Car reviews - Nissan - 370Z - Nismo
Strong V6 engine, superb steering and brakes, sharp front-end response, high-quality cabin, excellent front seats and steering wheel
Room for improvement
Engine hobbled by weight, overly stiff ride quality, ill-sorted rear-end response, dated cabin and infotainment
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5 Apr 2018
Overview MAINSTREAM car-makers have a relationship with sportscars that ebbs and flows, take the Nissan 370Z Nismo as a prime example.
Along with its twice-the-price GT-R sibling, the current-generation 370Z has seen almost a decade’s service. Since then the tide has gone out on the likes of the Mazda RX-8 and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X with not a replacement in sight. And there is no word when a new version of this rear-wheel drive two-door will bubble to the surface either.
Instead, Nissan Motorsport (Nismo) has decided to make a splash in the current gene pool. The 370Z Nismo gets more power and torque than the regular 370Z, as well as suspension, bracing and braking upgrades hiding beneath the new wheels, bodykit and sports seats.
But is it enough to make waves among much newer sportscar rivals?
Price and equipment
The 370Z Nismo asks $11,500 more than a standard 370Z, at $61,490 plus on-road costs with a six-speed manual transmission.
Equipment upgrades are few, however, with keyless auto-entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, plus an auto-dimming rearview mirror already standard. Likewise, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, 10GB hard drive, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, and an eight-speaker Bose audio are included.
Here the devil is in the Nismo detail. There are lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels with wider rear tyres, front and rear lip spoilers and side skirts, plus a leather/suede steering wheel and gearshifter inside, Recaro fixed bucket sports seats, alloy pedals, and a red-faced tachometer.
What any 370Z lacks, though, is adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors, blind-spot and lane-keep monitors, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that have become modern expectations, particularly at this pricetag.
It is absolutely true that this Nissan feels old and dated inside. Check the low resolution touchscreen with a slow response rate and the lurid orange digital clock above it as confirmation that this coupe arrived on the market just as the GFC was starting to do its best work.
There are no back seats, and no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, while the view to the sides and rear of the Nismo is ordinary and there is virtually no storage space to be found.
For all such dated disappointments though, the Japanese-built 370Z is superbly crafted with wonderfully consistent panel fit and very tight finish.
The Recaro driver’s seat is wonderfully snug, and the suede gearlever and steering wheel fall naturally to each hand and both feel great in them.
Even the soft-touch dashboard and door plastics highlight how making good initial material choices will help a product age. The liftback boot design is a clever coupe choice, too.
In isolation the 370Z Nismo fits well and feels like a high-quality cabin. But it also appears like one that could rival a $30K-plus Toyota 86 – and not ask almost twice that figure.
Engine and transmission
It might seem odd to compare this Nissan to an 86, particularly when the 370Z is 262kg heavier, with a 1480kg kerb weight.
The Nismo division has also tuned the 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6 to deliver 253kW of power at 7400rpm and 371Nm of torque at 5200rpm – up just 8kW/8Nm on the standard 370Z.
Even so, it is far beyond the Toyota’s weedy 152kW/212Nm 2.0-litre four cylinder.
Yet both thrive on engine revs and utilise rear-wheel drive beneath two-door bodies that are within 90mm of each other – the Nissan longer at 4330mm, but with a 20mm-shorter 2550mm wheelbase.
The manual has a sturdy mechanical gruffness as it slides into first gear, and that is matched by a gravelly engine note that becomes louder (but not sweeter) when extended.
The ‘Zed’ still lacks torque and it can feel lethargic around town, but short gearing, sheer power and the traction of 10mm-wider 275mm Dunlop SportMaxx tyres help it feel faster – if not electric – on the open road.
Ultimately, for this price, a Ford Mustang GT’s 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 is much nicer.
On-test fuel consumption of 13.1 litres per 100 kilometres was also higher than its already thirsty – by today’s standards – 10.6L/100km official combined-cycle claim.
Ride and handling
This is where the 370Z Nismo still comes into its own. Yes, that is indeed because this Nissan is out by itself as of the oldest sportscars, but no, that is not a negative.
Without electrically assisted steering, this coupe’s hydraulic pump set-up is brimming with feel, and totally natural in its consistently mid-weighted response.
The brakes, with carryover 335mm four-piston front and 350mm twin-piston rear discs upgraded with special hoses and fluids, join in as a shared highlight of the dynamic package.
Surprisingly for a rear-wheel drive two-door, the Nismo is most impressive at its front end. The way the nose feels drilled into the surface is both engaging and exciting, with underbonnet bracing, firmer dampers, stiffer springs and harder anti-roll bar rates ensuring this 370Z feels far more agile and tightly controlled than the standard version.
Okay, the ride is jiggly and it can be borderline abrupt, while road noise is deafening and the electronic stability control (ESC) tune – without a Sport mode – is a bit Windows 95 in its basic operation.
It triggers early, and often, negating the inclusion of a rear limited-slip differential (LSD). But maybe that is deliberate, because balancing this short-wheelbase sportscar on the throttle is tricky.
The back axle actually feels like a live-axle the way it hops and skips over bumps, being along for the ride rather than a cohesive partner – as the 86’s is – to the poised front section.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), and rear parking sensors with rearview camera.
ANCAP has not tested the Nissan 370Z.
Servicing is bi-annual or 10,000km intervals, with each duo of annual check-ups coming in at a capped-price $637 for the first year, $869 for the second and $637 for the third.
There is no shortage of choice when shopping for a two-door sportscar these days, and therein lies the problem for the Nissan 370Z Nismo.
An 86 is slower but much cheaper and more dynamically cohesive, while a Mustang GT is faster and more sophisticated – with an active safety upgrade coming soon. Even a BMW 230i is just as quick while being more advanced and engaging.
The Nissan beats them all for steering and brake feel plus front-end response, while it would no doubt entertain on a racetrack with ESC switched off. But greater depth is ultimately required when spending $60,000-plus.
More development is also required, and that has not been something afforded to the 370Z beyond a few dribbled-in upgrades. Meanwhile the tide continues to slowly go out for this Japanese car-maker and its relationship with sportscars.
BMW 230i from $63,000 plus on-road costs
Lacks road feel and racetrack nous, but newer and sweeter than 370Z in every other respect.
Ford Mustang GT from $57,490 plus on-road costs
Prices about to rise, but loose chassis about to be tamed – either way, V8 manual is a gem.
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