2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
Dollar for dollar, in class, it's the best bang for your buck!
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide
There has been a hole in Nissan's high-performance sports car lineup. The 370Z provides plenty of well-balanced ability for a very reasonable price, making it one of the best sports car values going. As has been the case for most of the Z's lifespan since the debut of the 240Z in 1970. More go in the Nissan lineup means GT-R, at a considerably higher price. So how about something in the middle? Something that is more exclusive than the 370Z, and maybe a bit quicker, but not at the GT-R's price premium?
That would be the Nismo Z. Nismo is NIssan MOtorsports, the factory racing division. The Nismo Z gets the full tuner treatment, with enhancements to engine, suspension, and bodywork. There's a bit more power, a smooth, aerodynamic look, and a track-ready suspension. Yes, it's more expensive than the regular Z, by $13,000 over the base Z with manual transmission and nearly $8,000 over the Touring model with stick. What you get for that premium would be far more than that should you try the do-it-yourself approach. This is a seriously quick and track-capable car that is also easy to drive around town or to the grocery store.
As long as the roads are smooth....
There is one word that can describe the 2014 Nismo Z. That word in "uncompromising". It's a factory tuner car designed and built for track days or autocrossing. It comes with any drivetrain you want, as long as that is a slightly-tuned version of the regular Z's 3.7-liter V6 with 350 horsepower (18 up from 332) and a six-speed manual gearbox. Since it was conceived as a track car, amenities are scarce. Don't look for a navigation system or any of the newer electronic gadgets. The option list consists of a Bose® audio system and various dealer-installed bits including a backup camera with the screen in the inside rearview mirror, illuminated kick plates, and similar. Electronic gadgetry sucks up power and adds weight… bad for performance.
If the power increase isn't all that noticeable in normal driving, the suspension is. It's tuned for the track, for minimal squat under acceleration, dive under braking, and body roll when cornering. It's compliant only if compared to a kart… and works very well in its intended habitat. Racetracks are far smoother than most public roads, and the bumps race drivers may complain about would go un-noticed among the potholes, frost heaves, tar snakes, and general decrepitness of American highways and byways.
But if you're looking for something you can drive to the track, have fun with there, and drive home, here it is. Little if any extra preparation necessary, depending on club and track rules. And, as I discovered during my week with a 2014 example, it's not high-strung at all, and as easy to drive in everyday conditions as any other car with a stick. Stay away from bad pavement, and watch clearance of the front splitter, and the Nismo version is as practical and useful as any other current Z, and Spartan only if compared to an overloaded and overweight luxury car.
APPEARANCE: It's instantly identifiable as a Nissan Z, but the Nismo has unique front and rear panels and a large wing directly behind the rear window. Stealth factor zero… The flat front and projecting air dam, extended side sills, and venturi-look lower rear panel are all functional, and help ensure that aerodynamic lift at high speeds is nonexistent. Attention to detail -- the grille crossbar is wing-shaped in cross-section, and tilted to provide downforce. Red tape accents are found there, on the outside mirrors, and on the rear faux-venturi panel. The front air dam is low, and even though there's not much overhang care should be taken when parking, getting in or out of driveways, and in avoiding obstacles on the road.
COMFORT: There is less difference between the Nismo and a regular Z inside than out. Biggest is the number plate at the rear of the center console, reminding you that this is indeed a special, limited-production model. It's hardly a race car -- pushbutton start/stop, power windows and mirrors, an efficient climate control system, and audio are all standard. The optional Bose audio system, fitted to my test car, means AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, plus a CD changer and auxiliary jack. Interestingly, no USB port -- but here the music most requested will be from the twin exhausts at the rear. Seats are cloth-covered manual, with Nismo logo. It's lighter that way, and the driver's cushion is adjustable for tilt. Bolsters are moderate and the padding does soak up some road harshness. As it has been since the Z's rebirth in 2002, the main instruments tilt with the steering wheel for optimum visibility. The steering wheel rim is covered with leather and Alcantara faux suede, while auxiliary audio and cruise system controls are found on the spokes. There is some useful storage around the cabin, with parcel shelves behind the seats and the cargo area under the hatch behind that. If a spare tire was standard, it's replaced by a subwoofer with the Bose audio system.
