By on August 7, 2018

Toyota Supra

Today we decide which of three legendary and sporty Japanese coupe gets the flamethrower. Will it be the Toyota, the Mazda, or the Nissan? All of these vehicles are the last in their line, so this one might be a bit difficult.

Rear-drive, serious performance, twin-turbo motors, and sweet styling are the hallmarks of today’s trio — the short-lived pinnacle of the ’90s Japanese sports car.

Toyota Supra 

The fourth generation Supra model began production in early 1993, as Toyota aimed to take its sports car in a more serious direction. Performance and handling were at the forefront of this new A80; previously those two had taken a back seat to luxury appointments and more brougham styling.

All Supras had the same 2ZJ inline-six engine, either with or without a turbocharger. Naturally aspirated versions had 220 horsepower, while turbo versions upped that figure to an impressive 320. Today’s selection is a turbo with six-speed manual — the best one. A four-speed automatic was also available, and was forced upon consumers starting with the ’96 model because of OBD-II requirements. 0-60 mph is yours in 4.6 seconds. Declining sports coupe sales would see Supra exit Canada after 1996, and the U.S. after 1998, with all ’98 models being of the naturally aspirated persuasion.

Mazda RX-7 

Mazda’s RX-7 is the only rotary on offer today, not that it’s any surprise. In its third generation for the 1993 model year in the United States, Mazda nerds call it the FD. Like the Toyota, Mazda intended to tighten up the RX-7 and give it more serious credentials. While the 1.3-liter rotary engine carried over from the prior (FC) generation, the power figures did not. The previous model in turbo variation made between 202 and 215 horsepower; this time the figure was 276. A four-speed automatic or five-speed manual greeted customers, and obviously we’ve chosen the manual for today’s purposes. Though down on power over the Supra, it’s also between 600 and 800 pounds lighter, and that makes a difference. Short-lived, 1995 was the last year of the FC in North America, and RX-7 availability in other places ended after 2002.

Nissan 300ZX 

Though the 300ZX was only the second version of its particular model name, the Z-car family stretches back to 1969, three generations prior to this Z32. For 1990, the Z32 300ZX replaced the predecessor Z31’s boxy shape and upright lines with smooth curves and a wide profile. The same VG30 3.0-liter V6 engine carried over from the prior model, but power increased like the others in our trio. A Z31 turbo managed 205 horsepower; the Z32 twin-turbo upped this figure to an even 300. Available in short (2-seat) and long wheelbase formats (2+2), today’s selection is a 2-seat hardtop version (no t-top) and punches in about the same weight as the Supra. Though the 300ZX would continue on in other markets through 2000, Nissan pulled it from the North American lineup after the ’96 model year.

Three great cars, six combined turbos. Will burning one Make You Cry?

[Images: Toyota, Wikipedia, Nissan]

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68 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Japanese Sports Cars From 1995...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Buy: Mazda

    Drive: Nissan

    Burn: Toyota

    No tears.

  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    Buy: 300ZX is still undervalued, especially working examples.

    Drive: the Toyota is the only one that will actually work right.

    Burn: Mazda is a fire god for a reason.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Oh easy.

    Buy the Supra
    Drive that sonorous RX-7
    Burn the dime-a-dozen Nissan

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      Yep. The RX7 is one of the most beautiful cars ever, but I am not sure how long I could keep it running. The Toyota is pretty nice, and probably more practical in the long term.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I’ll agree with this one, but in reverse, yet the same, order.

      I don’t do 1990 or later Nissan. Burn it.
      The Mazda is a TON of fun, but I won’t own it.
      This leaves Toyota. I’d be willing to own it.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Tough one. None of these companies make anything similar now, with the Nissan and Toyota demonstrating painfully just how far these companies have drifted from interesting cars. It’d be a shame to burn any of them.

    I’d have to buy the Supra, though, ugly as it is. Current auction prices on unmolested ones support this.

    Drive the Mazda. I don’t think I’d want to own a rotary long term

    Burn the Nissan, but you’re going straight to hell for forcing this choice Corey.

    I want to hear from someone here who has real seat time in all three.

    • 0 avatar
      bking12762

      30-mile fetch-You are right about the rotary. It is kind of like a summer romance. It’s great while it lasts, but you know going into it that it is not a long-term relationship.

    • 0 avatar
      3XC

      The GT-R isn’t interesting? Stale, perhaps. Ungainly, I’d give you that. But it was astonishing in 2008, and the idea of Porsche playing catch up to lowly Nissan was a thumb in the eye of snobs the world over.

