Nissan Stagea
(2001 - 2007)

  • A unique performance car yet totally practical
  • Huge potential for tuning, especially turbo models
  • Cared for examples are showing excellent reliability
  • Great community of fans and owners
  • Extremely thirsty
  • A lack of proper maintenance or abuse will result in expensive repairs
  • Some parts can be hard to find
  • It can be harsh on brakes and tyres
Overview

Chances are that if you’re tyre-kicking Stageas, you’re already reasonably versed on the topic. But many looking for a neat mid-sized wagon out of left field, particularly the late-gen M35 “Volvo-looking thing” occasionally spotted on the road, here’s what it is. And, for any interested parties, it’s worth seeing how they’ve aged and how they might fare today as cut-priced premium family hauler or enthusiast toy.

Nissan’s Stagea, launched in 1996 and surviving just 11 years, is a bona-fide petrolhead cult car and a tale of two halves. Its first WC34 generation (1996-2001) minted its legend, a sports wagon technically amalgamating the humble Laurel with the heroic Skyline with which it shared powertrain DNA, including the GT-R-ified Autech version. Conceived in Japan’s so-called Great Turbo Era, the WC34 offers much to unpack…perhaps for another time.

Here in overview is the second-generation M35. It arrived, in 2001, at the dawn of a huge technical shift for the Japanese carmaker, boasting the then-new FR chassis architecture and VQ engine family that been used by Nissan and Infiniti ever since, including 350Z/370Z and R35 GT-R.

Tamer, arguably more mature, more European, the M35 Stagea, like its predecessor, was a Japanese domestic offering, slipping into other markets in scant numbers via the grey import route. It survived just six years before the nameplate was put to pasture.

At launch, the gen-two Stagea mirrored changes found elsewhere in Nissan’s line-up. It was more solid and measurably more refined than its forebear, not to mention larger and roomier as well. And while both generations of the wagon offered mild to nicely warmed-over variants, the M35 brought a stronger sense of luxury and innate comfort right throughout its range. But unlike gen one’s (GT-R-powered) 260RS Autech Version, a proper fire-breathing high-performer never found its way into the ranks.

Despite being a sole model on a limited lifecycle, the M35 Stagea spurned a dizzying array of variants. Turbo and non-turbo engines, rear- and all-wheel drive, high- and low-riding guises… wading through it appears complicated, until you break down some fundamentals that limit Aussie buyer choice in availability…

The M35 was split into two series. Series 1 (2001-2004) offered both (one) turbo and (three) naturally aspirated engines. Of these four, two engine choices – the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre VQ25DD and 3.0-litre VQ30DD engines – are ineligible for Aussie import compliance. No foul – these are the bread and butter options.

Instead, Aussies get the nicer stuff, notably the turbocharged 2.5-litre VQ25DET petrol V6 outputting 208kW (or 206kW as quoted in some literature) and 407Nm. Torquey and driveable, it’s considered by many as the pick of the M35 Stagea crop.

The other available engine is the naturally aspirated high-revving VQ35DE petrol V6, with an advertised 208kW peak to comply with Japan’s ‘gentlemen’s agreed’ power cap and bringing 353Nm. But, as the ‘350Z’ engine, it was pitched as the flagship choice in the 350S Autech Axis version.

The ‘early’ turbo M35 Stageas, all AWD, are quite prolific in Oz. Choices include the regular 250T RS Four V model and a version with Nissan’s Hicas four-wheel steering system, as well as a 250T RX Four with improved niceties such as dual-zone climate and high-grade audio.

For a bit of European soft-riding vibe, Series I brought the ride-jacked 2.5-turbo-powered AR-X Four, complete with greyed out plastic over fenders and specific 18-inch wheels.

Then Series II arrived, in August 2004, with Nissan dropping turbocharging from the range completely.

There were five core models to the latter-day line-up and ineligible for import are the 250RX variants with their humble naturally aspirated 158kW 2.5L V6s.

Aussies do get access to a fresh-badged 350RX and 350RX Four – rear and all-drive respectively – using the VQ35DE, though power was pegged at 200kW. And the high-riding AR-X Four returned, albeit with turbocharging ditched in favour of similarly neutered 200kW 3.5-litre natural aspiration.

