Nissan Silvia
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Links to Nissan S15 sites which I've found useful:

 

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Useful files related to the Nissan Silvia S15

Nissan S15 Driving Impressions

When the S15 was released was received by motoring journalists and new owners with much delight. As a sports coup (in its price bracket) there wasn't much if fell short on. While not that different mechanically from the S14 it replaced, the S15 was able to generate a great amount of interest and praise from people who looked at it and those people who drove it. It is arguably the best looking and definitely the best handling and performing Silvia/200sx that Nissan has produced. Not a bad way to end the 30 years plus run of making the Silvia.

Handling from the factory was quite impressive. With near 50/50 weight distribution the car was very well balanced and coupled with the Helical LSD the car was easy to drive on the limit. Steering is well weighted with good feel. You can always feel what the front wheels are doing. The wheel and tyre package from factory is not that great by today's standards with somewhat puny 16. rims and 205/55/16 tyres. One of the best upgrades to perform is upgrading to after market 17" rims and tyres at least 225mm wide. The Spec R II model released in NZ had up rated 17" 225/45/17 wheel package which significantly improved the handling of the car. The ride is some what firm but probably the most disappointing handling aspect is the 16" rims coupled with somewhat more body role than one would hope for. Even with these limitations the car is still a lot of fun with very predictable handling which encourages you to explore the limits. A touch of under steer lets you know you.re nearing the limit but push a little further and easy to control over steer is there to be played with.

When first introduced in 1999 the SR20 was considered a very advanced engine. By 1999 however it was showing its age with newer and more refined 2 litre engines from its competitors. Even if it is not the most modern of engines the venerable SR20DET was certainly able to produce the power. Nissan's SR20 engines have gained a loyal and avid following and it is certainly one of the better performance engines from the 90s. The final release of the SR20DET in the S15 produced the most power of all SR20s and assuming you had the NZ or Japanese version there could be no complaints over the factory power outputs. The S15 delivers its power more like a large capacity NA engine rather than a turbo charged 2l. I was initially disappointed after coming from the Nissan Pulsar GTiR to the S15 but I soon discovered it was the deceptive way the engine delivered power rather than lack of it. While the GTiR would come on in a burst of power as it hit boost the S15 would just pull strongly from low down to near the top of the tacho. The torque spread is wide and the engine will pull strongly from only 2000rpm. Turbo technology has certainly progressed a long way since the early days of the Silvia and Pulsar GTiR. The S15 is able to produce positive boost from just under 2000 RPM and generates a very linear power delivery to its red line. Driving around town and on the open road is very easy with little need to use revs or the gear box to get brisk performance from the car. Chopping down a couple of gears and using the revs would always leave the driver with a smile on their face. The upper rev range did cause the engine to become a little coarse and with factory exhaust and intake there was little point in taking the engine to its redline.

The gearbox while quite advanced for 1999 is by today's standard not the quietest or easiest to use. At the time of release of the S15 the 6 speed gear box was certainly a talking point for the car. Gear ratios are well spaced and gear throws are maybe a little too long for some tastes. Gear selection can be a little tricky for first time drivers. I found 2-3rd challenging with spirited driving and 5th to 6th took a little practice to get right without needing to think about it. It has a good positive action and nice notchiness though the gears. The 6 speed box is not the quietest box which can whine away in all gears and clunk when engaging and shifting gears. It's not overly intrusive and you quickly get used to it but as a first time owner it makes you wonder if something is wrong! Like all Nissan's I've driven engaging reverse could also be tricky some times with it jumping out if you weren't familiar with what reverse engagement really felt like. With some good gear oil from someone like Redline the 6 speed did improve although the noses are always there if you listen.

Braking was unchanged from the S14 model with 280mm 4 piston brakes up front. These work well and there's never a feeling that the car is under braked. By today's standards the factory disks look a little too small and pedal feel is just ok for a car such as the S15.

The cockpit of the S15 is a good place to spend time. The driving position is low, steering is well positioned with a nice meaty leather bound steering wheel. Pedals are well placed and it's easy to heel-toe should you wish too. Instruments are easy to see with the tacho taking centre stage in the gauge cluster. Seats while comfortable do not provide as much lateral support as one would desire especially as it's so easy to upgrade the car to improve its road holding.