      For that matter, simply because they called it a Lexus, the LF-A remains one of the most noteworthy cars Japan ever created, albeit in an entirely different universe in terms of accessibility to the Supra (or the GT-R for that matter).

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “albeit in an entirely different universe in terms of accessibility to the Supra”

        That’s more of where I was coming from, cars that don’t cost as much as an entry level condominium. A Lexus GS-F is plenty interesting to me, but my budget is MR2.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Once again I’m on the same page with 30 mile. Drive the true sports car (light weight, razor handling) Mazda, buy the reliable, powerful (with a ton of easily unlocked potential) grand-tourer Supra, and very regretfully burn the Nissan.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Agreed. That is probably the correct answer in this very sadistic automotive Sophie’s choice.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      30-mile,

      Nissan actually still has Z and GTR, +Q60. Toyota has 86 and some Lexuses sport coupes. Mazda…. Ah, we just burned it!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Buy: the Turbo-Z. Just like Michael Harris. These were surprisingly satisfying vehicles for the era. An ultimate expression of ‘yuppie’ consumerism.
    Drive: the Mazda. Until the motor burns itself out.
    Burn: the Celica. I am in a minority but prefer the styling of the previous generations, particularly in ‘liftback’ form.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Buy Supra, it’ll still be running in a few years/Drive 300ZX, pretty cool ride/Burn the RX-7, unless you know someone with a teenaged daughter who needs a car, then give it to them.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    this is pretty easy…

    Buy: Supra as it is the only one of the three worth anything now

    Drive: 300Z, though she is a BIG girl, with some turbo work you can get that Fat Bottomed Girl as Queen would sing to make your rockin’ world go round. If you have the non-turbo car, well enjoy that malaise era acceleration in what looks like a sports car.

    Burn the Mazda or wait patiently and it will disintegrate on its own. I like the body style the most of the 3, but that motor…I bet you could LS swap one and be good to go though.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Gotta disagree with you on the Mazda. Those cars in decent condition (usually with a couple of rotary rebuilds) can still pull low-mid 20’s.

    • 0 avatar

      You nailed my selections. No feels for rotary makes it an easier choice for me, though I do somewhat like the RX-7’s uniqueness and its overall rarity.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      People do LS swap them and well that’s a good reason to burn the car with the owner chained to the seat while you taunt them with a fire extinguisher you never intend on using.

      That’s said I think the LS and its newer sibling are fine motors. There should just be severe criminal and civil liabilities for swaping them into anything other than older GM vehicles and kit cars.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Raph, i could not disagree with you more.

        The ls swap is for the discerning individual who likes the look and feel of whatever car it is they have, but they also yearn for dead reliable light weight naturally aspirated hp for a reasonable cost.
        Take a Morgan Plus 8, older model with a Rover v8 and Lucas electric . Beautiful car that is absolute garbage. Install LS with quality instrumentation along with a Tremec MT and voila you have a beautiful car that can be used. Every day.

        Having personally been down the road of owning a tempermental car, Plus 8 for me, i 100% understand why the swap is done. It just gets tiring dealing constant problematic issues that you know can be solved once and for all with a GM drivetrain. You want so much to enjoy the car but the guts of it are such trash that you end up driving a 5 mile radius from your house due to break down anxiety, it gets old and ruins the enthusiasm.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Buy the Supra since those are maintaining value.

    Drive the lightweight high revving RX

    Burn the Nissan because they aren’t as special as the other two and I hate Nissan right now. (Own a Nissan)

  • avatar
    northshoreman1

    Buy the Supra, drive the RX7, burn the 300zx.

    Maybe the other question here is: if forced to take the car as an automatic only, would your car selection order change? For me, yes. I think the RX7 loses a lot of fun when tethered to an auto transmission.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Since none of these cars, unmodified, will be supercars by todays standards, the desirability of these is all down to collectability. All represent the era very well, all are fairly attractive….BUT….the RX-7 is the most unique, pop up headlights! Need we say more. As time marches on, a rotary engine will be an extreme novelty. I suspect the Supra is considerably more rare than a 300ZX, the design has aged a little better than the Nissan as well. So…

    Buy: RX-7
    Drive: Supra
    Burn: 300ZX

  • avatar
    Noble713

    Buy: Supra. Already did so, and love it. Sexy, powerful, reliable. I smile just looking at mine. Delete the spoiler and the Supra’s proportions/lines remind me of the Aston Martin DB7.