Meanwhile, the fancy Axis by Autech package, with specific styling, suspension and 18-inch wheels, can be had in turbo AWD or with 3.5L N/A motivation in a choice of rear or all-wheel drive. A unicorn six-speed manual version of the Axis was offered for just one year (2003-2004) and is ineligible for import – all available Stageas in Oz will have five-speed automatic transmissions.

What do you need to look out for when shopping for an M35 Stagea? Let’s find out…

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What goes wrong?
  • The gas struts for the tailgate will most likely need replacing or re-gassing.
  • The body cladding can suffer and can turn grey if not maintained.
  • If the bung below the battery hasn’t been removed or cleaned, there is a chance you may experience electrical gremlins when it rains.
  • The seat switches can be susceptible to damage and failure and the window switches can become glitchy.
  • Mechanically cam/crank sensors can fail
  • The turbo can suffer from a lack of oil and will fail due to oil lines clogging if not serviced correctly.
  • Various electrical gremlins are beginning to occur.
  • Valve lifters may need replacement at approx. 100k too.
  • Oil cooler o-ring can perish
Model range, pricing & features

250RS and 250RS Four

  • Price when new: $35,000 - $60,000
  • Price used: $5,500 - $15,000

The RS and RS Four models were the base RWD and AWD models of the M35 Stagea and were fitted with a 2.5-litre V6 engine (VQ25DD) and a 4 speed automatic transmission. As standard, the RS models came with lots of comfort, safety and convenience features, with higher spec models only adding more luxurious orientated features or cosmetic and body kit packages, in additon to the different engine and transmission options available across the Stagea range.

The RS models were discontinued for the M35.II series.

Features:

16-inch alloy wheels
Front and rear ventilated brake discs
Front fog lights
Tinted windows
Rear wiper
2 airbags: drive and front passenger
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Brake Assist (BA)
Front seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters
Remote central locking
Electric windows – front and rear with driver’s auto up/down
Electric mirrors
Climate control air conditioning
Manual seat adjustment for driver and front passenger – lumbar, backrest, height, headrest
Six speaker stereo system
AM/FM Radio
CD Player
Tilt and reach (telescopic) steering wheel adjustment
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
60/40 rear split folding seats
Upper and lower glovebox

250RS V

  • Price when new: $40,000 - $65,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $15,000

The RS V model of the Stagea offered additional features, such as bigger alloy wheels, xenon headlights and rear privacy glass.

In addition to 250RS:

17-inch alloy wheels
Xenon headlights
Rear Privacy Glass

250t RS Four V

  • Price when new: $40,000 - $65,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $15,000

The “t” turbocharged RS V Four V added auxilary power, a front spoiler as well as all wheel drive in addition to the 2.5-litre V6 engine.

In addition to 250RS V:

Front spoiler
12V auxiliary power

250t RS Four V HICAS

  • Price when new: $43,000 - $65,000
  • Price used: $10,000 - $18,000

The Four V HICAS was an additional model that was available with Nissan’s 4 wheel steering system which allowed for the rear wheels to be hydraulically operated to move at the opposite direction to the front wheels, which made for better handling.

In addition to 250t RS Four V:

Nissan’s HICAS 4 wheel steering system

Aero Selection

  • Price when new: $43,000 - $65,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $15,000

Available from October 2002, and intended for the RS versions, the Aero selection was an additional model/option pack that allowed for a spoiler and sports body kit to be added to the Stagea RS models.

In addition to 250RS:

Front aero bumper
Colour rear bumper
Body coloured side strips
Rear privacy glass

Axis Special Edition (2002)

  • Price when new: $43,000 - $65,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $15,000

The RX model was the next model up from the RS, and featured additional comfort and convenience features.

The RX model came in a variety of different sub-model grades pertaining to the engine fitted, either the 2.5-litre V6 or 3.5-litre V6, also available in RWD or AWD drivetrains.

