1997 Nissan Leopard XV


  • A pristine looking example of this JDM luxury saloon never originally available in the UK
  • This XV trim car offers space, luxury and a 3L V6 turbocharged petrol engine
  • Recently imported by a Japanophile and registered in the UK ready for use

The Appeal

Nissan created the Leopard sub-brand in the late 1980’s initially to allow Nissan to sell badge engineered Skylines and Laurels to different market segments and demographics. Despite this strategy seeming to somewhat lack a clear direction the Leopard was produced over four generations between 1980 and 1999.

This model is a fourth-generation car and comes with a great specification and a powerful 270bhp, V6 turbocharged engine. It is a fascinating luxury saloon car that is likely to be of great interest to JDM enthusiasts and big saloon lovers alike.

The History and Paperwork

  • This Nissan Leopard rolled off the Kaminokawa production line in 1997
  • The car then spent the bulk of its life in Japan 
  • The current owner bought the car at auction in Japan at the end of 2021
  • He then imported the car to the UK and registered it here in February 2022
  • The car is complete with a basic level of paperwork
  • This includes the current V5 indicating the current owner as the first in the UK
  • The car currently holds an advisory free MOT valid until February 2023
  • The Japanese export certificate is on hand together with a condition checklist
  • Both of these documents confirm the mileage at the point of export
  • Three original keys are also included

The Interior

  • The Leopard’s interior is spacious, luxurious, and pristine in equal measure
  • The commodious seats are finished in a mid-grey velour 
  • The seats are box pleated for comfort and support
  • The seats are electrically adjustable with some controls on the inner edge of the back rest
  • The door cards are finished in a combination of velour and wood veneer and feature useful puddle lights
  • The dashboard is finished in a darker grey with accents of wood veneer extending down the centre console
  • The centre console houses the Leopard inscribed climate control unit
  • An aftermarket Panasonic, double DIN, touch screen head unit is fitted but currently not working
  • The grey carpets appear to be in fine fettle and are protected by official, Leopard branded heavy-duty carpet mats
  • The boot is also neatly carpeted and finished in grey
  • In the boot is a full set of half-length lace seat covers or “seat clothes” much favoured in Japan

The Leopard’s interior is not only very evocative of its late 1990’s vintage but also archetypical of Japanese Domestic Market luxury cars. There’s lots of velour, vinyl and plastic wood in here and its all the more charming for it.

All it needs to enjoy the full and glorious effect is to fit the half-length, lace seat-clothes that currently reside in the boot. Period touches aside this is a very spacious and practical interior in true Nissan style. It’s in such good condition too, belying the age of the car. Clearly a cherished example.

The Exterior

  • The exterior of the Leopard is finished in silver paintwork
  • The paintwork looks to be in a fine condition and has seemingly benefitted from the lack of salt use on the Japanese road network 
  • Despite its size the Leopard exudes quite a sporting look with boot and chin spoilers fitted
  • The standout feature of the Leopard design is what Nissan called the “Pillared Hardtop Sedan” look
  • This referred to the frameless windows and wafer-thin B pillar – an unusual feature
  • The bodywork appears to be well presented with panel gaps appearing tight and parallel
  • The cabin glass looks to be in good condition with the rear windows featuring a heavy privacy tint
  • Five spoke, 16-inch factory Nissan alloy wheels are fitted
  • The wheels appear to be in a decent used condition but may be further improved by a light refurbishment
  • The wheels are fitted with quality Michelin Cross Climate tyres in a 215/55 configuration
  • Both Nissan and Leopard badges are in evidence around the car

It is unlikely that the Leopard will be mistaken for anything other than a big Japanese luxury saloon. There are lots of styling cues that are reminiscent of similar cars from Nissan and Toyota especially. It’s the condition of the Leopard that sets it apart, however. It appears to be so good for the age of the car.

Although quite subtle, the frameless window design provides an unusual point of difference and, no doubt, a conversation starter amongst JDM enthusiasts and automotive design connoisseurs alike.

The Mechanics

  • This Leopard is fitted with the largest and most powerful engine option
  • This is the VQ30DET unit, which is a 2,987cc V6 turbocharged engine with 24 valves
  • In this configuration the engine was rated at around 270bhp and 271Ib-ft of torque
  • Reassuringly the VQ engine range often appeared in the annual Ward’s 10 Best Engines List
  • Power is fed to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission
  • The under-bonnet presentation appears good and is dominated by an inscribed engine cover
  • Little is known about the maintenance history of the car in Japan
  • The current owner attests to the seemingly excellent mechanical condition of the car, however

It’s nice to see this Leopard is fitted with the highest specification engine made available for the car. It is a potent unit and versions of this engine in various states of tune appeared in the 350Z, Skyline and a number of other performance orientated Nissans.

Performance figures aren’t readily available for this Japan only model but that may be missing the point of this luxury saloon anyway. A car of this nature is surely optimised for relaxed mile munching with a surprising turn of speed on tap when called upon. A fine example of an automotive “iron hand in a velvet glove” perhaps?

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It is always fascinating for any car enthusiasts to see and enjoy cars that never officially made it to our shores. In recent years these models have become increasingly popular with a thriving and growing JDM fan base in evidence at almost every classic car show nowadays.

What appeals about this car, however, is the eminently useable nature of it. Apart from the odd age-related blemish it could be a much newer car judged purely on its condition. The owner attests to it be a comfortable and enjoyable cruiser with the distinct bonus that you aren’t very likely to see another one coming the other way.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1997
  • Make Nissan
  • Model Leopard
  • Colour Silver
  • Odometer 74,467 Kilometres
  • Engine size 2980
  • Town Cheltenham
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Private
  • Location Gloucestershire
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
13 bids from 9 bidders
  • ryanhda•••• £2,500 06/09/22
  • GeorgeB•••• £2,400 06/09/22
  • ryanhda•••• £2,300 06/09/22
  • ryanhda•••• £2,200 06/09/22
  • GeorgeB•••• £2,100 06/09/22
  • nick-th•••• £2,000 06/09/22
  • martin-•••• £1,900 06/09/22
  • steve-l•••• £1,500 06/09/22
  • GeorgeB•••• £1,300 06/09/22
  • [email protected]•••• £1,200 06/09/22

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