S13 Vs S14 – Which Is Best?
The S13 and S14 are both fantastic sports cars and a perfect base for your track toy. But which is best? We find out.
As even the newest enthusiast will likely know, the Nissan 240SX is one of the most iconic and interesting sports cars Nissan ever produced. The 240SX first emerged in 1988 as the North American version of the Japanese 180SX, and European 200SX.
There were, of course, a number of differences between the 180SX and the 240SX, but at least in principle, they were a single family of vehicles, divided chiefly by marketplace.
S13 and S14: Two generations of 240SX
The 240SX came in two very distinct generations of S-chassis cars, the S13 (1989-1994) and the S14 (1995-1999), after which production of the car was ceased (the Japanese Silvia model continued the S-chassis platform with the S15 until 2002).
All these years later in 2020, however, the 240SX remains a popular and much-loved model of many JDM car enthusiasts.
Why is this?
Well, one of the top reasons is the car’s proficiency for the sport of drifting, but others just love it for its timeless style, light-weight chassis, front engine and rear-wheel drive chassis and perhaps also the nostalgia of a different, and purer automotive age.
The S13 Vs S14 Debate – what’s it about?
It seems that while a mutual love of the 240SX and related vehicles exists among enthusiasts, there is, too, a rather fierce and ongoing debate about which of the two generations is superior.
This debate stems largely from the drifting community and while many enthusiasts praise both cars, there has always been a bit of sibling rivalry with the 240sx brothers.
It’s perhaps a debate that only JDM nerds can get fired up about, but that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in real value. Let’s take a look at an overview of what this debate really comes down to:
- Cost – if you want to own these cars, what will each model set you back?
- Chassis – differences in weight, rigidity and suspension, among other things
- Appearance – at the end of the day, which one really is the best looking of them all?
- Availability of aftermarket parts – the ease and potential scope of transforming a factory model into something for drifting or another competitive use
- Performance – how the car’s dynamism, torque, horsepower and other performance elements differ from each other.
Comparing the S13 and S14
Since drifting remains a popular pastime of 240SX owners and enthusiasts around the world, we will be using it as the guiding principle in our comparison as to which between the S13 and S14 is the best.
We appreciate that not every enthusiast is a fan of drifting, the S-chassis platform also translates very well as a grip track car, but overwhelming these cars are seen as drift cars.
We should say in advance that our verdict will likely be controversial, so we should preface our conclusions by saying that this is our own opinion, and you are absolutely entitled to disagree!
Let’s start by looking at the above factors in turn for each model.
When looking at the cost of these cars, you have to look at a couple of things. First, you should consider the initial purchase price. This is quite hard to determine and it changes year on year as more cars are crashed off the road and the survivors command more cash, but as a general rule of thumb, you would probably expect to pay more for an S14 than you would an S13.
You might pick up a ropey S13 for as little as $2,500. If you’re buying one already kitted out for drifting, you’d expect to pay more, possibly $3,000-$15,000+, depending on a large number of factors like what aftermarket parts are fitted, what engine is under the hood, what paint, body kit and wheels are on the car etc.
An S14 could set you back as much as $10,000-$20,000, once again depending on its condition and specific build.
While neither the S13 nor S14 can be considered cheap cars anymore, if you do want to buy a standard model and want to enjoy the car, you should seriously consider buying a modified example. Although you will pay more upfront, the cost of the aftermarket parts can quickly spiral out of control and it’s oftentimes better to buy a car that somebody else has already taken the financial hit on buying the parts new.
Whatever car you’re driving for whatever reason, the chassis remains one of the most important parts of its construction.
It’s the foundation that gives the vehicle its form, strength, agility and more. The S13 and S14 represent two generations of Nissan’s iconic “S-Chassis”.
When it comes to drifting, one of the most important things is that your chassis is not too heavy. Lighter cars need less power (although that won’t cut it in a Formula DRIFT competitive car), for most enthusiasts a light chassis means more fun with less power.
The majority of professional drift cars are made up of lightweight or medium-weight coupes and sedans (hello AE86 – before values went crazy!). The ideal chassis then is one that is light, but also rigid and strong.
The S13 chassis is lighter than that of the S14, but, the S14 outshines the S13 in chassis strength.
If you’re driving an S13 and you want to tune the suspension, the task is made more difficult by the weakness of the chassis. The S14 chassis was built not only stronger but with far better geometry, making proper and precise suspension tuning far easier for the professional drifter.
Both models of these cars are old enough to attract the dreaded Nissan rot, but in this comparison, we are only considering “as new” models. If you want to pick one of these cars up make sure you take someone that knows where the cars most commonly rust.
What’s the difference in weight?
Only around 33kg (64 pounds) at either end of the spectrum, with the S13 weighing around 1,220kg (2,700 lbs), and the S14 weighing in around the 1,253kg (2,763 lbs) mark. All of these weights were sourced from Wikipedia.
The lighter weight does give some advantage to the S13, requiring less horsepower to break the tires traction. It isn’t a huge amount, but as they say, every little helps.
If you want to get serious into the sport, the younger, and more rigid S14 chassis and improved suspension geometry would likely make a better choice.
One interesting fact the S13 is that its chassis is ready-made for an R33 (Skyline) cross member, so if you want to do an RB swap on this one, it’s considerably than it is on the S14.
As the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s hard, therefore, to objectively comment on which of the S13 or S14 looked better (no surprise with this website but we vote S13!).
We hope you aren’t offended by our assessment, and we acknowledge that everyone’s view of the looks may be wildly different from ours.
