 510 came as a coupe, sedan and hatchback.
3. 1990 – 1996 Nissan 300ZX
The 300ZX graced the cover of every automotive magazine in the early 90s. This second-generation 300ZX (Z32) was completely redesigned with a 3.0L double overhead cam V6 making 222 horsepower in naturally aspirated form and 300 horsepower Twin Turbo. The 300ZX set the standard for all the other great 90s Japanese sports cars that followed. It’s timeless design, sleek interior and exterior lines and performance prowess garnered numerous awards from the press and motorsports racing wins. Considered one of the most beautiful car designs of all-time, the 300ZX was discontinued in North America after 1996 but continued in other markets until 2000. I own two 300ZX’s (pictured below) a modified 1995 2+2 and a stock 1990 Twin Turbo. The Z32 was also available as a convertible.
2. 1970 – 1978 Datsun 240Z/260Z/280Z
The revolutionary 240Z (also know as the Fairlady Z in Japan) was introduced to the American market by Yutaka Katayama, then president of Nissan Motors USA, also known as Mr. K., the godfather of the Z-Car. Powered by a 2.4L straight 6, the original Z weighed just over 2,300 lbs and made 151 horsepower. A sleek European design with agile handling and an affordable price made the 240Z a huge success. This was the first “Z-Car” that influenced many other sports cars and has carried on through five decades and six model generations to the current Nissan 370Z. With a proud motorsports heritage, the Datsun 240Z is widely considered the most significant Japanese sports car of all-time.
1. 2009 – Present Nissan GT-R / 1989 – 2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Aptly dubbed “Godzilla” the GT-R is Nissan’s halo car embodying all the performance and technology that the Japanese automaker has to offer. The GT-R comes from a proud lineage of “Skylines” from the Japanese domestic market and was made available to purchase in North America with the introduction of the 2009 R35 model. The GT-R features a smooth dual clutch 6-speed transmission, all-wheel drive, 3.8L V6 Twin Turbo producing 545 horsepower to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.7 seconds. The GT-R is undoubtedly one of the fastest production cars in its price range starting at $110,000. A Black edition and NISMO are also available.
There would not be a modern GT-R if it were not for the R32, R33 and R34 Skyline GT-Rs. The Skyline was built in Japan primarily for the Japanese domestic market (JDM). Featuring a strong 5 speed manual AWD powertrain and Super HICAS four wheel steering, the GT-R’s reputation for incredible performance and handling made it a perennial motorsports winner and extremely popular tuner car. North American pop culture embraced the Skyline when it was featured in the 2003 film 2 Fast 2 Furious. Skylines were never sold in Canada but can now be imported from Japan. With strong aftermarket performance parts support, the Skyline GT-R’s RB26 twin turbocharged inline 6 can be modified to crank out 600 plus horsepower and phenomenal torque. If you see one of these right hand drive cult classics on the road, have a good look to admire one of Nissan’s all-time greatest performance cars.
Steve Rhind from Nissan Canada expressed to Wheels.ca, “The entire Nissan product spectrum offers Canadians an innovative and exciting motoring experience, no matter what they choose to drive. Everything from the zero-emission Nissan LEAF, to the adrenalin-inspiring Z sports car, to the versatile Rogue, the robust all-new TITAN XD, and everything in between – Canadian customers are getting the best ownership experience Nissan has to offer.”
Nissan is generally recognized as one of the world’s fastest growing full-line automotive brands. Nissan is widely reputed for building Japanese quality, reliable vehicles with great value, good performance, and modern styling. Nissan’s GT-Rs, SXs, and Z cars are some of the good sport car models virtually anyone who knows anything about the world of automobiles should know about. For some decades now, This Japanese brand has been in the business of making great performance and family cars. But here is a list of top 10 best Nissan models of all time.
Top 15 Best Nissan Sports Cars of All Time
By Mike Schlee Oct 31, 2021
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.
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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.
SEE ALSO: Top 10 Japanese Sports Cars of the ’90s
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 over 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.
