Hooniverse Asks- What's the Best Z-Car?

Born out of the hippie-dippy sixties, the lithe Datsun 240Z presaged a generation of sports cars from the land of the rising sun. That Jaguar XKE-aping coupe found favor with both boy-racer and mid-life crisis-er alike, and each progressive generation built upon the last in performance and features until the ultimate expression of the breed – the 300ZX, now carrying the Nissan brand – no longer expressed the mantra of a small, spritely, toss-about car. The hiatus between the 300ZX and the 350Z allowed Nissan to re-think the marque and that new car, the 350 and successor 370 harken back to the original’s reason d’etre, while still providing blistering performance. Out of all these cars, which one do you think has been the best? Some  may appreciate that first 240Z with its 2,393-cc SOHC straight six and S.U.-aping Hitachi side draughts. The 240 offered 150-bhp in a lightweight 2,355-lb package for an affordable price – when the dealers weren’t gouging you. Performance was excellent for the day, but like many cars of the era, it may seem underwhelming now. The 260 and 280 derivations were not dissimilar, but did attempt to keep pace with the onus of emissions and safety standards. Those later cars introduced the wiener dog 2+2 body style to the U.S., but that car served more to dilute the brand than bring new converts to it. The end of the ’70s also saw the culmination of the S60 series of Z-car. Nissan greeted the New Wave era with both a new name and a new Z. Seeing as there was so much new to go around, the company also appended an X to the name, creating the 280ZX and offered the first factory turbo version of the car. Styling of the new series paid homage to the earlier cars, but added many not so elegant elements as well. Weight also crept  up by nearly a quarter ton. The 280ZX only lasted 5 years, and was replaced by the 300ZX in late 1983 which introduced an engine that was both larger and in a different configuration from every Z that came before. The 2,960 VG30E remained SOHC initially, but its V formation allowed a shorter and lower hood line, requiring pop-up headlamps for the first time in the car’s life. While the name stayed the same, little else did when the 300ZX was re-done yet again in 1989. The new car looked like no previous Z, and brought with it a technological tour de force offering four-wheel steering, twin turbos, and variable valve timing on the now DOHC V6. The car also tipped the scales at nearly two tons. That complexity came a price, and the 1990-96 Z priced itself right out of many buyers consideration set. That spelt the death knell for the Z-car, and the century turned without a brand-leading sports car from Nissan. Fortunately, you can’t keep a good car down, and Nissan has returned with the 350Z in 2003, and the current 370Z refresh just a year or so ago. These cars are significantly lighter than the 300ZX ever was, and provide horsepower and handling that beats the earlier cars handily. That being said, there’s a certain level of gravitas that these cars lack which the bigger, more ostentatious Zs possess. So which do you think is the ultimate Z, the car that not only could be held as the most stellar example of the marque, but the one that, if a friend were to say they were thinking about buying a Z, you would steer them to? And which one would you like to have sitting in your driveway? Image sources: [zilvia.net, carscoop.blogspot.com]

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