Car reviews - Nissan - 370Z - Nismo
Grippy and direct cornering, flexible and linear engine, sporty steering feedback, sharp bodykit
Room for improvement
Outdated interior, ride and steering skittish on rough surfaces, exhaust note needs more rumble, nearly non-existent boot
31 Aug 2017
IN FEBRUARY this year, Nissan Australia introduced an enhanced version of the GT-R flagship coupe, tweaked by its Nismo high-performance division, which managed to wring extra power out of its engine, boosting its dynamic capabilities with tweaks to handling and body rigidity, and setting it apart from the rest of the range with a distinctive bodykit.
Given the success of the GT-R, Nissan has decided to offer another Nismo-fettled model, the ageing-but-dynamic 370Z coupe, giving it similar enhancements to the GT-R and creating a new variant to sit atop the regular coupe and roadster range.
While it is no spring chicken, the current Z car is the most suitable candidate for some Nismo spanner-turning, given the rest of Nissan’s Australian product range consists of SUVs and the Navara ute.
The question is, has Nismo done enough to keep Nissan’s elder statesman competitive against other affordable sportscars such as the hot-selling Ford Mustang?
Following on from the successful launch of Nissan’s Nismo performance brand and the ballistic GT-R earlier this year, the Japanese car-maker’s Australian has expanded the range with a tweaked version of the ageing 370Z.
The 370Z has essentially existed in the same form since 2009, with some very minor tweaks in between.
Nismo engineers concentrated on refining the coupe’s handling and dynamic characteristics ahead of outright power gains.
Upgrades include an 8kW/8Nm performance bump courtesy of a new exhaust system and engine control module tune, enhancements to its suspension that allow for a more dynamic driving experience, and of course the red-accented Nismo bodykit to set it apart from its ‘standard’ 370Z siblings.
Driving through the hinterland around Brisbane, it’s clear that Nismo’s changes have resulted in a dynamically engaging and raw sportscar, however the 370Z Nismo is not without its faults.
The Nismo’s best work is done in tight, twisting mountain passes, staying firmly planted at speed without any hint of over or understeer, and it never looks like coming unstuck even when engaging in spirited driving.
Ample grip is provided by the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT tyres, and the slightly heavy steering gives the 370Z an old-school character, sharp responses and good feedback.
As good as the Nismo’s suspension and handling is in the twisty stuff and on good road surfaces, poor road surfaces challenge the car’s comfort and handling prowess.
The stiff suspension is unforgiving on unkempt roads, which is worsened by the low-profile tyres and 19-inch rims. The precise steering starts to become jumpy and jerky when the road quality deteriorates, which combined with the heavy feedback, can become tiring.
Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels also suffer on rough surfaces, with significant tyre noise penetrating the cabin. However that is often the case in performance-oriented vehicles, especially those without an exorbitant pricetag.
Despite its age, the 3.7-litre aspirated V6 powering the 370Z is still a quality unit, offering linear power delivery, plentiful torque from low down and a willingness to rev hard.
The meaty engine combined with the close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox means that necessary gear changes are minimal, even in winding roads with steep slopes and variable speeds.
Its aspiration allows for responsive and high-revving power, which combined with the heavy steering and manual gearbox makes it feel like a throwback to Z cars of yore.
Fuel consumption is rated the same as the regular coupe at 10.6 litres per 100km despite the small increase in power, while real-world driving returned a figure of 11.5L/100km.
Despite the new Nismo dual exhaust system, we feel the engine note can do with a throatier bark. Its sound resembles a high-pitched, whining roar not dissimilar to that of a supercharged engine, but a meatier note would have been welcome especially considering a new exhaust was fitted specifically for it.
We really like Nissan’s SynchroRev feature fitted to the manual gearbox (we didn’t get any time behind the wheel of the seven-speed automatic) which automatically rev-matches on up and downshifts, and makes for exceptionally smooth gear changes. For those who prefer honing their heel-toe technique, SynchroRev can be turned off at the push of a button.
The gearbox has its imperfections however, being slightly clunky and heavy to change, while the close ratio of the gears means sixth is a little short, with the tachometer sitting at around 2300rpm at 100km/h.
Exterior bodykit flourishes add some welcome visual flair to the Nismo as well as increased downforce, and we noticed a number of passers-by turning their heads to check out the flashy coupe.
While Nissan and Nismo have done a solid job of making the car drive like one from 2017 and not 2009, the same cannot be said of the interior.
Black plastic abounds on the dash, centre console, switchgear and shifter, and the abundance of buttons in the centre stack do little to modernise the cabin or increase usability.
With in-cabin technology increasing at such a rapid rate, the sat-nav system looks dated and is clunky in its operation, while even something as small as chrome highlights would go a long way towards sprucing up the cabin.
Three instrument gauges showing time, voltage and oil temperature are placed above the touchscreen and give the interior a sporty touch, as do the Nismo-specific Recaro seats and trimmings of Alcantara on the steering wheel, doors and seats.
Cabin space is tight but not unreasonable, however the steering wheel is not being reach-adjustable and makes it a challenge for longer-legged drivers to get comfortable.
Keen golfers eyeing off the 370Z Nismo will have to look elsewhere, as the already-diminutive boot has been made even smaller with the addition of a Bose subwoofer underneath the boot floor.
Anything bigger than a small suitcase would struggle to fit in the boot, and space behind the seats is not exactly cavernous either.
The 370Z Nismo is far from the perfect car, however it is still a fantastic representation of an old-school, rear-wheel drive, aspirated driver’s coupe that won’t break your wallet.
Its closest competitor, the V8 Ford Mustang, kills it for overall polish, engine grunt and credibility among older generations, however the Nismo is hard to beat in terms of handling, dynamic punch and establishing a connection with the driver.
The spirit and heritage of previous Z cars is ably passed on in the 370Z Nismo, and should be considered by those without the need for family-size space who are looking for an affordable, well-handling sports coupe with a rich history and exclusivity.
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