    Drive: RX-7. Even sexier than the Supra (IMO sexiest Japanese car EVER), lighter than the Supra, well balanced….I’d definitely like to rev one out and drive it until that stupid Wankel engine eventually fails. Then do an LS swap. Just saw two of these pull up at my local gas station tonight, a purple one with Lambo doors and an engine that screamed even at idle, and a white one with a widebody kit. Here’s the purple one:
    http://tinypic.com/r/4h8ifo/9

    Burn: 300ZX. The styling is TOO “90s” for me and the V6 engine just doesn’t inspire. Not as quirky as the Wankel and not as sonorous or as legendary for “MOAR POWA!!!” as the 2J. The only Nissans worth a damn are the R32 GT-R, R34 GT-R, and R35 GT-R.

  • avatar
    seabasstin

    Buy: Supra
    Drive: RX7
    Burn: 300ZX

    Supra is a very valuable collectors car, with Toyota Quality.
    RX7 is a lightweight Chapman esque magical drivers car that is both rare and beautiful. An actual exotic with an amazing sound. Actually the last great rotary car in existence (sorry RX8 you were a dog)
    The Nissan was ugly fat and borring then and age has done it no favors. Why do some people call it undervalued when there clearly are 4x more of them to be found then either of the above? Rarity+style+driving dynamics+interesting mechanicals = value; not I loved it when I was a teenager!

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    Buy the Mazda and drop a new engine into it.

    Burn the Nissan because these just look butt ugly after 20 plus years. Designed by the makers of Jelly Bellies but without the pleasant aroma.

    Drive the Supra because my buddy will lend me his to drive as long as he rides shotgun. (My childhood friend who had a 260Z (or was it a 280?) MADE me drive his solo. When I reported on my drive he made me go out and let it rip in top gear (4th???). He’s the man.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Given my lust for the 300ZX when it first came out, this is a hard decision.

    Buy: The Supra – value, baby!
    Drive: The 300ZX – 300hp, woah!
    Burn: Fear the Rotary (Reliability)

    Funny how all these cars just disappeared off the map. I can’t remember the last time I saw any of these 90s “super cars” on the road. I did see a Mitsubishi 3000GT a few weeks ago.

    The 90s was a weird time for performance. 300HP was a lot back then, now pretty standard (and not even turbo-charged) for pedestrian V6s.

    • 0 avatar
      WhatsMyNextCar

      I wasn’t aware the Supra disappeared off the map. Do you just mean that you don’t see them around, or are you saying nobody talks about them anymore?

      I agree with the statement about the horsepower. The 1993 Supra’s 320 HP was crazy then. It was more than the V8s that either the Z-28 or the Cobra had, and I think more than the Corvette. Now, you can find more HP than that in an Explorer, and those aforementioned cars are flirting with (or surpassing) 500 HP.

      The bar is really high for the Supra’s long-awaited replacement, and I highly doubt it’ll meet those expectations.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy the Nissan. This is the only one of the three I’ve actually driven. It was nice enough. Kind of a poor man’s 8-series and I can go for that.

    Drive the Toyota. It’s a legendary car, but Supra fanboys are annoying and my heart really belongs to the SC400.

    Burn the RX-7. Mazda fanboys are even more annoying, I don’t like rotary engines, and the rounded design does nothing for me.

    • 0 avatar

      I am realizing the more I look at it that the RX-7 has a very C5 Corvette look to its frontal region. Also have no rotary feels.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        It does have a C5 look to it. Fortunately, it avoids the Corvette’s *gigantic* a$$.

        I can appreciate soft, rounded fenders in some cases but neither the C5 or the Mazda really excited me.

    • 0 avatar

      Just yesterday I was Soarering.

      https://twitter.com/CoreyLewis86/status/1026543082383106048

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      @ ajla the last gen Supra is the epitome of aero blob and the FD way more curvaceous. Can’t comment outside the rotary fanboism which is silly since they perpetually swear its the ICE power of the future despite its many drawbacks

      @ Corey the RX7 was first to the scene and when the C5 hit I made that very remark at the dealer when I went to check the then new C5 out. I don’t think the salesman liked the comparison but it looked like GM had borrowed from Mazda quite heavily from the A pillar forward.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Once again into the 90’s :)

    Buy the Mazda , it is the most pure of the three and the most difficult to keep running but I give my best choice to the drive category which would be

    Drive the 300 z great looking car and still looks good today

    Burn the Supra esp if the lovely spoiler has to be on it.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Corey,
    I assume these all cost about the same? if not it would help to have the cost when new, assuming you want the rules to apply.

    • 0 avatar

      If they’re in the same class and available at the same time, I’ll generally pitch them together. None of these were about value, and often trying to look up accurate prices is annoying. On new cars, prices are easier.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Have you done a midsize 90s SUV thing? Like, maybe the Grand Cherokee vs Explorer vs Blazer?

