QotW What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic grand tourer?


Half sports car, half luxury sedan, the grand tourer is built for carrying driver and one passenger in utmost comfort, kids and third wheels be damned. Though just as large, or sometimes even bigger, than their 4-door counterparts, fewer doors and less seating capacity is an absolute requirement. Grand tourers are more expensive too, giving them an extra-special IDGAF-ness.

What’s the greatest JNGT?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the most American JNC?” 


Despite some great comThe winner of last week’s QotW is sabotenfighter, who nominated the Holden-bodied, rotary-powered Mazda Roadpacer AP.

I say the Mazda Roadpacer AP. Sure its more the most Australian JNC, but think about it. Big boaty American style sedan, severely choked out engine (with loads of emissions reduction devices partly to blame) and thirsty to boot. Just about everything the Mid/Late 70s american car buyer was after!

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24 Responses to QotW What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic grand tourer?

  1. Banpei says:

    There can only be one: the Isuzu 117 coupe. David Lovett proved it was the best and most comfortable car to make a big trip around Japan:

  2. Scotty G says:

    A Subaru XT6? Hey, I took a shot.. Although, Banpei probably nailed it with the Isuzu 117 coupe.

  3. Lupus says:

    Hard to tell… But this time i’ll start with something cliche – Soarer. It’s the first thing that comes to my mind when i hear “Japanese Gran Tourer”. When i dig a little bit more in my head i’m finding also Nissan Leopard.
    I’m not sure if it qualifies, but i also like the presence and style od Mazda 626 Coupe. It’s like a miniaturized GT. Back in the day they were pretty popular here, in Middle Europe. Affordable, good lookin and reliable – they earned the nick name “Iron” (in. polish – żelazo).
    And the last but not least – the Subaru Alcione SVX. It is nostalgic already, is it?

  4. Grilla says:

    This has to be the Mazda Eunos Cosmo. Two door GT with so much IDGAF that they put a 3-rotor twin-turbo Wankel in it — a feat that hasn’t been matched since (or in all likelihood, ever).

  5. Bird says:

    I can’t say I’m impartial, but the Z20 Soarer Aerocabin would get my vote. I’ve logged a few thousand cross country miles in ours!


  6. Matt D says:

    C110 Skyline.

  7. Ant says:

    So, Grand Tourers. Coupe bodystyle essential. Stylish, sleek, ever-so-slightly impractical. Needs that wow-factor.

    Engine? More than four cylinders. Four-pots are great, but a bit too “economy car” for grand touring. We need more performance and a silken soundtrack. And enough power to cruise along in the region of 100mph or so, should your locality allow it…

    Ambience? One of luxury, ideally. I like road trips in slightly inappropriate cars, but nothing quite matches the feeling of covering ground in something from which you can step at the other end and feel as fresh as when you started.

    My answer? Absolutely predictable but utterly fit for purpose: The Toyota 2000GT. Beautiful, classy, luxurious (if you fit!), six cylinders, and blessed with enough power for high-speed cruising.

    • Nakazoto says:

      The 2000GT would be excellent if you fit! I’m 6′ 4″ and I sat in one about a year ago. I had to tilt my head sideways and I couldn’t operate the pedals because my knees were lodged on the dash. Even someone in the 5′ 11″ range would find it very tight inside. My wife on the other hand is about 5′ 4″ and she would find it just about perfect. Guess I gotta hit the lottery to get her one so we can cruise in style, haha.

  8. Greylopht says:

    I have to say, but really after owning one for four years now. My SVX is more of a grand tourer than anything. But it has the great GT basics covered.

    Long bonnet covering more than four cylinders. A generous coupe body, that can fit two comfortably and no more. Grand Touring production numbers. Eye watering price. Rarity.

    But the SVX does one thing that makes it a true GT that I find few Japanese cars can pull off.

    It wafts along. There is no other word for it, it just wafts along at a fast pace. Akin to Jaguar saloons of old. It is not fast, it does not rush. It just gets you there at a very quick pace and in quite a bit of comfort.