In addition to the RS models:

Unique 18-inch alloy wheels
Chrome grille
Autech body kit
Body-coloured, over fenders, side skirts and rear bumper
Leather trim

250RX, 250RX Four, 300 RX, 350RX and 350RX Four

  • Price when new: $35,000 - $60,000
  • Price used: $9,500 - $19,000

The “t” turbo RX Four model was only available on the Series I M35 Stageas and featured a front spoiler in addition to the 2.5-litre turobcharged engine.

In addition to 250RS:

16-inch alloy wheels (350RX – 17-inch alloy wheels)
Auto boot closure function
Xenon headlights
Rear Privacy Glass
Trip computer
Electric driver’s seat
Rear air vents

250t RX Four

  • Price when new: $35,000 - $60,000
  • Price used: $9,800 - $17,000

In January 2002, the Axis was offered as a special edition model for 250RS and 250t RS models.

The Axis special edition added unique 18-inch alloy wheels, an Autech body kit and comfort features such as leather trim.

The Axis model became a more permanent fixture in the Stagea range with the release of the Series II range.

In addition to the 250RX Four:

Front spoiler
Nissan’s HICAS 4 wheel steering system

Navi (2004)

  • Price when new: $45,000 - $60,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $11,000

Intended for the 250RS and 250RX models and sub-models, the Navi was a model and package offer that added body coloured side trips, DVD satellite navigation and rear privacy glass. Note: the DVD satellite navigation system was programmed for the Japanese market.

In addition to the RS and RX models:

Body coloured side strips
DVD satellite navigation
Rear privacy glass

70th Anniversary Edition

  • Price when new: $55,000 - $70,000
  • Price used: $12,000 - $15,000

In May 2003, the Stagea RX models were released in a 70th Anniversary Edition model which added unique 17-inch alloy wheels and an improved audio system.

A second iteration to the anniversary series was released in October 2003.

In addition to the RX models:

17-inch alloy wheels
Body coloured side strips
200 watt BOSE sound system with six speakers
Richbass subwoofer
Six-disc in dash CD player

October 2003 70th Anniversary Edition:

17-inch alloy wheels
Body coloured side strips
Ionising air conditioning
Electric seats – driver and front passenger
Tinted windows

350S Axis

  • Price when new: $55,000 - $70,000
  • Price used: $12,000 - $15,000

The 350 S Axis was a special model created on the 2.5L chassis, but fitted with a 3.5-litre V6 engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission.

In addition to special mechanical setup, additional sport and luxury features were fitted to the 350 S Axis including unique 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension system, alloy pedals, sports instrument cluster, leather trim and a six-disc in-dash CD player.

In addition to the 300RX:

18-inch alloy wheels
Sports suspension system
Body-coloured pronounced wheel arches
Alloy pedals
Sports instrument cluster
Leather trim
Six-disc in dash CD player

Axis and Axis Four

  • Price when new: $47,000 - $70,000
  • Price used: $12,000 - $15,000

The Axis and Axis Four models were special models built by Autech and featured a special suspensions setup, enhanced muffler as well as luxury and comfort features inside.

In addition to the RX:

17-inch alloy wheels
Sports suspension system
Fujitsubo Giken Kogyo muffler
Chrome grille
Autech body kit
Unique front bumper
Body-coloured, over fenders, side skirts and rear bumper
Leather trim
Dual zone climate control

Axis S and Axis S Four

  • Price when new: $47,000 - $70,000
  • Price used: $12,000 - $15,000

The Axis S and Axis S Four models were special models built by Autech and featured a special suspensions setup, enhanced muffler as well as luxury and comfort features inside.

In addition to the RX:

17-inch alloy wheels
Sports suspension system
Chrome grille
Autech body kit
Unique front bumper
Body-coloured, over fenders, side skirts and rear bumper
Leather trim
Dual zone climate control

AR-X Four

  • Price when new: $47,000 - $70,000
  • Price used: $7,000 - $15,000

The AR-X Four is the top of the range package within the Stagea range and with the Series I models featuring the 2.5-litre V6 engine, and then being upgraded to the 3.5-litre V6 engine on Series II editions.

The AR-X Four also was styled to be a “raised” wagon model with SUV stylings and components.

