Nissan’s vaunted performance arm, Nismo, has long been admired by motoring enthusiasts but the go-fast range has been conspicuously absent from Australian showrooms until recently.
Starting this year, Nissan began its Nismo introduction via the supercar-rivalling GT-R and now the follow-up act is a more athletic and performance-focused version of the aging 370Z coupe.
Having been a part of Nissan’s range in its current form since 2009 the 370Z harks from a time before turbochargers and dual-clutch transmissions became almost standard-issue performance hardware and in a modern context gives it an appreciable difference when compared with more modern competitors.
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $61,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 253kW/371Nm 3.7-litre 6cyl | 6sp manual 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 10.4-10.6 l/100km
Prices across the regular 370Z coupe and roadster range have been pared back to reflect the current model’s advancing age and drop in popularity. That also makes the 370Z Nismo priced from just under $61,500, a better value proposition than it otherwise might have been.
There’s still a yawning $11,500 step up from a regular Z to the Nismo-enhanced model and unlike the regular car the Nismo edition comes as a coupe only, with no roadster version available.
The upgraded model features more focused performance and styling differences to help set it apart from a run-of-the-mill 370Z including wider 19-inch wheels by Rays Engineering, and a comprehensive body kit offset by red pinstripes.
- Standard Equipment: Recaro sports seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara, red-ringed tachometer, climate control, keyless entry and start, aliminium pedal faces, leather and alcantara-trimmed sports steering wheel, cruise control, 19-inch Rays alloy wheels, Nismo sports styling
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, 9.3GB hard drive, AM/FM/CD/MP3 playback, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, active noise cancellation, eight-speaker Bose audio
Step into ‘the office’ and there’s a set of grippy sports seats by Recaro ready to secure you in place, trimmed in leather and Alcantara and finished in black with red highlights matching a similar treatment for the steering wheel and doors.
No change to cabin dimensions means headroom in the compact interior remains minimal, with the wide, high-set centre console resulting in an obvious cockpit-style ambience that separates driver and passenger.
The tilt adjustable steering column takes the main gauges with it to ensure the driver doesn’t miss any vital info, but the lack or reach adjustment feels out of step with modern expectations.
The high-set driving position also lacks the outright racy feel of other coupes, and although the infotainment system tries to be relevant in 2017 its button-heavy controls and low-res display out it as being from a previous generation. On the plus side it does at least include satellite navigation and a reversing camera.
A Bose stereo equipped with noise-cancelling software helps drown excessive road noise from the Nismo's fat Dunlops, but where smartphone connectivity for ease of access to your favourite tunes or apps is also off the cards for this model.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6, 253kW @7400rpm, 371Nm @5200
- Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double-wishbone front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: 355mm front discs with four-piston calipers, 350mm rear discs with two-piston calipers
- Steering: Hydraulic power steering, 10.0m turning circle
While the naturally-aspirated engine isn't ready to be shown the door just yet, its days are numbered, which makes Nissan’s decision to stick with it for the 370Z Nismo a welcome one from purists.
Compared to the same-sized 3.7-litre V6 in the regular 370Z the Nismo massages out an extra 8kW of power and 8Nm of torque for a total output of 253kW and 371Nm thanks to an ECU retune and a free-breathing exhaust system.
To go with the engine upgrades handling has been fettled through the use of stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and reworked shocks to minimise roll and maximise available when cornering.
The stiffer setup has a just-right feel in ideal conditions, but loses some of its charm over broken road surfaces with a tendency to compulsively tramline through the indentations that punctuate rural roads.
Balancing its weight nicely between the front and rear axles, the 370Z offers outstanding traction thanks to 285mm-wide rear tyres joined by a limited slip differential.
Despite the grip-enhancing measures the 370Z Nismo will still strobe its stability control light occasionally, but rather than allowing keen drivers to indulge in a little tail-out enjoyment within safe limits the all-on or all-off stability control either clamps down on fun, or creates a tricky blend of short wheelbase, and abrupt on-limit handling to catch out the unwary.
There’s no complaints with the 370Z’s steering, which retains an old-school hydraulic system which charms thanks to its connected feel and delicate feedback relaying reams of info back to the driver and conveying even subtle changes to the reactive front end.
While performance stats have been turned up slightly the big V6 coupe can be outgunned by the current crop of turbocharged four-cylinder hot hatches. For sheer engagement though, the rev-happy aspirated engine is filled with the kind of character that’s missing from the raucous hot hatch brigade.
With a high-rev maximum torque peak the 370Z Nismo can feel slightly uninspiring below 5000rpm, but from there onto its 7400rpm power peak the V6 transforms into a lively and sonorous unit, delivering its best when worked hard.
We tested the car in manual form, which features a neat party trick in a rev-matching function that saves drivers from the chore of heel-and-toe duties when dropping back through the gears. While this handy feature sure to be welcomed by some the switchable system can’t match the satisfaction of a personally executed gear change.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Because the 370Z Nismo isn’t built off the freshest of underpinnings it never feels as lively or refined as some of the other performance machines available in its price region, but its raw appeal gives it a unique charm, even if it lacks the delicacy of a Subaru BRZ or Mazda MX-5, the raw pace of a VW Golf R or the unshakable stability of a Subaru WRX STI.
That said, Nissan deserves to be praised for hanging onto a format that may not exist into the future - a performance coupe with a big, naturally aspirated engine that drives the rear wheels through a manual transmission is an increasingly rare beast.
As the increasingly digital world of motoring becomes consumed with minimising emissions and reducing driver error to the point of almost removing the driver entirely a raw and involving hive of driver activity stands as perfect antidote to the current state of automotive malaise.
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