So the big question is when will Nissan release the Silvia again? With only the 350Z coming close there is little new on the market in the Silvia's price bracket that would even tempt me to part with my S15.

Nissan Pulsar GTiR

I used to own a 1991 Nissan Pulsar GTiR before I bought my Nissna Silvia. This section includes some details on the car

The Nissan Pulsar GTiR was first produced in 1990 so that Nissan could meet the rules for entering the World Rally Championship. It's basically an N14 Pulsar/Sunny with the addition of 4wd and a 2l turbo engine. While not very successful in the WRC the little Pulsar was and still is a great little road car.

Between 1990 and 1994 Nissan made around 14000 GTiR cars. They were sold in Japan and in small numbers is a number of different European countries including the UK, Germany, France and Italy. All cars which have made it into New Zealand have almost always come from Japan as second hand imports.

Mine was a 1991 black example which apart from a Trust exhaust was pretty much stock standard. Having previously owned a 1991 Pulsar GTi 1.8l stepping into the GTiR was a very exciting upgrade. Being only 19 years old at the time and living in an area that afforded some great driving roads I was really able to explore the limits of the car and experiment with my upgrades.

There were some traits that I really didn't like about the car. First up were the very tiny 14" rims and 195 tyres it had as standard. This coupled with a front heavy weight distribution of 62/38 meant that under steer was always readily available. As standard there definitely wasn't much that was impressive about it's handling apart from the extra grip you got with 4WD.

Next up was the body rigidity. It just wasn't very rigid and you could feel it flexing especially after I sorted out the suspension and handling issues. The doors also had a common problem many N14 Pulsars have of vibrating in the wind at anything over 120km/h. You could feel the tops of the doors moving in and out which made a lovely wind nose in the car as you drove along.

Finally the brakes, or lack of them! For a car with so much power they didn't look much. After upgrading the wheels you could easily overheat them. Unfortunately you couldn't easily remedy the problem by fitting Skyline brakes as you could with the early Sivlas. Still aftermarket performance brake pads coupled with slotted rotors were able to restore much of my confidence in them.

What I did discover after owning my Pulsar for over 4 years was that the car was very easy to modify. As standard the engine produced 162kw and 268Nm and had a decent sized T28 turbo. It was your typical early 90s turbo car and had plenty of turbo lag. I often found myself waiting for the revs to build so that it would start going and while this was sometimes annoying, when it did reach full boost (just over 4000rpm) it always left a smile on my face. I only did some mild mods to the engine with a full free flow exhaust off the dump pipe, road tuned daughterboard for the factory ECU, intake filter and boost controller. With 14psi it was a very cheap and easy upgrade process that I was happy to stay with. It was able to see off most other cars on the road.

As mentioned previously the GTiR was not exactly a great handler out of the factory. But even with that heavy front weight bias I was able to improve the handling a substantial amount. First up was a full Whiteline suspension setup with new front and rear roll bars, camber and castor adjustment parts, springs and Koni adjustable shocks. With the car sitting a lot closer to the ground body control was greatly improved although the front weight was still quite apparent, especially over bumps. Next up was a rear strut brace and this is perhaps one of the best bang for your bucks mods to do after springs and shocks. With just the rear strut bar in place the car immediately went around corners a lot better with much less need for mid corner corrections. I was quite blown away with how much this one mod improved things. Chucking on the front strut bar did not improve things as significantly but now I suddenly had a car that steered and started to corner well.

From the 14" wheels I upgraded to 16" rims and 205 rubber. This was the final transformation that brought it all together. The car now handled and went around corners exceptionally well. The short wheel base helped to make it feel like you were driving a go-cart. I was able to corner a lot harder with much more confidence. Yes it would still under steer but it was greatly reduced and now only noticeable on the track or in the wet on public roads.

When I finally had to say goodbye to my GTiR it was a sad day. While I had bought my S15 which cornered almost as well (even though was close to factory spec) I knew I was going to miss the GTiR. The way it would come on boost, the way you could throw it around corners knowing that the 4WD was going to keep you out of trouble and the way the car looked with that menacing stance and that early 90s rally car look.

Today it's almost impossible to find well looked after examples of the GTiR here in New Zealand. Every so often I have the idea of trying to find my old GTiR again however common sense prevails when I think of the money it cost me in repairs and the likely state it's in now after I'd imagine a couple of hundred thousand km.

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