Just when we had given up on the bloated lounge-lizard boulevardier that the once-great Datsun 240Z had become, along came the fourth-generation Z, the 1990 Nissan 300ZX-more specifically the Turbo-and we fell for it all over again. No, it was better than that. This reincarnation not only brought the Z back from the dead, it pushed it into the exalted status of one of the twenty greatest cars built during the first two decades of Automobile Magazine. We adored it. It was once again beautiful, so sleek and tight and shimmering that it still looks great ten years after it went away. The closest cars we had in comparison were that German sports car paragon, the Porsche 944 Turbo (in its last year), and Detroit's own icon, the Chevrolet Corvette. Nissan's boldest Z blew both of them away with its stunningly superb 300-hp, 60-degree V-6, whose twin turbos delivered maximum horsepower with no discernible lag, a rarity fifteen years ago, and a sweet-shifting five-speed. The Turbo was 30 percent cheaper than the Porsche and about twice as sophisticated as both the Porsche and the Vette, with Super HICAS rear-wheel steering that made up handling ground that would have been lost due to the Turbo's nearly 3500 pounds. The Germans whined that the supple Japanese GT couldn't handle prolonged and repeated braking, and they were right, but an aftermarket set of Brembos proved to be an easy fix. The only reason the 300ZX Turbo didn't win the 1990 Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year was that Mazda had out-astonished us with the Miata roadster, completely reinvigorating an entire category. Still, the 300ZX Turbo won an All-Star award that year, and then four more in a row. Speaking of stars, the Turbo was our first Four Seasons test car (in five years of such test cars) to win a perfect five-star rating, attesting to a bulletproof level of reliability to go along with our unflagging devotion after twelve months of hard driving. It was such an unfettered beast on the road and such a joy to drive hard that it was a wonder we all avoided jail that year. Nissan discontinued the 300ZX Turbo after six years, when emissions restrictions became too expensive to meet, insurance companies started jacking up rates on turbocharged cars, and interest in coupes flagged. But for those brief years, it was a magic time, a time when we wrote: "The 300ZX Turbo is a dance; it's a song; it's rolling, roaring automotive art. There is no color that doesn't suit it. There is no mood-lifting chemical substance it can't replace."
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