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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

1996 NISSAN 240SX COUPE

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,359
     Price As Tested                                    $ 22,011
     Engine Type                            2.4 Liter I4 w/SMPI*
     Engine Size                                 146 cid/2389 cc
     Horsepower                                   155 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               160 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.4"/68.1"/177.2"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2771 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P195/60R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/28/26          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.2 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.9 seconds @ 84.1 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                        N/A
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

When Nissan remade its 240SX in early 1994, it represented a drastic shift in philosophy for the Japanese automaker. In an effort to attract a wider spectrum of buyers, the emphasis was placed on producing an attractive new shape and giving it a soft ride above all-out handling.

Now nearing its third year of production, the 240SX is enjoying success with its handsome shape, while high performance has taken a seat in back. OUTSIDE - Its lines were rounded and softened, and it was dressed more as a luxury coupe than a hot hatchback. And while the previous generation 240 was offered as either a notchback or a fastback, the latest iteration is available only with a trunk. The 240SX received one minor styling change for the 1996 model year - a new grille. Its smooth, flowing lines include slender roof pillars, integrated headlamps, and a thin bead at the belt line. Body-colored bumpers and outside mirrors enhance its lack-of-chrome look. Standard 240SX models are equipped with steel wheels with wheelcovers, while our test vehicle came equipped with the optional alloy wheels that come standard on the SE version, but our car did not have the SE model's rear spoiler and fog lamps. INSIDE - Inside the 240SX is an inviting place to be, provided that place is up front, and not squeezed tightly in the rear seat. The front buckets are firm and supportive, and adjustable enough to fit a wide range of body sizes. The rear seating area, however, is best left to emergency seating situations, or as a good place to put packages. Both the base coupe and SE model feature power windows, outside mirrors, tilt steering and a fold-down rear seat, which greatly enhances its cargo- carrying capabilities. The layout of its controls is perfect, with all knobs and switches within easy reach. This elegant cabin echoes the flowing lines of the body, with the instrument panel and center console surrounding the driver in cocoon-like fashion. Our test rig came with an options package which includes cruise control with steering wheel access, along with power door locks, air conditioning and an AM/FM cassette stereo. ON THE ROAD - Powering both the base and SE models is a 2.4 liter inline four-cylinder engine, with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. This is the same capable drive train found in the previous 240SX, and it produces 155 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque, which gives enough power to move the vehicle quickly and safely to speed. A more rigid cylinder head and revised engine mounts have addressed noise and vibration concerns, but have not eliminated them altogether. The engine gives reasonable thrust above 3000 rpm, all the way to its 6500-rpm limit. Many buyers will appreciate the standard five-speed manual transmission, which gives the car a sportier feel than the same car equipped with the optional four-speed automatic. But according to Nissan sources, most have decided to go shift-less, which adheres to the car's mission of providing an entertaining, sophisticated sport coupe with a comfortable ride, all wrapped in a beautiful package. BEHIND THE WHEEL - One of the few sport coupes available today with rear-wheel-drive, its chassis refinements are noticeable. Structural rigidity is paramount, and vastly increased over the old model, and this has enabled Nissan engineers to reduce spring and shock rates, and to reduce bushing compliance in a quest for a smoother ride. It uses front strut-type suspension with coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the rear carries a multi-link design with coil springs. Unfortunately on the base car, there is no anti-roll bar in back, and its tendency to pitch and plow under heavy cornering is a direct result. For 240SX buyers interested in a road-handling machine, the SE model adds the roll bar, along with stiffer suspension components for better gymnastic ability. The braking of our test car was good, with four-wheel discs (which is standard on both models) and an optional anti-lock braking system (ABS). SAFETY - Dual airbags and steel side-impact beams are in both doors. OPTIONS - Nissan's audio and wheel package adds $799, while the power package costs $1,299 extra. ABS is a $999 optional cost.

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