The cars we loved.
The New Year brings many exciting prospects for car lovers. One development to look forward to is the re-emergence of affordable rear wheel drives cars. Toyota and Subaru will offer one soon, while Hyundai has for over a year now. It’s easy for fans of Nissan’s 240sx to feel short-changed. After all the old 240SX offered a lot of promise with it’s tight handling and rear wheel drive. It’s only short coming was its lack of power. The S platform chassis was easily able to handle 50 or more hp. So when the word came that the S14 would be discontinued in America (and the 200SX in Europe), many of the Nissan faithful suddenly found themselves without a mid-priced rear wheel drive coupe to look forward to. To this day, the void left by the departure of the Silvia S14 (or 240SX) was never quite filled by the likes of front wheel drive Sentras and Altimas.
The Silvia lineage however would continue without missing a beat in Japan and Australia where the new S15 would continue as the Silvia in Japan and the 200XS in Australia and New Zealand. The basic setup was similar to the S14 with rear wheel drive and a proven McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. The Silvia S15 would feature revised and updated styling that clearly identified it as a Silvia, but with updated curves that gave way to softened edges. The new look was elegant, yet had a more aggressive face and could be pushed toward the boy racer look with factory available aero packages that went from wild to silly (large rear wing). From some angles it looked as Nissan’s designers were inspired by the Ferrari 456GT. This generation was perhaps the best at tip toeing the line between sport and elegance when left in stock form. There were two trim levels available; both came with the option of various aero enhancements. Generally the S-Spec was normally aspirated and the Spec-R cars were turbocharged.
The exaggerated looks aside, the Silvia finally had an engine to match its aggressive exterior. With 250 hp, the new 2.0 was a much better match for the chassis as had been in the past. Turbo cars could easily reach 60 mph in the mid five second ranges. Although Nissan may not have published a top speed, Autocar magazine estimated 153 mph for the 1999 Spec-R models. A normally aspirated version of the engine was available with 165 hp, a noticeable improvement over the previous generations 145hp only US market 240SX.
The inside remained the simple, stick to the basics layout that S13 and S14 drivers had become accustomed to with essential controls all within easy reach of the driver in the low slung cockpit. Very little is written about the S15 Silvia in mainstream media, but in Japan it had become a drifting sensation for many of the same reasons the S14 did before it. For this reason many American enthusiasts are familiar with the S15 if only by reputation (and the occasional video game).
In Australia and New Zealand only the turbo version was sold, although they were slightly detuned. Like in Japan the car came in Spec-S and R types, but was called 200SX like they had been in the previous generation. Nissan decided in the late 90’s to consolidate its many platforms and the S would become a casuality of efficiency. The new rear wheel drive FM platform would be the source for many of Nissans performance products including the Z cars and the Skyline.
Unfortunately for fans of rear wheel drive performance, Nissans grand scheme resulted in only more expensive cars being powered by the rear wheels. The affordable segment vacated by the Silvia would now be the job of the Altima Coupe in many markets. As nice as the Altima was, it was no Silvia. With Toyota and Subaur’s new affordable rear wheel drive coupe just around the corner, it may be time for Nissan to re-introduce the Silvia to a new and receptive market.