Best Nissan Sports Cars Of All Time
In 2002, the Nissan Z resurfaced after a brief hiatus, but this time, it came as a rebranded 250Z model. The two-seat sports car was re-designed with a 287-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine and a sexy, modern styling. The next generation of modern Z cars – 370z – were not released until 2009 with a 3.7-liter V6 making 332 hp. But this time, they were made lighter and smaller than the 350Z.
Nissan Silvia Spec R Aero
Like other Silvias at the time, the wondrous Spec-R may have employed similar 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produced 250 hp. Also known as the 240SX, the company saved its best special edition for last when it released the final version of the Silvia with newly installed components. An aero package that included a massive rear wing was made available with upgraded brakes, six-speed manual, four-wheel steering and a reinforced body and chassis structures.
As nutty as a car concept can get, the subcompact crossover came on board to become an amazing supercar killer. No doubt, this one was actually built. Thanks to the GT-R’s mechanics installed beneath this oddball Nissan Juke crossover .Through a dual-clutch transmission, its 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 making 545-hp powered all 4 wheels.
1969-1973 Skyline 2000GT-R
These are the first Skyline GT-Rs. Although they never lasted that long before being discontinued, they should be complimented for starting it all. They would not only make the GT-R and Skyline automotive icons, they would also set forth decades of incredible sports cars manufactured by Nissan. The Skyline GT-R arrived very handy with a five-speed manual transmission and a 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine that produced 160 hp when it first arrived in 1969. A second generation of Skyline GT-R with the same configuration later arrived in 1973.
Nissan 280ZX/300ZX Turbo
This car made waves during the golden age of the Japanese auto industry. In 1978, the original Z cars were faced out, paving way for the Nissan ZX cars. The 280ZX was the first model to be introduced. Its 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine produced 145 hp. However, it later increased to 180 hp when a turbocharger powering option was included in 1981. A second-generation ZX did not arrive until 1983. This came with a 200 to 227-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine.
Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS
The grocery-getting wagon was designed with the mechanics of the Skyline GT-R while sharing a similar design with the Juke-R of the 90s. However, the conversion of the Stagea Autech 260RS was a lot more affordable and more seamless than the Juke-R Frankenstiening. While producing a highly underrated 276 hp, the legendary 2.6-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine was fit into the top-of-the-line Stagea, just like the R33 Skyline GT-R.
Only a handful of other sports cars can match up with the achievements of Nissan’s Z cars. The original Z made 151 hp, weighed just more than 2,300 lbs and was powered by a 2.4-liter six-cylinder engine. The car shared similar styling with the Jaguar and was instantly heralded as a poor man’s Jaguar when it first came on the market. By 1975, significant improvements were made on the car with an increased weight and a larger engine as portrayed by the 280Z.
The Nissan performance hierarchy was left void after the discontinuation of the Skyline GT-R, but Nissan would build a purposeful, no-nonsense sports car to fill the void. This was nothing else than the GT-R. Even more power, far pricier competition products were unable to withstand this turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine powered model. When it comes to power, the latest GT-R can produce more than 600 hp within the fastest NISMO form. But this is one part of its incredible performance.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R32-R34
Over its 14 year run, the underrated GT-R continued to hint that power was really increasing with an increased torque that also adhered to the self-imposing horsepower limit of 276 ponies. All versions of the Skyline GT-R featured a turbocharged 2.6-liter six-cylinder engine but for a few one-off specials like the 400R. No doubt, it was the R34, R33, and R32Skyline GT-Rs that paved way for the modern GT-R. These were the 3 models of Skyline GT-Rs that made sales from the late 80s to 2002.
Nissan R390 GT1
The Nissan R390 GT1 was a Le Mans prototype for the streets. It was one of the craziest creations that surfaced in the mid-1990s – an era when race cars were based on road going vehicles to race in the top tier at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Amazingly, it became the fastest car of its time. The R390 GT1 is capable of dispatching the quarter mile in just over 11 seconds at a top speed of 220 mph. While one is in the hands of a private owner, only 2 of this car were ever built.