  9. Tim says:

    Perhaps a Mazda Cosmo, although I’ve never had the privilege of sitting in one. The closest I can say I’ve come to a JNGT in my personal life would be my old 3000GT. It was roomy, comfortable, powerful enough, had a lot of electronic doodads, and looked sporty.

    One of the big characteristics of a GT car that nobody seems to cover is driver comfort. It’s one thing to have a nice seat. It’s quite another to be able to do the funky chicken in said seat without hitting your passenger’s face or the driver’s door sill. If someone twice my weight wouldn’t be comfortable in the driver’s seat, I can’t call it an honest GT. Unfortunately, most Japanese automobiles seem to be made for the average Japanese driver. And let’s face it, the Japanese aren’t known for their large wingspans or height. Greylopht also mentioned “wafting”. That’s an excellent way to describe the feel of a GT’s engine. It just “wafts”. Torque at all speeds, nothing sharp or juttery about power delivery. Smooth is the key word. Japan’s I6s are great for this, and I imagine the V12 from the Century would be amazing as well. As GT cars tend to be a little on the heavy side, the more power, the better. Turbos sized for low to mid-range boost and the associated cam profile would be needed… Thinking back, I’m not sure I can see any JNC I6 or V12 engine that fits the profile. The 2JZ and 5M/7M Toyota engins come close, but they’re low on power without their turbos, and the turbos are worthless below 3000RPM. There’s the flat-six from the SVX which is decent, and Mitsubishi’s V6 could do it were it set up right, but it’s not from the factory.

  10. sabotenfighter says:

    Cool! I’ll have to decide where I want to put my sticker… on my desk wagon at Toyota or beer fridge at home… might be too big for my JNM(otorcycle)

  11. Nigel says:

    Nissan Leopard F30 or F31, Coupe ! (Or C130 Laurel).

  12. Kev says:

    I would say Cosmo 20B, with that buttery smooth rotary power, easy torque and silent cabin full of gadgets. My FD3S gets 22mpg on the freeway, so I presume that the Cosmo wouldn’t be THAT catastrophic on gas mileage.

    But Soarers are terrific long distance cars. The only glitch is that the JDM-spec cruise control won’t engage above 108km/h (because law-abiding).

  13. Dankan says:

    As a left-field choice, a Z32 300ZX would be a great GT. It was a comfy, well-appointed beast when new, and has a trunk, optional +2 seating and plenty of power to get somewhere in a hurry.

    And it still looks great.

  14. Talasas says:

    I own a Z20 and having done some long distance trips in it I can say it’s sensational for cruising. Here’s the kicker though, the GT Twin Turbo with the auto makes you feel like you’re piloting some sort of aircraft. There you are at night, TEMS set to soft giving a silky smooth ride as you glide rapidly across the highway. The deep reflective digital instrument panel and every button and switch glow green, the rush of air through the two turbos make the inline 6 sound more like a jet engine and all the while the air purifier fills the cabin with a sweet scent ensuring you don’t breathe the same air as the mere mortals back on earth.

  15. Adam Campbell says:

    I say 3000GT VR-4 because it not only has Grand Touring in it’s name but 2 turbos, 4 wheel steering, active aerodynamics, electronic controlled suspension and 2 exhaust modes. Beast mode/comfort mode was what this car was all about and they were big heavy mean F’ing cars that really weren’t the best at anything but were really good at everything.

    • Adam Campbell says:

      I guess what I’m saying is yes there were more luxurious cars and yes there were faster cars but the Mitsubishi GTO could sneak up to your house at night, get your daughter pregnant then switch into beast mode and be gone by the time you heard a low rumble followed by WOT and a 4 wheel burnout at 4AM.

  16. Chris figueroa says:

    I too fall for the toyota soarer mz20. Sure they have head gasket issues having the 7mgte but fix that one issue and this car can fly. Its deffinantly a sleeper to the novice car junkie. Heck i have even been asked if ts a fox body mustang and i almost killed my self.
    But soarer sure likes to cruise around and when the turbo kicks in its just glory. Even if it is an auto is still holds up nicely.

