You’ve decided to treat yourself to a fast car––to a car that will be a total joy ride. This won’t be your carpool vehicle. This won’t be the responsible and “adult” car you pull up to work in. This is your little treat to yourself. You want to burn some rubber, hear the purr of an engine and feel like you nearly defy gravity when you fly at high speeds. If you want a fast car from a name that you trust, it doesn’t get better than Nissan. With fun and lively options like the iconic GT-R and the new Z, Nissan has a variety of fast cars at a range of prices with tons of exciting features to explore.
You might already be familiar with Nissan if you’ve purchased some of its more everyday vehicles, like the Rogue or the Altima. But now, you’re planning to visit a Nissan dealer to look at its sportier options that will take your breath away. If you are new to shopping for fast cars, it’s important to know what to look for. Some features are a part of what makes any fast car great. Meanwhile, some features are just nice to have and might make the experience a little more fun. Here’s what to look for when buying your first fast car.
Start With the Engine and Transmission
The very first thing you want to consider is the engine and transmission. This is where you get your power and sense of control. It’s that engine that makes a sports car purr and eventually roar. Fortunately, Nissan is known for building powerful engines, like the 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 found on the Nissan GT-R. This beast of a motor pumps out 565 hp and 467 lb-ft of torque in its standard configuration, and the NISMO trim gets a hand-built version that uses GT3 race car technology to generate 600 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque. The GT-R makes the most of every pony with its lightning-fast dual-clutch transmission, which is capable of ripping through the gears with a flick of its paddle shifters.
For a more traditional sports car experience, the Nissan Z offers an old-school six-speed manual transmission. Manuals may not be as fast as a dual-clutch or even a modern automatic transmission, but there is something mystical about pulling off a perfect heel-toe downshift that can never be replicated with even the best automatic transmission. However, this isn’t to say the Z is slow. It comes with a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 producing an even 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque and can hit 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, even if you have to shift gears manually. If you don’t want to bother with a clutch, there is also a nine-speed automatic transmission option for the Z.
Consider the Cost
Many people associate sports cars with luxury price tags. While that certainly can be true, it doesn’t have to be. Nissan does have the 2021 GT-R starting at a bit over $110,000, which certainly launches it into the category of high-end luxury vehicles. However, the 2023 Z is quite affordable for a sports car with its $39,990 starting price. Plus, it’s loaded with features and power that make it perfectly suited to the race track hobbyist who needs to keep some money left in the bank for their everyday car. Today, fewer and fewer car brands are building affordable sports cars, but Nissan remains committed to making thrilling behind-the-wheel experiences affordable for all. So don’t instantly accept high price tags as the cost of going fast. There are still choices for a variety of budgets today.
Look for Great Responsiveness
Responsive handling is a must-have in a car that you plan on going fast in. Think of handling as how your car responds to the road and your movements. Great handling means responsive steering that doesn’t miss a beat when you take that sudden sharp turn and plenty of traction so that the car doesn’t spin out no matter how hard you push it. You also want a car with a low center of gravity that hugs the road so you always feel in control, even when driving at the limit.
The Nissan GT-R is known for its incredibly sophisticated all-wheel drive system that has a way of making even newbie sports car drivers feel like they know what they’re doing. An experienced driver can push this rear-wheel-biased system even harder, wringing every ounce of grip out of the tires for simply unbelievable performance. To keep the car steady at high speeds, Nissan equipped the GT-R with a flat underbody and a large carbon-fiber diffuser to literally pull the vehicle down to the road.
All of that said, if you will be mostly driving your sports car for fun on dry roads, you might get the most out of the traditional handling of a rear-wheel drive model. The Nissan Z offers exactly that, and it has even weight distribution, helping you stay in control when going fast and taking quick turns. The combination of good balance, rear-wheel drive, and plenty of power also makes the Z one of the best drift cars you can buy if you have a desire (and the budget) for shredding tires.
Sporty Instrument Clusters Are a Bonus
Part of the fun of driving a sports car is seeing exactly what’s happening inside your car’s systems. You’ll want a car with a well-designed instrument cluster that shows you information about how your systems are working when you’re pushing your sports car to the limits. This is, first and foremost, critical to helping you remain in control and know when to make adjustments. But on the fun side, it also just makes you feel like a professional race car driver.
This is one of the places where the newer Z actually pulls ahead of the GT-R. Despite being significantly less expensive, the Z comes standard with an incredibly high-resolution 12.3-inch digital instrument display with three selectable interfaces. The Sport option was even designed with input from a professional Super GT race car driver from the NISMO factory team, who insisted on making the most minor detail perfect, down to having the tachometer redline at the 12 o’clock position for easy viewing. Supplementing the digital display, the Z also has three analog gauge pods to display critical information at eye level.
You’re Ready to Fly
Now that you have an understanding of what makes a great sports car, you can make an informed decision with your dollars. Today, the world of sports cars may increasingly seem like it is all cars priced for the rich and famous. However, there is still variety out there, thanks to manufacturers like Nissan. Even those on a tight budget can find a fun little thrill ride at a reasonable price. Plus, because automotive engineering has improved significantly, many sports cars now enjoy unprecedented power, including Nissan’s two options.
Every driver deserves to have a toy that’s just for them in their driveway. You spend enough time following the rules in your everyday car, like your sedan or SUV. Your sports car is where you can explore more of the rebel in you. Knowing what makes a good sports car––and what matters to you––means you’re ready to fulfill that need for speed (just don’t forget to leave money in your budget for those speeding tickets).