“Many years ago I recall being out for sushi in downtown Los Angeles with a few friends. We were hosting a couple Japanese Nissan employees and we were awaiting one of the US Brand Managers stationed in LA at the time. Naturally, he has to upstage everyone and rolls up in a 350Z Nismo Edition – red, of course. Our whole table clears out at this point to get a glimpse of the pre-production version of the first Nismo Z here. And it was that kind of extra attention that the Nismo touch gives to the Z, the most current iteration not excluded.
Now we know what you are thinking; the 370Z Nismo Edition isn’t new. You would be correct because it has been available in the US for some time now and the previous Nismo Edition on the 350Z chassis never made it to Canada. Although we never received official word on that, the rumour is that Canadians weren’t ready to pay for such a premium version of the car and that it had to build some brand equity first. Well, Z-cars have become very popular here even when critics said a 2-seater RWD car wasn’t practical for this market. They still aren’t practical with our climate but Nissan Canada decided the latest Nismo Edition would still push some units here.
We have reviewed the merits of the 370Z ad nauseum for over two years now but the Nismo Edition was a welcome addition to our garage. There are enough tweaks on here to really differentiate it from the standard 370Z and its presence on the road commands attention at all times. The styling of the latest Z has gotten the nod from the general public since its debut and the Nismo Z has a more dramatic aero treatment that engineers perfected over serious R&D. First, the front fascia has been reworked with a low slung chin spoiler which is said to reduce lift at speeds. The front end is also slightly flared out giving the appearance of much wider fenders. Flanking the car are a pair of beefed up and sculpted sideskirts that make the car appear both lower and meaner. If the Nismo Z appears longer, you are not imaging it because the body work extends the car by over 15 cm.
Around back, the rear valance was been carved up with a pair of pressure relief vents in the hind quarters and a turned-up mid section with modest rear diffuser fins in the rear. Larger openings have been cut into the back end to accommodate the massive 120mm Nismo cannons firing out sweet exhaust notes. Sitting atop the rear hatch is a fairly high GT2-style wing which generates 75lbs of downforce at 120 km/h for much improved cornering and stability. The rear of the vehicle is capped off with bold Nismo badges to let boy racers of the world know that you like to keep it real, real Nismo.
Adding to the tendency for other motorists to strain their necks looking at the Nismo Z are the new wheels. Although striking, these forged 19-inch wheels bear too much similarity to the 19s found on the 370Z Sport Package. Not only are they the same size and same finish but they are also made by Rays and could have been blessed with a more distinct design. At the same time, everyone was really gripping the wheels so if we owned this car maybe a simple powder-coating in deep bronze would give the premium appearance they should have had.
The interior of the Nismo Z brings a few welcome tweaks and others that caught us off-guard. First off, when entering the vehicle we kind of let out a sigh that our familiar Navigation screen and dial weren’t present but the ho-hum storage locker was. Apparently, the Nismo Z is so highly tuned, they couldn’t dial-in the car with all the extra weight of the nav… sorry we just don’t buy that and the weight should have been shaved off elsewhere. Aside from missing our old nav friend, the high bolster Nismo seats were a welcome change but we’d suggest they should have been high-backs with harness holes – a proper Nismo car. The gauges are Nismo branded as are the floor mats and the balance is standard Z fare.
For more of an improvement over the standard model is the horsepower and torque bump. While nothing groundbreaking, the VQ37DE V6 in the Nismo Z cranks out 18 more ponies to generate 350hp and has an extra 6lb-ft both of which you can feel as modest as they may seem. An improved exhaust with less back pressure and some ECU tweaking helped Nissan arrive at the new numbers, along with an improved powerband and higher rev limit to 7400rpm. Alas, it feels like 2009 all over again because we again have to point out the weakest link in this car – the lack of oil cooler. It is common knowledge that after a handful of laps on the track the 370Z will go into limp-mode and the Nismo Edition was no exception although we’re really surprised this was addressed. Why Nissan did not feature an oil cooler on the Nismo Z is beyond explanation but even if they couldn’t justify the cost, why wasn’t it an option?
Around town, this motor does offer a great drive. It sounds great and has lots of low-end grunt to zip from light-to-light. At 11.6 L/100km city and a scant 7.7 L/100km the tuning and aerodynamics of this car work well together because it really does sip gas for a high performance vehicle. The gearbox is direct and the clutch definitely livable although it should have been a step up since it can slip here and there. The Syncro-Rev offered with the sport package is standard here and that technology is just as amazing today as it was over two years ago.
Nismo engineers got to work on the handling to give it the edge over the competition and it’s stable mates. The rubber has been slightly improved by running with the summer only Advan Sport Tire with a 245/40R19 front and 285/35R19 rear that features a sticky 180-AA-A rating. The suspension received a shot in the arm with stiff re-valved dampers and higher spring rates to make a more agile 2-seater. The sway bars also received an increase in stiffness up front but far more in the rear for a flatter cornering experience and the chassis is tightened up with a massive front strut bar.
On the street, the suspension is livable although it is much stiffer than a standard Z. Navigating the crumbling roads around the mega-city can be a bit of a headache but buyers of this car are ready to make that sacrifice. Driving the Nismo Z over the week around the city was a decent experience since it is comfortable enough to commute in but serious enough to track occasionally. On the track the Nismo Z shines with a neutral feel and enough power to get the back end to rotate when needed. The traction control can definitely get in the way and even intermediate drivers will be opting out of it in no time.
It became very clear we’d like to see more weight savings in the chassis to make it more agile on the track. The car feels heavy lugging itself around and we were expecting more of a dramatic edge over say, the Infiniti IPL G Coupe. Sure enough, when we checked the specs it tipped the scales at 1498 kg (3300-pound) is actually heavier (11kg) than a regular Z! Not super porky but why is it heavier? That leaves us confused and wondering how much of a difference that missing nav system is really yielding and whether the Nismo team should have have gotten more hardcore chasing a lower curb weight?
However, the Nismo Z was capable in cornering and enabled us to lay down the power nice and early in the apex. But as we mentioned, our experience was in brief jaunts as the oil temps shot up making it challenging for a coherent picture of performance. Track enthusiasts will definitely want to opt for an aftermarket oil cooler (like from Nissan specialists Stillen) to ramp up the performance.
At $46,898 the Nismo Z is a lot of car that appears far more exotic than it’s price point. We had people of all kinds wanting to get a more in-depth glimpse at the car and even pissed off one proud Camaro SS driver (not in a drag race, the SS would make short work of the Z) when his kid wouldn’t stop staring and pointing at the Nismo Z, he got super annoyed. All the cool Dads have Nismo Zs these days, didn’t he get the memo?”