Driving Nissan’s 300ZX convertible brought to mind a line from Bruce Springsteen’s song ”Hungry Heart”: ”I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.”
That’s what you might be tempted to do on a sunny Central Florida day once you lower the roof and settle into the leather-clad cockpit of Nissan’s 300ZX sports car.
It’s a blast to drive.
For some, the 300ZX’s cost could be a drawback. At nearly 38 grand, the car is a bit pricey.
Nissan’s 300ZX is fast and powerful but also smooth and refined. Unlike other high-performance sports cars, this one is not intimidating to drive.
The smooth-running 220-horsepower V-6 rockets the 300ZX from 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The aluminum 3.0-liter engine sports 24 valves and electronic fuel injection, but no power-increasing turbochargers, which are available as an option on the 300ZX hardtop.
Most of the power is available between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. After about 5,000 rpm, the best way to accelerate quickly is to move into the next highest gear.
In any case, you never feel as if you can’t control the power or that the car might get away from you as you build up speed and negotiate a tight, fast turn.
The test car, painted a blinding shade of red, came with a five-speed manual transmission.
As in other Nissan products, the 300ZX’s manual gearbox required little effort to shift, and the clutch pedal was smooth and easy to use.
Try as I might (which, to be honest, wasn’t very hard) I never got more than 16 miles per gallon in city driving. I drove the test car aggressively. It’s too much fun revving up the engine in first and second gears for fast starts. I clocked nearly 23 miles per gallon on a road trip.
With the exception of the brakes, Nissan has a masterpiece in the 300ZX.
This is the third Nissan I have driven recently in which the brakes have left me severely disappointed.
They don’t seem to have much bite, and the brakes only really work well when the pedal is given a hefty push.
The brakes on a sports car should be able to get you out of trouble just as fast as you can get into it. On the 300ZX, you don’t feel as if the brakes are up to the task.
I’ve said this before, but maybe BMW, which makes the best brakes in the business, has spoiled me. To my way of thinking, the brakes on a sports car need to be fast-acting, powerful and extra responsive.
The four-wheel discs on the 300ZX have none of these qualities.
Aside from that, the car is easy to drive and control. The 300ZX is equipped with a high-tech speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering system that allows the car to turn a circle in a tight 34 feet. That makes maneuvering easy.
The four-wheel independent suspension system provides a firm, stable ride. In other sports cars, such as the Chevrolet Corvette, cruising over rough pavement will bruise your kidneys.
Not the 300ZX.
The suspe nsion system filters out most of the turbulence.
FIT AND FINISH
Generally, the 300ZX is a user-friendly vehicle with an array of controls that require little work of the driver to operate.
Raising and lowering the convertible top, however, can be a tedious affair.
One person must make several orbits around the car to ensure the proper buttons are pressed and all latches are in the right position before the top can be stowed under the car’s Fiberglas tonneau cover.
For $38,000, one would expect a power top such as that on the now-discontinued Infiniti M30. On that car, also built by Nissan, all you need to do is press a button and the top is raised and lowered automatically.
The Nissan has a center-mounted roll bar to protect occupants in a roll-over crash.
The dash and instruments are a monument to simplicity and functionality. The controls for the radio and air conditioner are less than an arm’s length away in the center of the dash.
The buttons are clearly marked and nicely styled.
With the top down the 300ZX looks great.
The test car came equipped with nearly every power accessory and option you could want, plus a driver’s side air bag.
If you’ve always wanted a convertible sports car, Nissan’s 300ZX is likely to prove to be a dependable and an enjoyable car.
Truett’s tip: Nissan’s 300ZX convertible could use a stronger set of brakes and a power top. Even so, it is a powerful, well-built and comfortable sports car.