        Or maybe an off-roader one: Trooper vs Montero vs Discovery II.

        • 0 avatar

          GC, yes.

          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2018/07/buy-drive-burn-midsize-luxury-suvs-from-the-year-2000/

          Trooper(SLX)/Discovery/Montero yes.
          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2018/03/buy-drive-burn-oddball-semi-premium-suvs-from-1998/

          U NOT WATCHING MY ARTICLES

  • avatar
    ernest

    Nailed it. That, and the Supra could well fund someone’s college bills down the line.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Buy: Supra – It looks and drives great, and has excellent collectability
    Drive: RX-7 – It offers a unique driving experience, but costs too much to maintain
    Burn: 300ZX – I just don’t like it

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    Buy: Supra, for the I6 goodness and Toyota durability.

    Drive: RX-7 to experience the agility and rotary engine.

    Burn: 300ZX because it’s the only one left. It doesn’t deserve the flamethrower though.

  • avatar

    Buy: Supra, for the value proposition.
    Drive: 300ZX, if anything goes wrong, I’d pull the engine and get to work wedging it into an S12 just for grins.
    Burn: RX-7. Nice looking car but none of them ever piqued my interest, and the Wankel is the answer to a question no one asked.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Tough call. A good (and very wealthy) friend of mine at university bought pretty much the first 300ZX in North TN back when they came out. Of course, as the time, he also owned a slantnose 911, a 560SL and 560 SEC and a Ferrari 328. The looks he got when he pulled into the parking lot that first day with the 300ZX…but, being who he was (and having the resources he had), the 300ZX only lasted about a half a year in his stable before he moved on to something else.

    Having said that, for no real particular reasoning:

    Buy: Supra. Delete the rear wing, make it turbo and manual.
    Drive: RX-7. Just because. I’ve driven older RX-7 and the RX-8, and the rotary has to be experienced at least once
    Burn: 300ZX. Can I just lightly singe the edges and not totally burn this? They still appeal to me and I’d hate to see one go up in flames!

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Early 1990s, in high school I had a friend whose dad had a Supra and another one whose dad had a 300Z. And both of those fathers for some inexplicable reason, let their 16/17 year old sons drive them. And both those 16/17 year old sons let me drive them as well. Those were fun times.

  • avatar
    John R

    Shoot. This is tricky.

    Buy the Fairlady; probably the easiest and least expensive to service for of the three

    Drive the Mark IV Supra Turbo; just in the hopes in running into someone who’ll say to me “…MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD, PAL!”

    Burn the FD RX-7; This hurts my heart, but I had to pick somebody and more than likely I’m too long legged for this ride.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I think no matter which I choose to burn, somebodys going to get upset about me dissing their childhood car.

    Buy: Nissan 300ZX, yes they’re more common than the others but shouldnt that bode well for reliability? Plus, I just like them, drove a 300Z of the previous gen once that was in sorry shape and it was still an okay car.

    Drive: Mazda RX-7 just to experience the Rotary, I’d never want to OWN one!

    Burn: Toyota Supra, yes its a “collectors car” now thanks to Fast and the Furious, this means it’ll join many other classics in sitting in garages and being driven only to auctions.

    I did drive a Supra of the generation before it, too heavy to really be “sporty”, and the transmission was at odds with the custom straight pipe exhaust I’m sure the generation after was better though.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      The Z32s have very cramped engine bays. They’re not fragile, but when something needs work it is quite labor intensive (this is all second hand info). The Supra by comparison with its front-midship straight six is probably a cakewalk, outside of all the piping for the twin turbos (which the ZX also has, in that cramped bay). A regular contributor on Jalopnik has a very nicely preserved 300ZX TT that seems to need regular attention. I’d still love to have one as a weekend cruiser and 3 season grand tourer, but the Supra covers the same space in this trio quite well as it is.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Right off the bat, as soon as I saw the title I knew I was going to refuse to play along. Though, I wasn’t sure if it would be the Z or 3000GT. That might have made it possible for me to burn.

    So instead:
    Buy
    Mazda – if it’s possible to describe a car as sexy, this would be what you’d use as an example. This is a near perfect design. They started to get a little less attractive later in life as the generation soldiered on as they added lights and spoilers. the clean ’93-’95 models in the US were perfection. It’s also the one of the 3 I nearly bought. It was sitting in my driveway and I had to pay the owner to leave (he drove up from NC to show it to me) to get him out of there and take it with him. I really wanted it, but not the massive oil puddle it left or the non-functioning AC which was another major red flag.

