Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Dork
2/2/09 1:50 p.m.

When Nissan introduced the 240SX in the fall of 1988, some said the spiritual successor of the original 240Z had returned. Enthusiasts were again treated to a car featuring a solid rear-wheel-drive chassis and enough torque to make most tugboat owners jealous. More important, this unique combination was wrapped in a slickly styled package that stood head and shoulders above the squared-off 200SX model it replaced.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal group loudly complained that the 240SX wasn’t all it could be. Sure, it would have been nice to get the mega-boosted turbocharged engine available in other markets, but in defense of Nissan, such a package would have proved difficult to market in the United States, which generally favors torque over turbo lag. Instead, Nissan aimed the 240SX at the burgeoning sport-coupe market, which was poised for takeoff.

Led by the Ford Probe, Toyota Celica and Acura Integra, as well as the Diamond Star triplets—Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser—sport coupes were making a comeback at the beginning of the 1990s. After years of small GTI-like hatchbacks dominating the scene, buyers seemed ready for something slightly larger and more refined.

The 240SX fit in nicely, carving out a niche because it was the only rear-drive car in the group. It was styled a bit less aggressively than some of the others, and it seemed to cater to a more mature or refined driver, someone less interested in body kits and power bulges.

The lack of aggressive styling doesn’t mean the 240SX is a slouch when it comes to tackling a twisty mountain road or weaving through the cones at a local autocross. Thanks to the good weight distribution and sporty suspension tuning afforded by the rear-drive layout, the 240SX spoils its owners with a sense of agility and stability. The car’s 2.4-liter engine shouldn’t be looked down upon, either, because it provides significant low- and mid-range torque, perfect for clawing out of tight corners or overtaking slower traffic on two-lane country roads.

The original S13-chassis 240SX was first available as a handsome fastback or notchback, with a convertible version appearing later. The hardtops offered rear seats capable of hauling kids or, for a short ride, even a limber adult. The convertible models—coupes whose tops were chopped upon arrival in the U.S.—retained the overall good looks of their siblings, but unfortunately, Nissan offered them only with an automatic transmission. This was the sole 240SX model available to U.S. consumers for the 1994 model year.

Nissan updated the 240SX for the 1995 model year. Externally, the look was completely new and more up-to-date, with sharper edges and a clean profile. The new S14-chassis 240SX was also slightly larger than its predecessor, offering a longer wheelbase and wider track than the first-generation car.

Sold only as a notchback coupe, the second-generation 240SX received a slight face-lift for the 1997 model year, including slanted, “shark-eye” headlamps and a slightly restyled nose. New taillights completed the look. This car carried the line until it was discontinued in the U.S. market after the 1998 model year.

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