NISMO. It is a word that is respected by many. It is also a word associated by others to racing decals on a bone stock Altima with a giant carbon fiber wing. Regardless of pre-conceived notions, the NISMO 370Z is a force to be reckoned with that’s not for everyone. My only knowledge of the NISMO Z, aside from statistics, is that I watched one lose it in the rain on turn seven at H2R, and sink itself in the mud, and that everyone I know who has driven it complained of the back-jarring ride. Yet, I was quite excited to experience the car, being a two-time VQ owner myself.
Upon first driving the car, yes, the ride quality seemed quite harsh. However, after driving it for a day or two, I quickly determined the detractors were wimps. Everything about the NISMO suspension is beefier than the standard Z, and that is a great thing. I quickly adjusted to the ride, and knowing the NISMO was designed for the track, I came to the conclusion that the suspension was very well tuned for a street-able track car. This was, of course, all after I re-taught myself how to drive, as the steering responsiveness made my personal car feel like a truck. It seems that what I thought was a fairly relaxed grip on the wheel in my car is not really so and results in the NISMO being quite twitchy in bumpy cornering. After I learned to ease my grip and let the car do its thing, the NISMO was almost perfectly balanced and easy to predict at or near the limits of adhesion.
The NISMO interior is a bit, well, simple. Some may be turned away by it, but somehow Nissan was able to still pull off a high quality interior given the simplicity. The simplicity really equates to weight savings. There is no leather seat option. There isn’t even a power seat option. The bonus here is the cloth seats are tremendously grippy and, along with the seat bolstering, hold you in place really well when the lateral Gs begin to build. The dash and controls (no GPS unit weighing you down here) are standard fare from the 370Z, which look and feel great. The gauge cluster and steering wheel tilt together, a genius design feature in many Nissans. One of my only complaints is the lack of a telescopic steering wheel. Finding the perfect distance from the wheel and the pedals was slightly difficult. On the flip side, the giant NISMO-specific tachometer staring at you straight in the face is a beautiful sight. There are a few other places which remind you that you’re in a NISMO as well. One of my favorites is the small, engraved plaque of authenticity between the seats which displays the model year and serial number of your particular car. A note to Nissan: Bring back the individual tire-pressure readings in the pod cluster. ALL performance cars should have this. I loved it in my 350Z, miss it in my G35, and you should be flogged for removing the feature.
Now about the exterior styling. You will likely either find the NISMO looks awesome, aggressive, and personifies the Z, or you’ll feel it looks like it should be annoying big rigs in a Paul Walker film. It’s not hard to find argumentative people on either side of the fence. I lean toward the former description. While it may be a bit over the top, as you’ll see in the gallery, it fit in pretty well with cars costing many times as much. One thing is for certain. All those angles and curves are functional, and one glance at the NISMO is all it takes to know that it means business.
Power. You get more in the NISMO, and it. is. wonderful. The standard 370Z shoves around 9.73 pounds per horsepower. The NISMO ups the power by 28 hp (totaling 350 hp) and surprisingly is a bit heavier (up 68lbs to 3300). Yet the extra power conquers the extra weight and the power to weight ratio drops to 9.43. Are these numbers boring you? How is this? If you drop to 3rd gear on the highway (60-70mph) and stand on the skinny pedal to pass someone, Nissan’s VDC (linked stability and traction control) light will flicker and the giant 285/35/19s in back will wiggle underneath you. You will giggle…like a little girl. Needless to say, the power is sufficient. More on this later. Can you say dyno?
