- The Nissan Z was a very successful sports car for Nissan, selling over 50,000 units in the US between 1972 and 1973.
- The evolution of the Z range has seen significant advances in performance and technology, with each generation bringing improvements.
- The latest 2022 Nissan Z combines modern design elements with powerful performance and a versatile interior, making it an exciting choice for sports car enthusiasts.
The Nissan Z is one of Nissan’s best sports cars and has been produced since 1969. Nissan has produced the Z in seven generations, with the latest iteration incorporating modern technology and doubling the performance of its predecessors.
The Z began life as a Datsun in the US, but Nissan later dropped the Fairlady name and brand in the third generation. From launch, the Z had 6-cylinder engines, with early versions getting an inline 6 and more recent versions getting a V6. Here’s everything you need to know about the evolution of the Nissan Z, including photos of each generation.
Nissan Fairlady Z: 1969 – 1978
Nissan introduced the Z in 1969 and began selling the 1970 Fairlady Z in October 1969. While the Japanese variant had a 130 hp 2.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, the American variant of the Nissan Z, the Datsun 240Z, received a larger 151 hp 2.4-liter 6-cylinder engine. The Datsun 240Z arrived in the US in 1969, selling over 45,000 units by 1971 and over 50,000 units from 1972 to 1973.
In 1974, the Datsun 260Z entered the American market with a larger 2.6-liter engine with less power – 139 hp. The lower power figures were due to new carburettors, camshafts and lower compression that Nissan introduced to comply with new emissions regulations. Nissan also introduced a 2+2 variant with an extended wheelbase.
In 1975, the 280Z appeared on the North American market with a larger 2.8 liter engine. The increased volume of the engine also increased the power to 170 hp. Nissan has achieved this by introducing the Bosch fuel injection system. The 280Z also received a larger bumper and added luxury touches.
Nissan Fairlady 280ZX: 1978 – 1983
The second generation Nissan Z was known as the Nissan/Datsun 280ZX. It marked a significant evolution in the Z line and succeeded the Datsun 240Z and 260Z models. In the late 1970s, the 280ZX had a 160 hp 2.8-liter 6-cylinder engine. in naturally aspirated form and 200 hp. with turbocharging.
The 280ZX also introduced T-shaped roof panels, providing an exciting open-air experience. It also helped increase the versatility and appeal of the 280ZX. Nissan also abandoned the sporty and compact look of its predecessors, changing to an elongated and more luxurious appearance. These changes helped the 280ZX achieve impressive sales figures, setting a new Z car record of 86,007 units sold in its first year.
Nissan 300ZX: 1983 – 1989
The Nissan Z of the 1980s, the 300ZX marked a significant leap forward in the Z lineup with more advanced technology and performance. It builds on the success of its predecessors, featuring a larger 3.0-liter V6 engine available in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions. The naturally aspirated V6 produced an impressive 160 hp, while the turbocharged version boosted output to 200-226 hp, depending on trim.
In the 300ZX, Nissan introduced advanced technology, including Super HICAS, a four-wheel steering system that improved handling and cornering capabilities. In addition, the 300ZX featured an adjustable suspension system and advanced digital instruments that helped drivers tailor its performance to their liking.
In terms of design, the third generation Nissan Z has retained a sleek aerodynamic profile with a distinctive modern look and pop-up headlights. Throughout its production, the 300ZX demonstrated Nissan’s commitment to performance and innovation, making it a serious contender in the sports car segment.
Nissan 300ZX: 1989 – 2000
Despite keeping the same name for its fourth generation, the Nissan Z introduced significant performance and technological advancements. It had a number of powerful V6 engines, including a non-supercharged version with 222 to 228 hp. and a more powerful 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 300 hp.
In addition to impressive performance, the Nissan 300ZX featured a number of advanced technologies, including an advanced rear-wheel steering system. The system had better handling and cornering than its predecessor. Like its predecessors, the 300ZX had T-roofs as standard, but Nissan also offered hardtops, a 2+2 model, and a convertible.
Nissan 350Z: 2002 – 2009
Nissan introduced the 350Z in 2002 as the fifth-generation Z variant. Unlike its predecessors, the 350Z had significant changes, including modern design elements and a powerful power plant. Under its hood was a powerful naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine with an impressive 286 hp. The powertrain is mated to either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission, giving the 350Z an exciting driving experience and strong acceleration.
Nissan focused on creating a pure sports car in the new generation Z. The 350Z had a sleek and aerodynamic exterior to achieve this, featuring a distinctive front grille and bold lines. The 350Z also featured a minimalist and functional driver-centric cabin.
The 350Z had several trim levels: base, Performance, Touring, Grand Touring, Track and Nismo. The base 350Z lacked more expensive packages, including a limited-slip differential and traction control. Touring and Grand Touring models offer more luxury features, including a Bose entertainment system, leather seats and optional navigation.
The Track and Nismo variants offered the ultimate driving experience thanks to Brembo brakes and Rays Engineering forged wheels. Nissan later abandoned the Track configuration in favor of the Nismo variant. The Nismo kept the wheels and brakes, but added an aggressive body kit and a larger exhaust.
Nissan 370Z: 2009 – 2020
Nissan introduced the next generation, the 370Z, in December 2008. The 370Z continued the legacy of its predecessors, offering better performance and heritage. Under its hood was a powerful 3.7-liter V6 engine with a power range from 328 to 350 hp. Like the 350Z, the 370Z engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. However, for the automatic transmission, Nissan has upgraded it to a 7-speed, which provides a better driving experience than the 5-speed of its predecessor.
The 370Z also retains some styling cues from its predecessor, including a long hood and a short rear. Nissan has added a few modern touches to the exterior, including an aggressive front grille and sleek headlights. The 370Z has evolved over the years, but retains its interior design with logically placed controls and a spacious cabin.
While the 370Z never had basic features like a telescoping steering wheel, the 370Z did offer bolstered seats, and the sharper Nismo models got all the perks like a custom Nismo signature tachometer and Recaro sport seats in leather and faux suede.
Nissan Z: 2022 – present time
After a two-year hiatus, Nissan finally introduced the seventh generation Nissan Z. The design of the Nissan Z drew inspiration from its predecessors, but introduced more modern technology and a multifunctional interior. In addition, the Z also has a reasonable starting price, with the 2023 model starting at $40,990.
The current Nissan Z sits below the more beastly GT-R and is powered by a 400 hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6. and 350 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic transmission. Like its predecessors, the Nissan Z sticks exclusively to rear-wheel drive, leaving all-wheel drive to its big brother, the GT-R.
In addition to improved performance, the Nissan Z also received a modern interior with updated materials. Inside, there are some amenities like dual-zone automatic climate control, power seats, and leather upholstery. The Z also gets an 8-inch infotainment display as standard, but Nissan also offers an optional 9.0-inch unit with navigation.