First of all, the S13 appears to have at least some advantage in that it was available in multiple forms. This made it more universally appealing to people of different tastes. Buyers of the S13 had the options to buy it as:
- A 2-door coupe
- A 3-door fastback
- A 2-door convertible (from 1992)
The S14, on the other hand, only came out as a coupe, thus limiting its appeal to just coupe fans.
Anyone who was a big fan of either the fastback or the convertible version would have been quite disappointed to find that the “evolved” version of their beloved S13 was reduced to one body style.
One other major aesthetic difference was the headlights. The pop-up headlights of the S13 were one of the biggest pull factors for many, adding that distinct look that really helped set it apart.
As the years wore on, car models of all stripes abandoned the idea of pop-up lights, and the S14 was, alas, among the ranks of such models. Those preferring the more iconic S-chassis image will likely agree that the S13 is a more beautiful model.
Having said that, the S14 did receive a decent makeover to its front and rear lights (“Kouki” revision), making them a bit edgier and more contemporary. In 1997, the S14 also gained its “shark eye” slanted-style headlights, which definitely make the cars look angrier and more intimidating when combined with a nice body kit.
Some also argue quite cogently that the overall update of the S14 conveyed a more modern and lasting outlook that helps it to compete in looks with even the newest models of different marques from Europe, Asia or North America.
The addition of the high-level rear spoiler, more angular light design and generally straighter dynamic edges makes the car more contemporary then the S13.
In our view, the more classic and iconic look of the S13 is still hard to beat.
4. Availability of aftermarket parts
If you’re buying an S13 or S14 for the purposes of drifting, then you are unlikely to keep it at its factory setting specification.
Scratch that, you are definitely going to make changes. This being the case, it’s important to understand which is better when it comes to switching out factory parts for aftermarket parts to make your car drift-ready.
One of the things you will likely wish to switch out is the somewhat lacklustre engine of the factory build. The 240SX never got the engine advantage of its Japanese sister-car, the 180SX. Where the 180SX was blessed with the SR20, boasting over 200 horsepower, both the S13 and S14 were stuck with the same KA24 engine offering only 155 horsepower.
Now turbocharging your KA24DE is quite a common modification, if you are looking for a more serious setup then you might want to consider an engine swap, or, a car that has had the engine swapped already.
So, let’s say you’re readying your S13 or S14 for an engine swap, which chassis is more accommodating?
Without even giving it much thought, we have to favour the S13 here.
While it’s true that both the S13 and S14 have swap kits available for engine swaps in the RB, JZ, UZ, SR, VH, VQ and LS engine families, the S13 edges a win here because of its readiness for the R33 cross member (see above, also).
The job of switching to the R33 cross member is a relatively easy one, which in turn means that putting in an RB series engine is a simpler procedure.
The S14 can’t say that, unfortunately.
If you wanted to put an RB engine into your S14, you’d need a special aftermarket swap kit, and that’s going to bring you the additional expense and more man-hours invested. If you’re ready and willing for that, then by all means, but the straight switch capability is a clear advantage for the S13.
One area of aftermarket strength that both models share, however, is in the sheer variety of aftermarket parts available.
What made the 180SX and 240SX so popular when they emerged in the late 1980s was their clear potential for aftermarket upgrades.
“Drift tax” is still a problem for some parts and full vehicle purchases, but the scope and scale of possible modification using aftermarket parts is quite breathtaking in both the S13 and S14.
When looking at the factory models, the 240SX in both generations was, some say, cursed with the same rather inferior engine when compared with the 180SX.
Some even said that the factory-spec 240SX was a sports car in looks only. Some of you may baulk at such a thing being thought or said, but it’s true that many assessed the 240SX in this way.
When drifting, however, performance will, of course, depend largely on how much and how effectively one has adapted it to the sport with aftermarket parts.
Behind the wheel, the S13 has a rawer and more visceral feel. The S14 feels a little more “grown-up” in stock trim. But as each car is modified, the character and feel will change dramatically. Remember that the 240sx was more of a “tourer” than an outright sports car.
When you consider that the S13 has an easier time with ease of installing certain performance engines, that may arguably give it some advantage over the S14.
With a lighter chassis, the S13 is going to need less power to extract the same performance as the heavier S14. However, the S14’s revised geometry and tougher chassis do make a solid performance boost.
In terms of outright performance, there really isn’t a lot in it. Both cars are fairly “mild” in performance out of the box, so, you will most likely end up tuning it and at that stage, there isn’t a lot in it.
If I had to pick a winner, then I would go for the S13.
As we said in the beginning, the exact verdict that we give on such a hotly contested debate is going to be controversial. The logical thing to do would be simply to ask you, as individual Nissan enthusiasts to simply take all the factors into consideration and make up your own mind.
But no, that would be a cop-out.
At the end of the day, it is nearly impossible to say definitively which one is best, but we will make the following judgement:
As performance is difficult to split the cars on, your buying decision should be based on the style of car that you would like and the price that you can afford. If you want a more modern looking car, then the S14 is going to tick the boxes for you, especially the facelift Kouki model.
If you love the retro look or are serious about your 240sx being a convertible, then the S13 is the chassis for you.
For me? It is probably no surprise that I would be going for an S13, preferably a hatch with a tuned SR20DET or 1JZ swapped in.
Do you disagree? Fear not!
Don’t worry, we are not trying to marginalize anyone in this discussion.
We are merely throwing in our two cents into what remains an interesting and lively discussion between people with a mutual love for all things Nissan 240SX. Where we may disagree on technics and specifics, we also agree on how much we love this iconic and legendary offering.
The 240SX maybe 30+ years old, but it remains a bulwark of passion and interest for countless people around the world.
The fact is that they just don’t make ’em like they used to!