SAFETY: Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones, a full complement of air bags, active head restraints, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and security system are among the Nismo Z's passive safety features. Active safety is addressed by Vehicle Dynamic Control and traction control systems plus excellent cornering, acceleration, and braking abilities.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Extensive use of lightweight aluminum alloy for suspension pieces ensures low unsprung weight for quick suspension response. Springs, shock dampers, and anti-roll bars are all stiffer than in the stock Z, and the ride height is lower. On a smooth road, this car is a joy to drive. On less than perfect pavement it can be painful. Such is the nature of the beast. Despite the massive tires -- 245/40R19 front, 285/35R19 rear -- steering effort is moderate but appropriate. Ditto for brake effort -- and with four-piston calipers at the front and twin-piston rears, all gripping vented discs, this thing can STOP! Huge contact patches and sticky Bridgestone Potenzas mean excellent grip. A viscous limited-slip differential ensure that power gets to the pavement.
PERFORMANCE: Tweaks to the engine management software and a less-restrictive exhaust add a bit of power to Nissan's VQ37VHR engine. Horsepower goes from 332 @ 7000 rpm to 350 @ 7400 rpm; torque from 270 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm to 276 at 5200. So there is a bit more urge at the top, all the better for a track with a long straightaway. Failing that, there is plenty of low-end, so short-shifting in traffic is no problem -- for the engine, anyway, never mind the frustrated driver -- and the six-speed manual has short-throw linkage that makes shifting a pleasure. Shift below 4000 rpm, and there is still plenty of urge, with a pleasant bonus of reasonable fuel economy. Unleash all the power and it'll get thirstier. Just put that on the entertainment budget. Downshifting with the SynchroRev Match® engaged is interesting at first, as it uses the engine management software to match revs in the manner that an accomplished driver can. It's a good way to learn to shift better -- practice until it doesn't engage, meaning that you have correctly matched revs. The pedals are positioned so that you can do heel-and-toe shifting yourself.
CONCLUSIONS: The Nismo variation of Nissan's 370Z adds serious performance, but it's still eminently affordable for a car with its capabilities.
2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Base Price $ 43,020
Price As Tested $ 46,370
Engine Type DOHC aluminum alloy 24-valve V6 with continuously-variable valve event and lift control
Engine Size 3.7 liters / 225 cu. in.
Horsepower 350 @ 7400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 276 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length 100.4 in. / 173.4 in.
Curb Weight 3346 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 9.6
Fuel Capacity 19.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires Bridgestone Potenza S001 F: 245/40R19 98Y R: 285/35R19 99Y
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multilink
Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 26 / 19
0 to 60 mph est 5 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Bose® Package -- includes: Bose 8-speaker audio system, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, Sirius/XM satellite radio (3 months free subscription), Bluetooth® hands-free phone system, HomeLink® universal transceiver, auto-dimming rearview mirror $ 1,350
Nismo carpeted floor mats $ 125
Carpeted trunk mat $ 95
Illuminated kick plates $ 200
In-mirror rearview monitor $ 790
Destination charge $ 790
Extra #1: What's a Track Day?
Driving a high-performance car quickly on the street can get expensive. A PhD in Traffic School is not necessarily a good thing… so take it to the track. As a start, you can do a driving school in your own car, with a pro instructor. You can join a car club, usually one for the make and/or model of your car, and that club may have track days. Which usually have club members as instructors. Your car will have to pass a technical inspection, but most likely you won't need full race preparation. You will need a helmet.
Yeah, it's not necessarily inexpensive. But it's safer than excessive speeding on a public road with unpredictable traffic, and quite possibly less expensive than the ensuing tickets and insurance increases. Do note that your car warranty *does not* cover on-track events. So don't over-cook it there, either.
Extra #2: 2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo
A few weeks back, Bob Gordon (Co-Publisher of The Auto Channel) sent out an email to all contributors asking of anyone had been invited to a Nismo introduction in North Carolina. Nobody had. Nor had anyone else from the automotive press -- the event was ZDAYZ, a gathering of the Datsun, Nissan, and Nismo faithful. You know -- the people most likely to buy a Nismo Z. The 2015 version was unveiled, to the most appropriate and appreciative audience.
What's changed? Most obviously the styling, which looks more like the GT-R in front. At the rear, the 2014's wing gives way to a "whale tail" deck spoiler. That's got to be an improvement for rear visibility -- and you want to be checking your rear in a Nismo so as to be sure that you don't do something to cause the lights to come on if the wrong car is behind you. Under the hood, the engine stays the same -- no complaints there -- but for the first time an automatic transmission will be offered. It's a seven-speed, similar to what's in the regular Z. Inside, all cars get Recaro® seats. Yay! There will also be a Tech model with all the contemporary electronic gizmos and gadgets.
Purists will moan about diluting the character of the car, and reducing exclusivity. But the automatic and Tech model mean greater sales potential, and so a greater likelihood of continued Nismo Z production. And you can still get a stick and no gadgets.