  17. Tom Sand says:

    For this I will nominate my Z32 2+2 TwinTurbo! Sure it was launched as the sportscar to beat in the early 90’s but the way sportscars evolved this car has become more of a grand tourer over the years i reckon.
    It’s big, as long as most small stationwagons yet only barely able to hold 4 persons, let alone their luggage. It’s wide, with those black headlights and an array of intake air scoops which gives it a menacing presence on the road and an intimidating stance forcing other motorists to get out of the left lane out of sheer respect when you come into their rearview mirror. No need for flashing the high beams…
    And the engine, silky smooth, 6 cylinders, two intakes, two turbos, two exhausts, two of everything making gobs of power for effortless overtakes and cruising at warp speed.
    The interior, the perfect place to be, surrounded by a driver focused center console, everything electrically controlled with every creature comfort and every controll easily within the reach of your fingertips.
    It’s the kind of car you don’t get tired of driving. I bought mine and drove it over 800km’s in one stint, at the end of the trip I got out not because I was tired of driving, but because the only thing better than driving is the cold beer waiting at the end of the road with your road trip buddies!

  18. Nathan says:

    To many, the obvious answer seems to be the Toyota Soarer Z20 or Z30. I was tempted to answer that the Z20 Aerocabin was the greatest, but after much thought, I would contend that, as great as these cars were, the correct answer is the Mazda Eunos Cosmo 20B.

    My criterion are simple. A grand tourer must have the following: two doors, performance, a smooth engine, luxury, and a timeless design. Grading the cars on these criterion, it stands to reason that the best JNC GT would be that which best stands up to its competition from abroad. That’s a pretty high bar, given that Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, and other high-end European manufacturers are often praised by the automotive press as making the best GTs.

    Expecting a JNC GT to have the out-and-out performance of the shining beacons of Europe without turning to the aftermarket might be a bit unreasonable, given the lower price points of these cars (and the lower accompanying ownership costs), but clearly this would only leave cars with force-fed 6 cylinders, V8s, or high-powered rotaries. This does not help narrow down the list much, as many JNCs meet this requirement. The Mazda Eunos Cosmo doesn’t do terribly in this regard, with a maximum output of 300 horsepower and 297 lb.-ft. of torque from the available 20B rotary engine. The first road car to use sequential turbocharging, the car pulled hard across the power band, using a smaller turbo to provide oomph early, while a larger turbocharger came on line at higher rpms for the final shove, which could deliver a top speed north of 155 mph.

    For smoothness, the Eunos Cosmo 20B shines. 280 of its 297 available pound-feet of torque were available from 1,800 rpm, thanks to the sequential turbo setup, something its competitors cannot claim. Talk about silky smooth off the line! None of the force-fed 6 cylinder competitors can hold a candle there, as they have to rev well past 2,000 rpm to make boost and begin to have such torque, and even the great Toyota 1UZ V8 must be revved more than double that number of rpms to get comparable torque figures.

    Smoothness also extends to the nature of the engine, from how it idles to how it revs. This comes down to the physics of engine architecture. A Nissan Z32 or Mitsubishi GTO, as great as these are, cannot possibly win over a car such as a Soarer in this regard. A V6 is inherently less balanced than an inline 6, producing more vibrations, which must be offset with more weight used to balance the crankshaft. While a modern V6 can be fairly smooth, V6s from the ’90s and before were not quite as silky compared to their straight counterparts of the day. One could argue that the torque of a V8, such as Toyota’s 1UZ in the Z30 Soarer / Lexus SC400, is nice for low-speed driving but this comes at the expense of being inherently smooth, as a V8 is a less balanced design than an inline 6, producing more vibrations. Indeed, the straight 6 engine design, given identical displacement, will produce more torque and rev more smoothly than a V8. That said, no reciprocating engine design revs more smoothly than a V12, the most balanced piston-driven design, which is why the GT cars from the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin have for years been the gold standard. However nothing, not even the mighty V12, can match the smoothness of the rotary engine, which lacks the vibrations of reciprocating engines. In summary, an inline 6 is more balanced than a V6 or V8, but is no match for a V12 in smoothness, but even the mighty V12, which one finds in GT cars from Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Mercedes, etc. is no match for the rotary.

