One problem with the cliché is that they can be inconsistent. Apparently you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, yet everything that is old can also become new again. And that contrast could affect the way the 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo is viewed.
This coupe has barely changed over the past decade, and this Nismo (short for Nissan Motorsport) version arrives late in attempt to show the 370Z some new tricks. This new model is powered-up, stronger, lower, firmer and grippier than ever before.
Another Nissan ploy is to pull $15,000 from the pricetag of the now-$50K 370Z in order to make room for this 370Z Nismo at $61,490 plus on-road costs.
The question is whether that is all enough to disguise the wrinkles in a decade-old coupe, or whether the ageing two-door has simply been rolled in glitter. What’s that other cliché, though? All that glitters could indeed be gold.
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $61,490 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 253kW/371Nm 3.7-litre 6cyl petrol | six-speed manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 10.6 l/100km | Tested: 13.1 l/100km
For $11,500 over the standard Nissan 370Z, the Nismo raises the 3.7-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6’s outputs by 8kW and 8Nm, to 253kW of power now arriving at 7400rpm, or 400rpm higher than before, and 371Nm of torque still made at 5200rpm.
On the outside front lip and rear spoilers have been added, as well as side skirts, wider rear 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels, and obligatory Nismo badging. Inside there are new fixed Recaro bucket seats, leather/suede interior trim including on the steering wheel and gearshifter, alloy pedals and a red-faced tachometer.
Underneath, meanwhile, there are also upgraded brake hoses and fluids, an underbonnet strut brace, plus firmer dampers and stiffer spring and anti-roll bar rates.
It certainly is a case of many small but specific changes.
- Standard Equipment: Multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, leather/suede steering wheel and gearshifter, leather-trimmed Recaro sports seats, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and auto on/off wipers and xenon headlights.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with USB and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 9.3Gb hard drive, satellite navigation and Bose eight-speaker audio system with twin subwoofers.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 235 litres.
There is a huge difference between perception of quality and actual quality among today’s new vehicles especially. In an age where manufacturers are rushing to equip their latest offerings with the fanciest technology, other aspects are starting to give – such as the depth of materials and also fit-and-finish.
It’s an important point to make with the Nissan 370Z, because this interior is indeed firmly rooted in the previous decade. The lurid orange clock and dials are from another era, there’s no digital speedometer, the dashboard switchgear appears no better than that in a half-the-price Toyota 86, while storage space is lacking.
The 7.0-inch touchscreen has been updated recently and it now scores Bluetooth audio streaming, although the sat-nav graphics and usability are at the 86 end of the basic spectrum, and the 235-litre boot is similarly small. At least with the Nissan, however, liftback practicality is a boon compared with sedan-like coupe bootlids.
Where the 370Z Nismo scores some points back, however, is with that fit-and-finish and also the tactility of its surfaces in the places that matter.
Everything fits superbly well inside this Japanese-built coupe, and the soft-touch dashboard plastics, suede trim and licks of stitched leather alongside the centre stack are generally cohesive and timeless because great build doesn’t date.
The steering is only adjustable for height, not reach, but a great driving position is easy to find, the Recaro buckets are a snug fit and the suede steering wheel is a delight to behold. And on first impressions a driver will want to hold it, and often…
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 253kW/371Nm 3.7 V6 petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, RWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted mechanical steering
After returning an M4 to BMW, and collecting this 370Z, an expletive involuntarily blurted from this tester’s mouth only a few metres down the road.
With old-school hydraulically assisted steering, the Nismo’s naturally mid-weighted responses, linearity and connection through the driver’s hands suddenly made the newer, fancier German coupe feel like a sensory deprivation tank.
Without myriad drive modes to choose from, the Japanese coupe doesn’t really have a duality of character. It simply does shades of firmness that can either be seen as assertive or aggressive depending on the sensitivity of your behind.
The six-speed manual clicks firmly into first gear with a mechanical gruffness maintained through each of the following ratios. The V6 engine doesn’t have a lot of low-down torque, and combined with a 1480kg kerb weight – 262kg heavier than a Toyota 86 – the 3.7-litre needs to be kept on the boil often.
As before, the non-turbo petrol engine doesn’t make a fabulous sound – it’s gravelly, like a piece of industrial machinery – but the Nismo-specific exhaust adds some enjoyable blare and performance overall is dutifully brisk.
The brakes still utilise the 335mm four-piston front/350mm twin-piston rear arrangement of the regular 370Z, but special hoses and fluid are used and pedal feel is indeed a highlight.
Depending on the road surface, ride quality is either flatly acceptable or flagrantly harsh, and on country roads especially the combination of constant jiggle and loud road noise becomes tiring.
The upside is brilliant front-end response with this two-door two seater. Mash the superb brakes, feel the terrific steering bite, key the 245mm-wide Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres into the road surface, and enjoy the astonishing nimbleness of the Nismo.
Despite a rear-wheel drive configuration, the 370Z curiously prefers being driven hard through the opposite end. And despite having a body that is 90mm longer than an 86, at 4330mm, the Nissan’s 2550mm wheelbase is 20mm shorter.
There’s plenty of grip from the even wider (275mm) rear tyres, but the electronic stability control (ESC) seems to still be reading from a mid-2000s programming guide. Its intervention is smooth, but it intrudes too early and there’s no Sport mode.
Either way, the firmer rear suspension dislikes mid-corner bumps, hopping and skipping along as though a live rear axle is underneath the coupe.
It’s never truly bad, of course, but this feels like a game of two halves – the excellent front end and lumpy rear.
ANCAP Rating: ANCAP has not tested the Nissan 370Z.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, ABS and switchable ESC, rear parking sensors and rear-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km kilometres.
Servicing: Below-average six-month or 10,000km service intervals are charged at a capped-price cost of $283/$354/$283/$586/$283/$354 to three years or 60,000km, plus a further $168 for performance brake fluid every two years.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A 230i is similarly priced, far more polished, just as quick and is hugely rewarding to drive – although it lacks the raw feel and feedback of the Nismo. The Mustang is somewhere in between, lacking some body control and feeling a bit floaty, but the V8 engine is gorgeous and it’s a whole $6500 cheaper.
Is the 370Z twice the car of a Toyota 86? Absolutely not, and indeed the latter is even more fun and balanced between its axles, albeit a lot slower. For rawness and speed, the WRX STI is the Nismo’s closest rival, and the Nissan bests that sedan.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Forget any overused cliché here. The 370Z Nismo offers supreme driver connection and rewarding consistency of control weightings that most modern sports cars could learn from, while its cabin quality is first-rate despite a shortage of everything else.
However, this is a $60,000-plus sports car and greater cohesion is expected particularly around noise and damping finesse. In some ways the Nissan just feels heavy and old, with additions to disguise – often successfully – such compromises.
Yet in spite of all this, though, the 370Z Nismo delivers feedback and fun in spades, although its likeable and honest approach should be reflected in a cheaper pricetag.
For this sort of outlay, the Nissan sports coupe ultimately needs to arrive with more than just a few simple tricks up last season’s sleeves.
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