Tim Oldland reviews Nissan’s hardcore 370Z Nismo…
When Nissan launched the 370Z Nismo in 2013 it didn’t get amazing reviews. It wasn’t very dynamic, far too stiff and didn’t really engage with the driver. It worked well at 9/10ths on a track but 99% of buyers will only do that very rarely, so we were eager to get behind the wheel when they revised the car in 2015.
Looks-wise the old Nismo was pure GT-racer, with a massive rear wing, flat nose with a deep spoiler and spindly wheels – which was fine for those hardcore who want that sort of thing but it really didn’t have mass appeal. So with the refresh came a revised and less outlandish look in line with the other models in the Nismo stable – the GT-R and Juke. So we now have an angular front bumper with the obligatory LED daytime running lights and the central intake is flanked at the bottom by twin splitter blades highlighted in deep satin red. There are extended side skirts, also bearing a red stripe (as do the mirrors), while at the back there is a ducktail spoiler replacing the bigger wing before. The rear bumper now features two large slash vents at the sides, while a red trimmed diffuser below houses two enormous round exhaust pipes. Sadly they don’t live up to expectations, but more on that later. Rounding off the exterior is a very nice set of 19-inch alloy wheels in a silver and grey two tone finish. It really does look good, stylish yet purposeful and certainly aggressive in a way only a Japanese designed car can look.
The interior gets a few choice upgrades over the normal 370Z, the biggest being the new Recaro seats, which are absolutely fantastic. Trimmed in black leather and red alcantara they are comfortable yet hold you in place perfectly when pressing on. An alcantara trimmed steering wheel with 12 o’clock marker (in red, of course) and additional leather and alcantara around the cabin rounds things off nicely. The infotainment system is good, but you can’t hide the cheapness of the switches sadly and it really falls short of the German competition there.
But a sports car should be more about the drive than the looks, so how does the 370Z Nismo fare? Hmmm, bit of a mixed bag, really. I came to the Nismo thinking it would be a hardcore drift machine or banzai track weapon when in reality it’s neither of these things. It’s actually a bit of an old-school brute and that is rather endearing. Up front sits the 3.7 litre V6 producing 339bhp, which given that the car weighs 1500kg should mean some pretty lively performance – and indeed the stats show that with 0-62mph taking 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 155mph, but it never really feels that fast.
The engine is the issue here – yes it’s powerful, but it has a huge flywheel effect, meaning that the revs drop very slowly. This is the antithesis of a sporting engine, you expect a car to be able to rev, drop back, rev, drop back etc and the Nismo really doesn’t do this. The reason for this, I expect, is the rev matching software on the manual gearbox. The 370Z Nismo has a very chunky 6-speed manual ‘box, that matches your revs as you downshift, so you don’t have to heel-and-toe, but in order for this to work they clearly added a bigger flywheel to stop the revs dropping too much and it really spoils the fun of the engine. The other thing spoiling the fun is the noise – or rather the lack thereof. Despite the two huge cannons out back, you get a raspy blare on start-up and that’s about it – when pressing on there really isn’t much sound to be spoken of apart from a drone at motorway speeds. It really is a shame as the aural soundtrack is what can set a great sports car apart from a good one.
Thankfully if you can get past the lack of noise (maybe by playing some favourite tunes on the excellent stereo) you will certainly be rewarded by the handling when you head to your favourite roads. The ride is definitely firm, but even on the broken roads around Essex you don’t feel like you’re going to lose your fillings – and of course the payoff is that there is little to no body roll at all when cornering. The steering is also very direct and you get a fair amount of feedback through the lovely wheel too. There’s definitely a case of more grip than power though, so don’t buy if you’re expecting a drift machine, even on damp cold roads it took a lot to try and provoke any sliding from the rear. But all together it retains that feel of an older muscle car – the long nose ahead of you and sitting over the rear wheels, with a meaty gearbox and steering feel – so the charm always wins you over.
Add all this together and you have a sports car that is quick, direct and handles really well, whilst certainly looking the part – in fact the styling grows on you every day and you regularly find yourself looking back when walking away, a very good sign. Is the 370Z better than a Porsche Cayman S? No, but it’s also about £10k cheaper (£16k if you match equipment) and faster, so you can make your choices there. For me though, it’s got enough charm and unique aspects to raise it above the norm and make it a contender in a very hard fought sector.
Images by Steve Hall Photography