In addition to the 300RX:

18-inch alloy wheels
Raised suspension system
Higher (SUV-style) front bumper design
Black plastic over fenders
Lower lip extensions
Electric seats – driver and front passenger
Leather trim
Heated front seats
12V power outlet

Stagea Limited Leather

  • Price when new: $49,000 - $52,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $14,500

The Stagea Limited Leather was a limited edition add-on sub-model to the RX and AR-X model series and featured a tan leather trim, woodgrain interior trim and an improved audio system.

In addition to the RX and AR-X Four Models:

Leather (tan) trim
Woodgrain interior trim
Upgraded sound system (BOSE sound system for 350RX, 350RX Four and AR-X models)
Six-disc in dash CD player

Stagea Stylish Silver Leather

  • Price when new: $49,000 - $52,000
  • Price used: $6,500 - $14,500

The Stagea Stylish Silver Leather was a limited edition add-on sub-model to the RX and AR-X model series and featured a grey leather trim, heated front seats and an improved audio system.

In addition to the RX and AR-X Four Models:

Leather (grey) trim
Heated front seats
Upgraded sound system
Six-disc in dash CD player

Should you buy it?

Well before we answer that, there is an elephant in the room that needs to be mentioned.

It’s important to know that being an import, it can be something of a gamble when it comes to the car’s history. Some importers are fastidious and genuinely do their best to source the most perfect examples they can but, there are some dodgy operators out there so make sure you do your homework not only on the car itself, but on the person selling it to you.

But if you’ve found a Stagea that mechanically checks out, that has a great service history and an owner that, to the best of your knowledge, is honest and telling the truth, then yes, 100% you should buy a Stagea.

The Stagea is incredibly practical, super comfy, easy yet very interesting to drive, it’s genuinely fast, it’s fun through the corners and with all wheel drive is relatively safe, it looks funky, quirky and almost European or Scandinavian yet it was built in Japan so the build quality should be excellent and as many of its parts are shared across other Nissan models, it hopefully won’t cost a fortune to maintain and finally at the prices the Stagea are currently asking, these are an absolute bargain, and those prices will most likely only increase.

Yes the Stagea can guzzle petrol at an alarming rate and it’s by no means perfect but there are very few other cars available for this sort of money, that can do what a Stagea does.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

As this vehicle wasn’t imported by Nissan Australia, it is classed as a grey import and therefore usually came with no warranty or unofficial warranties offered by JDM importers.

Servicing:

12 months or 10,000km

Tech specs

Body Style:

5-door wagon/estate

Engines:

2.5-litre petrol V6 (250RS, 250RS, Four, 250RS V, 250RX, 250RX Four, Axis, Axis Four, Axis S, Axis S Four)
2.5-litre turbocharged petrol V6 (250t RS Four V, 250t RX Four, 250t RS Four V HICAS, AR-X Four)
3.0-litre petrol V6 (300RX)
3.5-litre petrol V6 (350S Axis)
3.5-litre petrol V6 (350RX, 350RX Four, AR-X Four, Axis, Axis Four, Axis S, Axis S Four) – M35.II

Power:

158kW – 2.5-litre petrol V6
206kW – 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol V6
191kW – 3.0-litre petrol V6
206kW – 3.5-litre petrol V6
200kWNm – 3.5-litre petrol V6 (M35.II)

Torque:

270Nm – 2.5-litre petrol V6
407Nm – 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol V6
324Nm – 3.0-litre petrol V6
363Nm – 3.5-litre petrol V6
353Nm – 3.5-litre petrol V6 (M35.II)

Transmission & drivetrains:

4 speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (250RS, 250RS V, 250RX, Axis, Axis S)
5-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (300RX, 350RX, Axis, Axis S)
5-speed automatic, all wheel drive (250RS Four, 250RX Four, 250t RS Four V, 250t RX Four, 250t RS Four V HICAS, 350RX Four, Axis Four, Axis S Four, AR-X Four)
6-speed manual, rear wheel drive (350S Axis)
6-speed manual, all wheel drive (AR-X Four)

Fuel Consumption:

12 – 13.5L/100km

Length:

4765mm

Width:

1760mm

Height:

1510mm

Kerb Weight:

1480 – 1680kg (depending on variant)

Disclaimer

Information correct as of January 14, 2021.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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