Nissan 370Z NISMO: Review

If the spec sheet alone was to be your barometer, you could only conclude that the £10,000 premium Nissan charges for the 370Z NISMO over the standard car is a bit rude.

It's not shy, but you'd hope not given extra outlay
It's not shy, but you'd hope not given extra outlay
Power is up by a rather modest 16hp to 344hp following an exhaust upgrade and ECU tweak, while the chassis is lowered by 10mm. Spring rates are up by 14 per cent at the front but unchanged at the rear, while the dampers are 23 and 41 per cent stiffer front and rear. The Bridgestone Potenza S001 rubber is specific to this NISMO model. The brakes are also upgraded - albeit only with GT-R spec hoses and fluid - and a deeply unapologetic bodykit sets the exterior styling apart and does actually generate downforce.

There are no optional extras for buyers to deliberate over because each 370Z NISMO comes fully loaded; they'll only need to choose between black, white and grey paintwork. All that kit goes some way to justifying the premium, but in order to do so entirely the 370Z NISMO will have to deliver an appreciably more rewarding driving experience than the standard car.

If this car rings a distant, muffled bell, you're likely thinking back to the version that was launched soon after the 370Z replaced the 350Z back in 2009, but never came to the UK. This isn't simply that car four years later; it's a new interpretation with the suspension, we're told, tuned for European roads.

'Fully loaded' says both spec and kerbweight
'Fully loaded' says both spec and kerbweight
House of the (slowly) rising sun
The 370Z NISMO is true to the tradition of Japanese performance coupes in its styling, which is to say it's far from subtle. For that alone this car will be divisive, but the showy aesthetic works better on the open road than it does on the page or screen and the pumped up arches reek of attitude. The standard 370Z details - the head and taillights, the window kink - have dated since 2009, though, so the newer car lacks the appealing timelessness of the earlier 350Z. Within the cabin the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach so is just a little far from the driver and the seat is set fractionally too high, but the overall sense of quality and usability is fine.

The stiffer suspension hints at something quite inviting with an extra degree of firmness both over road imperfections and during cornering. There is a suppleness to the damping, though, so the ride isn't unduly crashy and bumps are dealt with swiftly.

OId-school hooliganism still accessible
OId-school hooliganism still accessible
It carries speed well, then, and with massive grip from the front axle you can commit it to a corner with confidence that it will stick. The transition into understeer is gradual enough and with the chassis loaded up and in a neutral state, a stab of throttle will unstick the rear and bring it into the equation. Classic, rear-wheel drive dynamics remain central to the Zed's appeal and in this state of tune there is better body control and slightly more precision at the rear axle.

Powerfully built, still
For the most part, though, its dynamic make-up is all too familiar with that of the standard car. Some of that 1,535kg kerb weight has been disguised a little by the additional spring rate, but there remains a certain resistance to rapid direction changes and a progressive, gradual lurching in long mid-speed corners. As the 370Z has always been, this car is happiest at eight-tenths.

At that level of commitment, the NISMO is huge fun to drive in the most honest and accessible of ways. The steering is direct and pleasantly weighted and the rev-match function on the manual gearbox soon becomes entirely intuitive. The gearshift action suits the car's character well with a tight, mechanical throw.

Butch looks are unashamedly old-school
Butch looks are unashamedly old-school
A sports car's engine should be its centrepiece and for the most part the 3.7-litre V6 plays the part. It's brawny, but to access sufficient performance to justify the outlandish styling the driver is required to stretch it to its redline. That's a problem because above 5,000rpm the engine becomes thrashy and sounds for all the world desperate for the next gear. Despite those large exhaust exits there's precious little aural excitement to speak of, even from the outside. Additional straight line pace aside, then, there's little reward to be had from working the engine hard, which sits at odds with a naturally aspirated sports car's purpose. Dampening some of that harshness and allowing a meatier exhaust note into the cabin would go a long way to sorting a problem that didn't seem to afflict 350Zs and early 370Zs.

Elephants in the room
At the NISMO's £36,995 price point rivals are few and far between. An entry-level 2.7-litre Porsche Cayman is in another league dynamically, but for many the small 275hp engine will just be too weedy. No internet debate concerning circa £30,000, 300hp rear-wheel drive cars can ignore the BMW M135i, it seems, and although that car offers an awful lot for its list price it just isn't a bespoke sports car in the mould of the 370Z.

NISMO-branded bits complement revised tuning
NISMO-branded bits complement revised tuning
You'd need a circuit and a stopwatch to notice the additional 16hp over the standard car and the chassis dynamics remain largely comparable; therein lies the NISMO's biggest problem. In objective terms it doesn't offer enough over the standard car - which at £26,995 looks good value for money - to justify the premium. Some buyers may be seduced by the body styling and greater exclusivity, though, and Nissan expects this new model to make up 25-30 per cent of 370Z sales going forward.

In its fundamentals, the 370Z NISMO hits all the right buttons and delivers a simple, honest driving experience that can be a tonic in this age of increasingly complex performance cars. Ultimately, though, it's let down by some jarring minor details, a chassis that reaches the limits of its comfort zone too soon and an engine that throws in the towel just when you want it to start punching.

3,696cc, V6
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 344hp@7,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 274lb ft@5,200rpm
0-62mph: 5.2sec
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1535kg
MPG: 26.7mpg (claimed)
CO2: 248g/km
Price: £36,995


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Comments (39) Join the discussion on the forum

  • British Beef 17 Jun 2013

    Not enough done under the bonnet to justify this price hike, an ECU and exhaust tweek is too little I think.

    Nizmo should be delivering more than you or I could achieve at a local tuners for the equivalent money - but I dont think so in this case.

  • Dracoro 17 Jun 2013

    "fully" loaded yet has 3 blanked buttons (by the cupholder) biggrin

  • Schnellmann 17 Jun 2013

    Seems to undermine, rather than enhance, the main strength of the 370, being its relative affordability and value for money.

  • TheRoadWarrior 17 Jun 2013

    How much extra for them to paint the bodykit..?

    I really like the zed; gonna buy one and strip it out one day... get rid of some of that fat.

    Interesting what the article stated about the exhaust note and early 370z's sounding better- any owners able to comment on that?

  • Reavenger 17 Jun 2013

    It's a shame because it looks brilliant. As mentioned, "Old school".

    Can see it becoming a good second hand buy in a few years.

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