The sleek 280-ZX turbo wasn't speeding, but it certainly had that look

By , Automotive editor of The Christian Science Monitor

Glancing into the rear-view mirror of a Datsun 280-ZX turbo, all I could see were the flashing blue lights of a police car in pursuit. Why me? I wondered. I wasn't exceeding the 35 m.p.h. speed limit in the town, except for a brief spurt to pass a poky car.

I was totally unconcerned -- almost,m that is.

The fact is, the police car soon caught up with the 280-ZX, the officer looked, then passed, slowed down, pulled off the road, turned around, and went back, I suppose, to continue his watch by the road.

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I found out that the Datsun 280-ZX turbo ism a very "fast" car, even when parked by the curb. At least, this is the way it appears to anyone else around, including the police.

I shouldm have been driving too fast, the officer undoubtedly thought.

The 280-ZX turbo and an 810 diesel-engine Maxima are the latest words in Datsun's drive to keep US motorists on the march -- into its showrooms to buy cars.

Out on the highway, the ZX turbo is indeed fast on the blacktop, quick to the touch of the gas pedal, yet controllable all the while. Jam-packed with dials, lights, and controls, it's sporty-car luxury with an "L" -- and a great big "L" at that.

And yes, it does full justice to the 11-year image of the Z.

When introduced in New York in 1970, the 240-Z was an instant success. Automotive writers loved it, and so did the public. Above all else, the price -- $3,500 at the time -- was right on the mark. Today, by contrast, the 280-ZX turbo -- whoops! -- lists for $16,999. And while well equipped at the start, there are still those inevitable options. Leather seats, for example, add another $350.

The car is, in fact, a veritable "home on wheels," loaded with amenities to make life comfortable awheel, yet with the performance to let you know you're not sitting in the living room watching TV.

In short, it's an exhilarating experience, even if the car can't be used legally to its full advantage in the U.S.

The 280-ZX turbo is completely up to date in the engineering department, and has, among other things, a microcomputer that takes over the job of controlling the engine -- fuel injection, idling, ignition timing, exhaust-gas recirculation , and fuel pump. As a result, Datsun engineers say, fuel economy is improved as well as engine warm-up and performance at the start.

The engine is Datsun's 2.8-liter "6" with a 7.4-to-1 compression ratio and a 3-speed automatic gearbox as standard. On the highway, you can probably approach 30 m.p.g. if you watch the way you drive.

Turbocharging is getting a big play these days, and for good reason. As gasoline engines shrink in size and more carmakers offer diesels, a turbocharger steps up the performance many motorists want with their cars. Not only does it make it easier, and safer, for a motorist to move into the highway traffic stream from an on-ramp, but it helps when passing a slower-moving car on the road as well.

Although Toyota has dropped a turbo into its high-level Crown sedan (not sold in the US), the leading Japanese automaker has no plans at present to export the turbo to the US or anywhere else.

The engineering know-how in the Datsun 280-ZX turbo has put a highly stable car on the road. No matter the situation, the ZX responds.

While it may not be a Porsche, it doesn't carry a Porsche 928 price tag, either. Nissan expects to sell about 7,000 ZX turbos in the US this year -- at

All we can say is: WHEEEEE!

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