Retro Review: Nissan 240SX

Check out our retro review of the Nissan 240SX for a bit of history on this well-loved Japanese sport compact sold here throughout the 90s.

Retro Review: Nissan 240SX

1995 Nissan 240SX -

1995 Nissan 240SX – |  Shop Nissan 240SX on

Though only sold in North America from 1990 to 1998, the Nissan 240SX is a member of one of Japan’s most respected lines of automotive royalty. That line, known as the S Platform, underpinned cars like the 200SX and Silvia – a legend found on this list of Top 20 JDM cars – with roots dating to 1976. When it was applied to the 240SX, the formula blended a long wheelbase, low weight, 55/45 front/rear weight distribution and rear-wheel-drive.

These are just some of the reasons the Nissan 240SX is coveted by the aftermarket tuning and drifting crowd. The latter group came on to the scene in what is referred to as the “Golden Age” of Japanese street racing back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when secretive groups like the Mid Night Club performed wild feats of speed in heavily modified sports cars. In fact, the 240SX is featured in the modern Midnight Club video game, which was inspired by these real-life racers. You can read more about this fascinating underground club here.

1996 Nissan 240SX -
1996 Nissan 240SX -

The popularity of Japanese performance cars in America exploded when Paul Walker hit the silver screen in his glorious Candy Pearl Orange Supra, a car we talk about here. Ever since, prices on these 240SX’ have only continued to increase, particularly the second-generation model with its virtually identical Silvia style. Though it comes from the same automaker and shares very similar alphanumeric naming, the 240SX is in fact unrelated the 240Z, 280ZX, or any of the Z cars for that matter. However, you can read up on the 240Z here and a full Z Car history here.

Nissan 240SX First Generation: S13

1990 Nissan 240SX hatchback -
1990 Nissan 240SX hatchback -

When it arrived on our shores for the 1990 model year, the 240SX replaced the S12-Series 200SX and featured a naturally aspirated KA24E inline-four engine with a single overhead camshaft and three valves per cylinder, making 140 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque. And really, this was the key difference between the 240SX and its more favored Silvia counterpart found in most other markets. Those cars were turbocharged, the North American model was not.

Paired with either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual spinning the rear wheels, the new 240SX tipped the scales at just 2,700 pounds. Featuring MacPherson struts up front, a multilink rear suspension, and standard four-wheel disc brakes, it was a car with solid handling if somewhat underpowered. On the styling front, pop up headlights were the most obvious differentiator between the 240SX and Silvia, which had fixed front lamps.

1994 Nissan 240SX convertible -
1994 Nissan 240SX convertible -

Out of the gate, the Nissan 240SX was offered in hatchback or coupe form, the latter of which could be optioned with a head-up-display that projected a digital speedometer readout on the windshield. In 1991, the car received a minor exterior refresh as well as more power and technology. Now with a pair of camshafts and four valves per cylinder, the new KA24DE four-pot made 155 hp and 160 torques. A limited slip differential (LSD) could be optioned as well as Nissan’s trick HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering) four-wheel-steering system.

Only offered in the North American market, in 1992 a convertible version was added. It began life as a coupe, assembled in Japan like every other Nissan 240SX, and was then converted to a drop-top by American Specialty Cars in California. In 1994, the final year of gen-one S13 production, the only 240SX available was a Special Edition convertible fitted with the 4-speed automatic.

Nissan 240SX Second Generation: S14

1995 Nissan 240SX -
1995 Nissan 240SX -

Released for the 1995 model year, the second-generation Nissan 240SX bore a far stronger resemblance to its S14 cousin in Japan with flush-mounted headlights and more curvaceous sheet metal. With the hatchback and convertible body styles dropped, a coupe was the only option. Though slightly shorter overall than the S13 model, the S14 stretched the wheelbase by two inches and featured a wider track, lending the car an overall more athletic appearance.

Other platform improvements included a manufacturer claimed 50% increase in torsional stiffness and 100% improvement in bending rigidity thanks to nearly every component on the car being new. As well, dual airbags were now standard equipment. Unfortunately, all these upgrades led to a roughly 80-pound increase in overall weight but the same powertrain, making the same power, was carried over.

1997 Nissan 240SX -

1997 Nissan 240SX – |  Shop Nissan 240SX on

Newly available features included leather upholstery, a viscous LSD, keyless entry, a CD player, and anti-theft security system. 1997 brought a facelift that included new projector headlights, revised front and rear fascias, and new fenders. These cars were known as “Kouki” models versus the pre-facelift “Zenki”.

Ultimately, production of the Nissan 240SX would end in 1998, as sales suffered due to competition and consumers increasing appetite for SUVs. In Japan, however, there would be an S15 model produced until 2002 that made nearly 250 horsepower from its SR20DET turbocharged motor. This is worth noting as the 25-year-rule on importing cars is nearly upon us for this highly desirable final iteration of the S Platform sport compact car from Nissan.

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Niel Stender

Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his 1990 Cherokee and 1989 Starion, so it’s not surprising that he would put his mechanical engineering degree from the University of New Hampshire to use in the car world as a vehicle dynamics engineer. Now engineering sentence structures, his writing infuses his auto experience with his time in marketing and his sales experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he focuses on some of the more technical mechanical systems that are found under the hood and throughout a vehicle.

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