Nissan MID4: the Japanese Supercar That Never Was

Acura NSX, Nissan R390, Lexus LFA, are all examples of Japanese supercars. They all have one thing in common – they’re from the 1990s or newer.  What was Japan doing before, when Ferrari made the 288 GTO, or Porsche made the 959? Nissan was cooking something bold, which would stand out from the Skylines and Silvias. Unfortunately, Nissan’s concept car never left the showroom floor and faded into obscurity. It did, however, inspire some technology which proved its eventual worth. This car was the Nissan MID4, the Japanese supercar that never was.

Nissan called the MID4-II an experimental car

Nissan MID4 | Nissan

The 1985 MID4 had all the makings of a high performance car. It went through two iterations. They used a mid-mounted VG30DETT, a twin-turbo 3-liter V6 making 330 horsepower, all-wheel-drive and Nissan’s all-wheel-steering, called HICAS. Although Nissan called it an experimental car, the MID4 became a full-fledged concept and was ready to assemble until Nissan pulled the plug. It wasn’t all for nothing though, as the engine went to the 1989-2000 Z32 300zx, and the HICAS was later adopted by the R32 Skyline and 180sx.

More of the Skyline GT-R came from the MID4

The Skyline got its four-wheel-steering from the MID4, as well as its all-wheel-drive system. Nissan called it the Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain (ATTESA). While most AWD systems use three mechanical differentials, one per axle and one in the center, ATTESA employs an electronic center differential. This allows the front wheels to receive anywhere from 0 to 50-percent of the power. The center differential’s priority is the rear wheels. 

Nissan’s MID4 encompasses style from different cars

The Nissan MID4 clearly took inspiration from other cars of its day. Looking at the exterior, you’ll pick up on a hint of Lamborghini and a dash of Ferrari. The MID4-II from 1987 was a bit more forward-thinking, and may have inspired other cars soon to follow. There’s a little Mazda RX-7 FD in the front, the wheels look like they’re from an AMG, and the smooth lines and sleek style overall even looks almost like a Jaguar XJ220. 

What happened to the MID4?

Nissan building logo in Germany
Nissan building logo in Germany | Nitschmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Despite all of its technology and innovation, the MID4 apparently provided a subpar driving experience. At the time the Z32’s arrival was imminent, and marginally better to drive than the MID4, thus there was no need for the MID4 supercar. Nissan presented the first MID4 at the Tokyo auto show in 1985 and the second in 1987. It was never put into production due to cost. While the Z32 was an excellent car to drive, it didn’t hold a candle to what the MID4 was supposed to fight against. The MID4 was supposed to be an NSX destroyer and a Testarossa contender, but unfortunately never made it that far. Some owners swear by their NSX though, so It’s difficult to say if whether or not Nissan made the right call. 

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