Datsun 280ZX – The Sophisticated Second-Generation Z
The Datsun 280ZX marked the second generation of Nissan’s famed Z sports car when it debuted in 1979. With an emphasis on style, luxury and grand touring abilities, the 280ZX represented a more refined take on the concept versus its predecessor, the Datsun 240Z. But a switch to fuel injection and available turbocharger ensured performance still delivered on the “Z” promise. The sophisticated 280ZX expanded the appeal of Nissan’s affordable sports car legend.
Greater Luxury and Refinement
The 280ZX brought higher equipment levels and luxury trims to broaden its reach beyond just driving enthusiasts. Air conditioning, power windows, leather/suede upholstery, 8-track audio, and digital dash displays dressed up the interior. The 2+2 model added fully upholstered rear jump seats to expand the accommodations. Fluid lines cloaked the unitary chassis in a lithe fastback shape penned by Italdesign. Datsun polished the Z car’s rough edges for 1979 without diminishing its performance capabilities.
Advanced Fuel Injected Engine
A fuel-injected 2.8L straight-6 replacing the prior generation’s carbureted motor brought better response, efficiency, and power distribution. Rated at 149 horsepower, 0-60mph now took just 8.8 seconds. The engine loved to rev and squeezed out an additional 15 horses when hooked to the optional 5-speed manual transmission. This free-revving yet efficient powerplant maintained the Z’s sports car character while taming emissions and fuel usage – key attributes as the 1980s approached.
Agile, Balanced Handling
The 280ZX retained its predecessor’s front-engine, rear-drive configuration central to the Z car driving experience. Independent front and rear suspension provided agile reflexes. Excellent weight distribution – 53% front / 47% rear – eliminated understeer and produced neutral handling balance. The responsive chassis and steering allowed the Z to carve twisty roads with precision. Performance purists could opt for quicker steering and a limited-slip rear differential to enhance control at the limit. In the twisties, the 280ZX delivered driving joy.
Turbo Performance Flagship
For blistering straight-line performance, the 1981 280ZX Turbo arrived packing 180hp and 203 lb-ft torque. The responsive twin-turbo system overcame lag with impressive mid-range punch, rocketing the 280ZX Turbo from 0-60 in just 7.0 seconds. Compression dropped to 7.8:1, but stouter internals and improved cooling handled the turbocharged output. Larger brakes and a retuned suspension managed the elevated power. For ultimate Z performance, the 280ZX Turbo reached new heights of capability.
Sales Success for a New Era
Strong build quality and more accessible luxury helped vault 280ZX sales to over 446,000 units, far beyond its predecessor. This affirmed the wisdom of Nissan’s strategy to broaden appeal. The 280ZX secured the Z car’s relevance heading into its second decade amid changing consumer tastes. Yet underneath, it remained the enthusiast’s sports car that established its legend. The 280ZX honored traditional Z car strengths while packaging them in a thoroughly modern and sophisticated shell.