Nissan Silvia Turbo ZX
Nearly an excellent car
My brief experiences of Nissan cars in the past have left my enthusiasm for the firm’s products very easy to control, so despite hearing some good reports of the Silvia Turbo ZX, I was not exactly keyed up with excitement at the prospect of driving one for a week. As the sub-title of this article suggests, however, I was impressed by the car, albeit with some reservations, and it was with regret that I handed it back after over 800 miles of enjoyable driving.
The Silvia is a descendant of Nissan’s S110 Coupe bur bears no resemblance to other Nissan cars marketed in the UK. Only a small portion of the full Silvia range is imported into Britain, we do not see the notchback coupe, for example, or some of the less powerful engine options. While European manufacturers are generally content to have one basic bodyshell serve an entire range, the Japanese delight in ringing the changes and generally put a hatchback / coupe at the top end of their ranges. The aesthetic and practical consequences of this shuffling of body panels are not always etirely happy but Nissan has managed to produce a car with balanced, if unremarkable, lines, with generous boot space, split rear seats, an adequate rear passenger space.
If the exterior of the car is pleasant, well finished, but finally unremarkable, the same is not true of what lies under the bonnet for there nestles a jewel of an engine. It’s a four-cylinder) sohc unit of 1,809 cc mounted north-south and driving to the independently sprung (coil springs and trailing arms) rear wheels via a five-speed gearbox. Turbocharged, of course, and fitted with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection it delivers 135 bhp at 6,000 rpm and a useful 142 Ib/ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Its outstanding characteristics are its smoothness and quietness, even when starting on a cold morning, and the way it delivers its power silkily even at low engine speeds. It’s nor one of those turbo engines which suddenly flexes its muscles at, say, 3,000 rpm, the turbo is in use from 1,000 rpm onwards. This makes the car outstanding in heavy city traffic for it will accelerate to 30 mph in just 2.7 seconds, a time one normally associates with exotica. This instant availability of power makes the Silvia extremely relaxing to drive under difficult conditions and one’s sense of well-being is enhanced by first class braking from its servo-assisted all round disc brakes which, unusually, are larger (11.4 in) at the rear than at the front (10.8 in).
I was not able to match the maker’s claimed 8.5 seconds for 0-60 mph but returned 8.8 seconds while the top speed of 127 on “my” car was a little short of the claimed 130 mph maximum. Overall economy worked out at 24.5 mpg but since part of the test was conducted in the atrocious fog just before Christmas with its attendant stop-start driving, I think that most drivers would find 26/27 mpg nearer the true average. With its 11.8 gall fuel tank, this gives the Silvia a range of roughly 300 miles.
As you would expect from a car fitted with flush glass, and with a claimed cd of 0.34, wind noise is low and even with the rear side lights open (they hinge from their leading edges) noise is at an acceptable level at 70 mph. The car is unresponsive to cross winds and buffeting from overtaking high-sided vehicles.
The gearbox is crisp and precise, fourth is direct drive and fifth an overdrive. Under most conditions it is delightful but I found it fairly easy to beat the synchromesh when changing quickly up, or down, to third. Clutch pedal travel is quite long by most standards but the action is very light. The power-assisted steering is strangely heavy at low speeds but is generally firm and precise.
At first I thought the seats would prove too firm but experience showed that they were comfortable and supportive over long distances whilst nor being outstanding. The same goes for the ride; at first I thought it might prove a fraction on· the hard side but over the length of the test it revealed itself as a good compromise, again without being exceptional in the way, say, that most of the Austin / MG range now is.
At the beginning of this piece I wrote that the car was handed back with regret for under most conditions it is one of the most relaxing cars I’ve driven. The engine, the brakes, the low wind noise and the fact that it feels solid and “of a piece” gives the driver a sense of well-being. It tends not to stir the blood but the Silvia is soothing company. I also wrote that I had some reservations about the car and, briefly, these are its equipment and the behaviour of the back
comparative scarcity value. I am not personally too taken by the Silvia’s looks but can understand why others might be smitten.
In describing the characteristics of the rear end of the car I’ve had to use more space than the degree of importance I attach to them. Under most conditions the car was extremely agreeable, the engine a never-failing delight. I can only repeat my earlier comment – that I was sorry to have to return it. – M.L.