    As for luxury, the Eunos Cosmo has an interior that puts the Mitsubishi GTO, Nissan Z32, and a few other cars mentioned thus far, save for perhaps the Z30 Toyota Soarer, to shame. There’s no comparison. There just isn’t. The leather-clad interior — and look at how much leather there is and the quality of it, too! — of the Eunos Cosmo looks like someone shrunk a luxury lounge. Actually, I take that back. A lounge chair might be jealous of the seats in a Eunos Cosmo! Not only were the seats adjustable in almost every regard except for changing colors like a chameleon, the doors included AC and defogging vents and there was an in-car air filter. A computerized, screen-based control system was years ahead of anything Mercedes had. Seriously, look at a Mercedes from the era. It’s center console, with its rows upon rows of large plastic buttons, will look like it was designed by cavemen by comparison. The Eunos Cosmo was head and shoulders above the competition of its day, including that from the west!

    The Mazda Eunos Cosmo was also the first production car to feature GPS, a feature that could come in handy on a cross-country blast. The wealthy driver behind a GT does not want to be bothered going up to the counter at a fuel stop to ask for directions. Such practices are for plebeians! Speaking of things that are for plebeians, having to bend around the steering wheel is just too much of an inconvenience if you’re in the top 1%. Not to worry, as the designers of the Mazda thought of that too, as the steering wheel moves up and out of the way so that the driver can easily ingress and egress, moving back into position once the driver is ready to go. Speaking of not wanting to be bothered by things when one lives in the lap of luxury, having to choose between reaching for the center console or having two hands on the wheel is also a pain, so the Eunos Cosmo came loaded with a variety of controls built into the steering wheel itself. Some other touches that a “normal” car might not have are more subtle, such as the gauge cluster, which is illuminated and tucked back into the dash, shading it from bright light that might otherwise obscure one’s view of the dials.

    Last but not least, a GT must have a timeless design. Mazda’s grand tourer is quite a looker for its time. Again, I would suggest looking at a Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, or Mercedes GT of the era for reference. The Eunos Cosmo’s design, especially from the side and rear, might just be better than anything Europe had on offer during those years. The Toyota Soarer Z30 holds its own, and in a way, the Z20 does, too, but the scripted font on the badges and the design of the taillights on the Eunos Cosmo are hard to beat, especially if the body color is black, silver, or gray.

    But wait, there’s more! Design doesn’t stop at the bodywork. The interior of the Eunos Cosmo flows, with consistent lines from the dash to the doors, to the rear, giving the car’s design visual continuity throughout, as the sides of the car “flow” around the occupants, making the car feel more like a special place and less like a collection of leather seats shoved into the confines of a box on wheels, like so many other cars. Speaking of those seats, not the rear seats. Are those not works of art? They look great! Sure, they’re probably not ideal to sit in, but neither are the seats in hardly any other GT. You could call them the world’s most style handbag holders. It’s interior is a lot more stylish than that of almost any other European car of the era.

    So there you have it. From its performance to its smoothness, it’s luxury to the timelessness of its design, the Mazda Eunos Cosmo is the best nostalgic GT from Japan. With all do respect to other JNC GTs, when you compare how well the Cosmo does against the best from Europe versus how well its Japanese competitors did against the best from Europe, the gap is huge. The Eunos Cosmo with the 20B rotary is, simply put, the best.

    • Nathan says:

      That should read “note the rear seats,” in the next to last paragraph. My apologies for using “it’s” instead of “its” in a few places. One of these days I’m going to learn to not post late at night when my brain is half asleep. Well, that or the Grammar Police are going to have to toss me in the back of their Toyota Crown.

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