Best Nissan Sports Cars

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Jump to section·Nissan 350Z·Nissan 370Z·Nissan Juke

It all began with dinner and a show. Or so the story goes.

While visiting New York in the 1950s, Nissan’s then CEO Katsuji Kawamata took in a Broadway musical – “My Fair Lady,” specifically – and was apparently so impressed by the performance that he decided to name an entire line of sports coupes in its honor.

Enter the Fairlady Z, or as it’s known outside Japan, the Nissan Z line.

The first generation of Zs – the 240Z – arrived in the United States under Nissan’s then export name badge, Datsun, in 1970. And before long, the two-door, two-seat coupe had officially driven itself into the hearts and racing fantasies of sports car aficionados both stateside and around the world.

Over the years, the 240Z gave way to the 260Z, the 280Z, the 300Z, the 350Z and finally – the most current model – the 370Z. A legacy that’s now more than half a century in the making, its look and feel has evolved with the times, all the while remaining true to the original concept: a car that’s simply fun to drive and doesn’t break the bank.

Rumor has it that Nissan is currently putting the final touches on the forthcoming Z edition, which will be the seventh generation. Still in the works with no confirmed release date, it’s expected to be released within the next two years or so.

Until then, race fans have six generations of this sports car icon – more than 50 years’ worth – to keep pacified.

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Nissan 350Z

If you want to know Nissan’s legacy of sports cars from A to Z, just remember that it’s all about the Z. Specifically, the Z line.

The Nissan Z series first debuted half a century ago with the 1970 model year, way back when the Japanese automaker was still branding itself outside the homeland not as Nissan but as Datsun. It wouldn’t be until 1986 when Nissan would finally phase out the Datsun name in all foreign markets, switching to full use of the Nissan name.

Known as the Nissan Fairlady Z still to this day in Japan, the Z line consists of two-door, two-seater coupes with different number badge names for varying model years.

2005 Nissan 350Z Touring (from $13,950)

The 350Z specifically refers to fifth-generation models that were manufactured between 2002 and 2008 and originally came in five and then later seven different trim package options: base, enthusiast, performance, touring, grand touring, track and Nismo.

Under the hood in earlier models – those manufactured between 2002 and 2004, specifically – is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a brake horsepower of 287, while 350Zs made between 2005 and 2008 –commemorating the Z line’s 35th anniversary, no less – pack a brake horsepower of 300 bph. Rear-wheel drive comes standard on all Z models, too, which adds to the car’s sporty playfulness and handling on the road.

When they hit the market in 2002, new 350Zs retailed for around $30,000, which, given that Nissan took most of its inspiration from the Porsche Boxster, is impressive to say the least.

These days, used Nissan 350Zs can be found for around $18,000.Free 7-day returnShop Used Nissan 350Z 

Nissan 370Z

The sixth generation of the Z line and the 350Z’s successor, the Nissan 370Z badge refers to Z models manufactured between 2009 and 2020.

For the most part, at first glance the 370Z seems to share much of the same overall aesthetic as the 350Z. But first impressions can be deceiving. Similar in design, it also sports rear-wheel drive and a front mid-engine, albeit a 3.7-liter V-6, which makes it slightly larger than the 350Z’s 3.5-liter V-6. It’s also a bit wider, shorter and lighter, and cleaner curves make for a more aerodynamic shape, too. Stiffer stabilizer bars and springs also make for a more solid ride all around.

Those minor modifications make the Nissan 370Z the fastest member of the Z series to date, with a horsepower of 300 for the coupe and roadster variants and 350 for the race-ready NISMO edition.

Keeping true to the Z line’s classic street race vibe, the Nissan 370Z comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, which launch the car from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 and 4.7 seconds, respectively. Unique to 370Zs with manual transmissions is a system that Nissan calls SynchroRev Match, a series of sensors that automatically blips the throttle to match the engine’s rev to the car’s speed and keeps it from jolting when downshifting.

2014 Nissan 370Z (from $22,700)

New 370Zs start at just under $31,000, while used models depending on the model year go for significantly less. Early-year 370Zs hover in the low $20,000s, while more recent editions run in the mid $20,000s.

Regardless of the specific number that precedes the Z, any member of the Nissan sports coupe Fairlady family is sure to have you feeling like Speed Racer on the road.

The Fairlady Z series is a legacy in and of itself, and a trailblazer not just on the road. The car’s success and timeless popularity has no doubt over the years inspired Nissan’s competitors to come up with their own sports coupes.

Mazda has the Miata. Lexus has the RC. Toyota-backed Scion doubles up with the tC and the FR-S. Hyundai has the Genesis, and Subaru has the BRX. All are priced to compete with the Nissan Z line, too, with used models hovering between $15,000 and the mid $30,000s.
Free 7-day return30-days warrantyShop Used Nissan 370Z

Nissan Juke

First released in 2010, the Nissan Juke is technically a crossover SUV built on the same B platform as the Nissan Versa. But despite the fact that it’s a crossover, the details of the Juke’s overall aesthetic exude a spunky, sporty sense of individuality, with a center console setup that’s on par with that of a motorcycle and gauges that look like they’ve been lifted out of a rally racer.

Broad wheel wells and a raised waistline of the body contrast with the slender side windows to make for a fresh take on the iconic “Coke bottle style” body design that was popular among sports cars of the 1960s and 1970s sports cars like the Corvette Stingray and Buick Riviera, which featured narrow centers with flared fenders.

The Juke is available in three trim options, the S, SV and SL. All come standard with a 1.6-liter, 16-valve engine that makes for a peppy ride while maintaining a decent fuel economy of 27 mpg on city streets and 32 mpg on the freeway. Jukes come standard with front-wheel-drive, but all-wheel-drive is an optional upgrade on all trims, too.

2011 Nissan JUKE S (from $9,100)

Fun fact: in 2013, Nissan’s rally race-happy design team unveiled an insanely sportier special limited edition of the Juke, the Juke-R. Under the hood is Nissan’s twin-turbo V-6, 545 horsepower engine known as the VR, which is the exact motor that hurls the Nissan GT-R super sports coupe from zero to 60 mph in less than three seconds. Nissan manufactured only 23 Juke-Rs, so needless to say they’re extremely rare, not to mention

While the newest addition to the Nissan family, the Kicks, replaced the Juke in the North American market after the 2017 model year, plenty of used Juke models are still available stateside for around $9,000.

Shift certified mechanics run an extensive 150-point inspection on each of its cars, which also come with a complete vehicle history report, too. So you can be sure your used sports coupe – be it a Nissan or not – is ready to race as if it were new.

Top 15 Best Nissan Sports Cars of All Time

ShareTweetSubscribeBy Mike Schlee Oct 31, 20219

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.

ALSO SEE:  Nissan Micra Cup Proves You Can Race a Cheap Car with No Power and Actually Have 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.

SEE ALSO: Proof that Honda, Toyota and Nissan Are 100% Cooler in Japan

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.

SEE ALSO: Next Nissan GT-R To Get New Platform, Will ‘Own’ the Race Track

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.

ALSO SEE: Top 10 Cars the Honda Civic Type R Beats on the Nurburgring


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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