So let’s just get it right out in the air. I don’t think Ferrari or Lamborghini or any other purveyor of exotic metal is the best enthusiast brand. Part of the enthusiast car market is to make great cars that enthusiasts can actually buy. The Miata , the Mustang and the GTI are the kinds of good fun that we can actually buy.
When trying to figure out who the best enthusiast brand is, I didn’t stop at pure numbers. I looked for cool cars, and interesting cars, not just fast ones. I also tried to focus on the more modern petrol head. Back in the 60s every car company was making wacky and crazy cars, but over the years the enthusiast market has kinda dried up a bit.
I almost went with Honda . The CRX , early Si badged cars and the NSX all hit the right buttons, but over the last 15 years or so Honda has really lots its magic. It feels like they started to care more about Consumer Reports scores than steering feel and spoilers, and so they didn’t make the list.
But who was it? You have to hit the jump to find out.
Hear me out before you get angry in the comments.
Nissan has given us the Z cars including the epic 300ZX turbo, all of the S-platform cars, and of course the entire GT-R lineage. Hell, they took a Sentra to the Nurburgring for suspension tuning before it was the cool thing for every company to do. Think about every plebian car that Nissan sent to get an SE-R or V-Spec badge. They even made a higher performance SE-R model of the Altima for crying out loud.
Nissan also created the entire Infiniti lineup, partnered with Red Bull for F1 racing and we haven’t even gotten to the cars that wear the Nismo badge!
Think about any company in the last few decades that has dared to do anything as silly, stupid or awesome as the Juke R? Can you imagine if GM rolled out a Sonic with a Corvette engine placed where the rear seats used to be? Sure other people in the world do this sort of thing, but never the automaker. Unless it is Nissan, the company that seems to make cars based on bets they lost at the bar.
Even if it isn’t fast, it is still awesome. Have you seen the Murano Crosscabriolet? It may not be a true enthusiast car, but it is weird, rare and different, and really isn’t that we love the most? Even when it comes to racing, Toyota has a Nascar team, but Nissan said to hell with that, got drunk and joined the Australian V8 Supercar series with an Altima.
So they do F1 racing, and the trackside bar-fight the Aussies call V8 racing, but Nissan also supplies engines to a large portion of Le Mans racers, and through the GT Academy program with Gran Turismo, they actually turn people into real race car drivers. Oh, and have you seen that wild Deltawing?
It just always seems like Nissan is trying something cool or different, and dammit, that is what I want in this world. No, not everything works, but if we never take any risks we will never achieve anything. Can you imagine a meeting for the Juke R at any other company?
“Well, yes sir, we want to take the drivetrain from our top-end performance model and stick it inside our small family hatch. We will also only make a dozen or so models and charge 5-times the price of the donor supercar to buy it. Can we have permission to build it?”
And then Nissan just says, “Yes.”
More than the pure lunacy, almost everything they make is within the reach of most consumers. Yes, the GT-R is expensive, but the 370Z is not, and neither were any of their SE-R or V-Spec cars. They focus on fun for the every-man.
For that, I love them. They may not make all the fastest, or best built machines on the road, but they keep making things that interest me and keep me in love with the automobile.
What do you guys think? Do I make a strong argument, or did I have one to many glasses of Laphroaig?