1999 S15 Silvia
The final chapter in Silvia history began with the release of the S15. The S15 Silvia appeared in Japan and New Zealand in 1999 (New Zealand receiving the Japanese spec vehicle). Engine choices remained the same as previously – you could buy a naturally aspirated or turbocharged SR20 2.0 litre. These Japanese-spec atmo and turbo models were badged Spec S and Spec R respectively. Big news was the introduction of the fastest Silvia ever from the factory. The Japanese-spec S15 Spec R was available with a new 6-speed manual gearbox together with an enhanced version of the SR20DET kicking out 184kW at 6400 rpm. Much of this extra power is said to come from a high-flow exhaust and revised ECU mapping. Combine this extra grunt and 6-speed ‘box with a helical LSD (similar to the Skyline GT-R V-spec) and a kerb weight of around 1240kg and it’s no surprise this is a flat 6 second 0 – 100 km/h performer.
No question, this is the fastest Silvia to ever wear the Nissan seal of approval. Note that the 4-speed automatic versions of the Japanese-spec S15 generate less power than the 6-speed. Autos generate 164kW at 6000 rpm and channel drive through a viscous LSD. The chassis was essentially the same as introduced in the S14 except the dampers, springs and swaybars were revised. HICAS rear-steer and suspension tower braces were fitted to certain models. As far as we can determine, the brakes remained identical (except for the addition of brake assist) and the steering was unchanged except for reduced power assistance (to improve steering feel).
Visually, the S15 has a wedge-like profile, is slightly lower and shorter than the S14 and 16 inch alloys are worn on turbo versions. The new look received widespread acclaim at the time of release. Note that a body kit equipped Aero version was available as an option in Japan and New Zealand. Inside, the S15 cabin was completely revised to incorporate a centrally mounted tacho, ‘titanium look’ instrument surround, new seats, revised driving position and dual airbags. Rear passenger space remained poor.
One of the most interesting S15s was the Autech-tweaked version of the naturally aspirated Japanese Spec S. The Autech Varietta incorporated an elaborate folding hardtop that could be automatically deployed in around 20 seconds. Interestingly, the S15 (badged as 200SX) didn’t appear in Australia until 2001. Australian-spec S15s were available only in turbocharged form (which isn’t such a bad thing!) but engine output was reduced to cope with local conditions. Engine output remained unchanged from the S14 at 147kW/265Nm – regardless of whether you went for a new 6-speed version or automatic. Without the option of a naturally aspirated version, the model identification structure was reshuffled for the Australian market.
The Spec S and Spec R designations refer to trim level only – the Spec S is the base model version with a clean body style and single CD player while the top-line Spec R boasts side skirts, a small rear spoiler, 6-stack CD and sunroof. Note that none of the Australian-spec S15s received the A-pillar boost gauge or climate control fitted to the Japanese-spec version. Sales of the last Australian S15s were helped along by a GT limited edition package comprising leather trim, chrome interior details, polished wheels, a Japanese-spec rear wing (as seen on the Aero) and GT badges.
The GT package was available on both Spec S and Spec R models. A similar sales exercise happened in New Zealand. Their turbocharged Spec Rs were fitted with 17 inch alloys, low profile tyres and an upgraded audio head unit and were sold as Spec R II. Production of the Silvia ended in 2002. The demise of the series is apparently due to difficulties meeting tightening Japanese emission standards. But, fingers crossed, we will see the Silvia make a return – just as it did after the original 1965 model was axed…