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Nissan 370Z Nismo

Click to view picture galleryNismo has long been associated
  with the awesome Nissan GT-R.
  Indeed, a Nismo-modified GTR R35
  currently holds the Nürburgring
  lap record — outright
for a
  production car. But here in the UK,
  Nismo has almost zero traction.
  If you know it at all, it
s probably for
  the dress-up kit that Nissan has
  applied to the Juke. Which to people
  who know what the Nismo name
  really means, is a bit like Laura
  Ashley opening up a pound shop...


IN JAPAN, NISMO not only enjoys total respect throughout the petrolhead community, but there's even a legendary Nismo Festival to celebrate everything that Nissan Motorsport (hence 'Nismo') represents… But now there's a new Nismo-badged 370Z in town. So, do Nissan fans finally have something to shout about in the UK?

The answer is Yes… and No. While there are changes to the powerplant, they aren't huge yet in a way, that's kind of good. Nissan's 3,696cc V6 engine is one of the all-time great six-cylinder engines, and I'm really not being hyperbolic when I say that.

“Zero to 62mph comes
up in 5.2 seconds —
a decent time by sports
car standards, if not
outrageously quick
(just 0.1 sec quicker than
the normal Z).
But you’ll have a whole
heap of fun extracting the
most from the 370Z
Nismo on the way.
..”
In raw power terms, 338bhp (some 16bhp up on the standard 'Z') doesn't sound very much these days for a big, butch sports car. But the lack of a turbo or supercharger keeps it very old-school; and all the better for it.

There's no lazy schlonk of turbo-boosted power here instead you need to let the naturally aspirated 'vee' do its thing. That means getting the revs just right for your next overtaking manoeuvre may I recommend something over 3,000rpm and then really using the full band of power.

Peak oomph doesn't arrive until 7,400rpm, by which time the guttural drawl of the V6 has turned into a deep feline roar, partly helped by the Nismo sports exhaust system.

Zero to 62mph comes up in 5.2 seconds a decent time by sports car standards, if not outrageously quick (and just 0.1 sec quicker than the normal Z). But you'll have a whole heap of fun extracting the most from the 370Z Nismo on the way.

The six-speed manual 'box is unaltered and is one of the more charismatic elements of the car. It's a proper butch trad-style 'box: the chunky lever really needs to be shoved around the gate and the ultra-mechanical feel is almost Ferrari-esque. It's not always easy to achieve smoothness, but the rewards of hard use are worth all the shunting and clunking that goes on.

The Nismo pack doesn't significantly alter the 370Z's handling either. Yes, there are some pretty damn sexy 19-inch deep-dish alloys which, although Nismo-badged, are actually RAYS items. They're very light, so unsprung mass benefits, and that does have a positive knock-on in terms of turn-in. The tyres (245/40 front and 275/35 rear) are wider than those fitted to a regular 370Z and offer massive grip; but not enough to overcome the torque from the engine. In fact, it's quite possible to light up the rear tyres.

Speaking of which, one thing I don't like is the VDC traction control system. It's overly keen on intervening; as soon as you exit a T-junction, or attack a corner, or even crest a mild brow, the yellow slidey-car symbol starts flashing and you start wondering where all the power went.

In fact, if you never turned off the VDC, you'd never know what a capable car you have under you. Luckily there's a switch in the dashboard that kills the VDC's nannying flick it and you'll really get to appreciate how this car can dance through bends, its rear-end very much alive.

“So if the Nismo-branded
370Z isn’t about
raw power or sharper
handling,
what is it about?
Spend any time with it at
all and you
ll know.
People just gawp at it.
Partly that’s down to it
being an unusual car
that you don’t often see
on the road, but it’s also
because it looks so
bristlingly brooding.
..”
One other area of upgrade is the brakes, which benefit from tougher brake hoses and high-performance brake fluid from the R35 GTR, as well as red Nismo callipers.

So if the Nismo-branded 370Z isn't about raw power or sharper handling, what is it about? Spend any time with it at all and you'll know. People just gawp at it. Partly that's down to it being an unusual car that you don't often see on the road but it's also because it looks so bristlingly brooding.

The jutting front Nismo spoiler and the enormous tea-tray at the rear start the ball rolling. The rear one masks the kicked-up shape of the rear-end so that, to my eyes at least, it actually looks smoother. Dare I say there's a hint of 911 going on there? Add in the Nismo side skirts, logos and dual exhaust system and you have one moody mother of a machine.

The Nismo theme continues inside with special red-stitched and Nismo-badged seats, a lovely Alcantara-wrapped Nismo steering wheel with a red 'top dead centre' marker, a Nismo-badged meter and a numbered dash plaque.

All in all, the Nismo version of the 370Z is about a gazillion times better than the similarly badged Juke, but perhaps not the kind of car that Japanese enthusiasts have come to expect from a series of insane Nismo-altered GT-Rs.

The new 370Z Nismo joins a 370Z line-up that was mildly upgraded in 2013. All versions now have daytime running lights, a new front bumper and fresh paint colours. The entry-level 370Z has 18-inch alloy wheels (previously only available on the Roadster) and the high-spec GT now has 19-inch alloy wheels with red brake callipers.

While the fully featured 370Z Nismo costs £36,995, the entry-level price for the 'Z' is a remarkably low £26,995. So why don't 370Zs sell more? It's a mystery to me. — Chris Rees


Nissan 370Z Nismo | £36,995
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds | Average Test MPG: 26.6mpg
Power: 338bhp | Torque: 274lb ft | CO2 248g/km