Now comes the part about the most controversial technology put into a sports car since the automatic transmission. SynchroRev Match. I must admit I was quite skeptical of this “gimmick,” but first allow me to describe what it does for those unfamiliar with it. Race car drivers, and wannabes like me, do something called heel-toe shifting. The driver literally uses all three pedals at the same time with only two feet in order to simultaneously brake, press the clutch, and blip the throttle to match revs for the lower gear upon releasing the clutch. This allows the engine to be at just the right rpm upon clutch engagement, and there’s no jerky, massive oversteer right off the road or track. Nissan’s SynchroRev Match does the throttle blip for you. You just hit the brakes, depress the clutch, shift to a lower gear, and by the time you release the clutch, the rpms have jumped to precisely where they need to be for a smooth downshift. I really figured I’d toy with the feature and then promptly turn it off for most of the week. Surprise, surprise! I absolutely love (adore, really) this feature. SynchroRev Match absolutely, with no argument, just makes you look like a pro at every downshift. Just don’t shift out of gear and into neutral to coast. The system freaks out a bit and sometimes revs unnecessarily. The rev-matching sounds sublime as well. (Side note to Nissan: This is a focused performance car. I should hear more exhaust note.) So I once denounced SynchroRev Match, but now I will forever defend it. Maybe this is what those dual-clutch, automated manual, paddle shifting weirdos feel like.
A few friends and I stumbled across a dyno day, so I was able to test whether you get your money’s worth out of the carbon fiber drive shaft and how much power is lost along the way from the VQ engine to the wheels. I wasn’t aware of which shop we were headed to, but as we neared it, I quickly realized we were headed to my neighbor’s new tuning shop. Clint Davis, the owner, is truly a great guy, and his team at True Street Motorsports in McKinney, TX does great work on anything needing more power. I’m sure they’ll do other work too, but what’s the point if you don’t gain some horsepower, right? Clint’s shop is primarily focused toward American muscle. Luckily when the five of us arrived, there was a new Mustang 5.0 with us to offset the four imports. We didn’t intend to put the cars on the dyno, but peer pressure generally wins in this situation. An American muscle shop doesn’t have much need for an AWD dyno, so the WRX STi in the group had to sit this one out. Here are the results for the NISMO and the other party crashers.
2011 NISMO 370Z (stock) – 303 hp / 252 tq
2007 Porsche GT3 (resonator delete) – 354 hp / 269 tq
2010 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster (stock) – 379 hp / 314 tq
2011 Ford Mustang 5.0 (intake & out-of-box tune) – 399.93 hp / 378 tq
Rush-hour commuter: Many would laugh at the notion of the NISMO playing this role. I commuted four days in a row, 90 miles each day, through Dallas/Fort Worth traffic. The roads are good, and I quite enjoyed my commute each day. If your roads aren’t the best, this definitely isn’t your car. Regardless, the SynchroRev system made bumper to bumper traffic much more pleasant.
Highway cruiser: For short jaunts, the NISMO isn’t bad on the highway. Just leave it at home for a cross-country trek. You’ll tire of the stiff suspension bouncing you around. However, if you’re driving across much of the country for something like the Dustball Rally, this is your car. You won’t have time, nor will you care, to think about the harsh ride.
Grocery getter: It’s a hatchback, so yeah, I guess you can get groceries in it. There is even a decent amount of space back there.
Family & friends hauler: I laugh in your general direction. I will say though, I managed to mount my son’s child seat in the NISMO for a quick little drive. While my wife scowled in disapproval, my son smiled with every SynchroRev-matched downshift and cheered “Fast caw! Fast caw!”
Occasional hoon-mobile: Hoon. Hooligan. These are good words which play well with the NISMO. The car begs to be driven hard, and the limits are so high, hooning it can get you in some serious trouble with the Hamthrax.
Track toy: Ahh…here we really enter into where the NISMO thrives. This car is built for the track, and you will hear the track whispering to you upon purchase of a NISMO. The brakes are huge and haul down the Z quickly. The car communicates steering and suspension actions to the driver quite well. Just don’t forget to install an oil cooler if you frequent the track. Unfortunately at this , Nissan has chosen not to fully address the issue of high oil temperatures in the 370Z.
Dragster: While the NISMO isn’t exactly the fastest car out there, it is quite fun to launch and row through the gears. I would imagine a NISMO or two will be seen occasionally at your local dragstrip.