    Buy
    Toyota – Yes it had a chintzy interior for the money, but this was the 90s. This is an icon, a legend, and will only continue to increase in value until the market is completely flooded with RHD versions. But even then, you cannot go wrong with it.

    Drive
    Nissan – only because I won’t want to deal with working on the engine since I have heard it is so exceptionally tightly packed. I would/do consider the NA version when I see them for sale. Even for the time the interiors were nice and the exterior is beautifully sculpted. Nissan in the 90s was so amazing. Such a far cry from the bottom of the barrel mobility pods they produce now.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Was the interior any chintzier than the 300ZX or Mazda? Or was the Supra more expensive as well and thus held to a higher standard? I’ve always thought of 1990s Toyota interiors as just about cream of the crop as far as non-European makes go. Remember too that at this time there was the C4 Corvette and its interior…

      • 0 avatar
        SilverCoupe

        I had a Mk III Supra Turbo that I was happy with for ten years. When I went to replace it, I looked at the Mk IV Supra Turbo, and was so put off by the interior that I crossed it off my list. I settled on an Audi TT, which had a top notch interior (but turned out to be a bit too slow for my taste.) I also have a vague memory that the Supra’s removable roof did not fit in the hatch to store, but I have not looked this up to verify.

        Several years earlier I had looked at a 300ZX, which I liked the styling of, and was also put off by the interior. I never drove the RX-7 so I cannot compare.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        I’ve never actually been inside a Supra to know for sure, but from everything I’ve seen, the plastics on the dash and console were very low quality. By ’96 the Turbo was over $50k (a $10k jump in 3 years) with no real upgrades in that regard. That equates to about $80k in 2018 dollars. But like I said, it was the ’90s. Nobody’s interiors were anything to write home about. I know the RX7s were just ok and were not really durable, especially on the doors. And the 300ZX was nice by the standards of the day, but I think of the three they remain the standout.

  • avatar
    scott25

    These 3 are to millennials what the Hemi Cuda (Supra), Yenko Camaro, (RX7)…and umm…a Boss 302? (300ZX since it’ll never be as desirable as an R34 or R32 GT-R, probably about the same as an R33) are to boomers.

    I love all three and they’re all legendary…but I’d buy the Nissan since it has my favourite looks and attitude of the three, drive the Mazda since I wouldn’t want to own one, and burn the Supra because it’s kind of goofy looking when you think about it and I wouldn’t want to be swarmed by 20 year olds in flat brimmed hats.

    Unmolested Supras and RX7s are going to be well into the six digit values very shortly.

  • avatar
    SSJeep

    Agreed. The Supra has gained in value and any remaining garage queens are going for 2-3x MSRP nowadays.
    The Nissan was a blast to drive but needed the extended warranty.
    The Mazda rotary in the RX-7 is a ticking disaster. Its not a matter of if, its a matter of when.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Amen brother

  • avatar
    arach

    I’m boycotting this because the RX7 should not be on the list.

    The mid 90s japanese triage was the:

    Supra
    3000GT
    300ZX

    These are the three that should be compared. The RX7 does not belong in the comparison, and the triage of the Supra, 3kgt, and 300zx was so iconic… splitting them up is akin to trying to compare the brady bunch without Marcia Brad (maureen McCormick), or the Beetles without John Lennon.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Verily, you are history’s greatest monster.

    Buy the Supra, because you will get your money back when you sell it 20 years later.

    Drive the Z, because you can pretend you’re racing that jet in the Ridley Scott ad.

    Burn the FD, because it’s not sized for leggy gaijin, and the overstressed 13B will burn itself up in 50,000 miles anyway. (Oh, if only Mazda had put a 20B in there instead…)

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: the Supra- It won’t depreciate and the 2ZJ straight-six is one
    of Toyota’s great engines.

    Drive: 300ZX-A nice improvement over the previous more touring like 84-89 version.

    Burn: RX-7-Nice car the Wankel is smooth and torquey but apex seals and oil consumption are issues.

    Honorable mention: Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    Buy: Supra because I-6 and this was peak Toyota.

    Drive RX-7 because rotary and it’s a legend.

    Burn 300Z because V6 and its the least attractive generation of Z car.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Drive the RX7, burn the other 2, collect the insurance and buy an SC300

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Buy the RX-7 and take it out on track days. Remove the silly sequential turbo setup and install a single big turbo. So what if you pop the motor? LSxFTW.

    Drive the Supra because it’s Toyota-reliable.

    Burn the 300ZX because every repair takes at least twelve hours. I once watched another technician spend about fifteen hours removing and reinstalling the engine on a naturally-aspirated 300ZX to replace a $15 knock sensor.

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