Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 30, 2017
In the fight for the sub-$50,000 sports car supremacy, the hot off the press Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS have recently stolen the spotlight, now sharing the octagon ring with the Subaru WRX STI, Volkswagen Golf R, and Ford Mustang GT. But what enthusiasts and other automotive publications seem to forget is that the Nissan 370Z also shares a corner in this arena. Sure it may be long in the tooth and in a dire need of a nip-and-tuck makeover, but I personally think that to this day, the 370Z remains as one of the most analog and involving sports cars in this segment.
The 370Z hits a soft spot in my heart. When I tested the Roadster a few weeks back, I thoroughly enjoyed its faithful steering, rigid chassis, and attainable limits. The free-breathing V6 was also a breath of fresh air (no pun intended) in an era of low-displacement 2.0-litre turbocharged engines (re: aforementioned Golf R, Mustang EcoBoost, Type R). In fact, the only complaint I ever had about the 370Z was its lack of exhaust noise. But NISMO aims to fix that.
As Nissan’s dedicated tuner division, NISMO instills some passion into the iconic 370Z with significant upgrades to the exterior, interior, and powertrain. When all's said and done, the 370Z costs a whopping $18,300 over the base-fare 370Z, which was recently sliced to a bargain price of $29,998, and quite a steal with its beastly V6 engine and rear-wheel drive setup. This begs the question: is the NISMO variant truly worth the $18,300 in upgrades?
I’ll start off by listing what the NISMO trim actually offers. The 370Z NISMO gets a new body kit with a proper chin spoiler, side skirts, and rear wing, and stretches the overall length of the vehicle by 75 mm and the width by 25 mm. Unique RAYS aluminum wheels adorn each corner, along with red stripe accents to let people know that you didn’t cheap out. NISMO upgrades continue along inside, with Recaro leather seats, an Alcantara and leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a red backwashed tachometer.
But the most notable upgrades are underneath the sheetmetal. The naturally aspirated 3.7L V6 gets a minor revision thanks to a new H-configured exhaust system, muffler tuning, and ECU recalibration for a modest bump of 18 horsepower. Total output is now 350 hp and an unchanged 276 lb-ft. The dampers have also been firmed up, spring rates are higher, the suspension’s tuned for less travel, there’s increased roll stiffness, bigger brakes, wider tires, and a strut tower bar brace to help rigidity. The viscous limited-slip differential also has a shorter final drive ratio than the standard 370Z.
For the 2018 model year, Nissan teaches an old dog new tricks by replacing the outgoing Bridgestone Potenza tires with Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT600 tires, which Nissan says have a 20% reduction in rolling resistance and deliver less road noise. Also new is an EXEDY high-performance clutch, developed to require less pedal force and more control at the bite point.
On paper, the NISMO treatment may not seem extravagant or incredibly noteworthy, however the transformation is more than the sum of its parts. The 370Z NISMO delivers quite the race car experience. The process of starting up the engine, slotting the bulky shifter into gear, and revving its unhampered lungs stimulates the senses, and there isn’t much cabin insulation to keep all that auditory excitement from waking up the adrenal glands. The 370Z finally has an exhaust note to match as well, meaning there’s actually some noise coming out of those exit pipes (well, not that the GT-R sounds much better). Watch our Exhaust Notes video below to have a listen yourself:
Engine whines and whirls still dominate the soundtrack, but it’s now more aggressive and racecar-like from the cockpit. The noise is mechanical, like a leaf blower on overdrive - the notes are sharp but definitely more wild. In fact, it’s feels more like a complete and cohesive symphony now, rather than the base 370Z’s one-man show. Six cylinder rivals like the BMW 440i still have it beat in the octaves, but the 370Z definitively triggers more auditory emotion than its four-cylinder competition seemingly obsessed with the letter R.
And bit by bit, you begin to realize how driver-centric and involving the 370Z NISMO really is. The first thing you notice is the heavier steering. Driving it takes some upper arm effort, but the wheel stays so faithful to the surfaces that every time the road undulates, the steering wheel sharply follows. There’s an abundance of chatter being transmitted from down below, and the wheel follows every groove and tugs with rotation. I can actually feel how much grip there is on the front tires. It’s unnervingly connected but admittedly refreshing after getting used to the numb and disconnected electric setups that most of the 370Z’s rivals use like the Golf R and Civic Type R.
When it comes to driver involvement, the NISMO really shines, and you’ll feel accomplished and rewarded even when driving at low city speeds. In comparison, when piloting the Civic Type R or Focus RS, you can’t help but feel that the electronic nannies and fancy torque vectoring systems are doing most of the heavy lifting for you.
The slight bump in horsepower is hardly noticeable but the V6 engine definitely breathes better and it feels to me that it revs quicker too. And trust me when I say that 350 horsepower is more than enough for the 370Z to handle, even with a limited slip differential. The NISMO is mighty quick in a straight line, and the new Dunlops offer an impressive amount of grip when tackling hard corners. It’s also a breath of fresh air not having any selectable driving modes or adjustable dampers or steering weighting to choose from, just one simple and focused setup.
Part of the NISMO’s authentic and analog experience is owed to the conventional and talkative steering, but the rest falls under the gearbox. The baseball-like gear shifter needs a bit of wrestling into the gates, and can be notchy and heavy at higher speeds, but there’s no greater satisfaction than when it clunks into gear. The NISMO comes with automatic rev-matching as well, which can make you feel faster and possibly more heroic around a track where quick shifts can make all the difference. However Nissan is kind enough to make it defeatable with the push of a button, for those that want to heel-toe downshift the old fashioned way.
The new EXEDY clutch is definitely the NISMO’s best improvement to the 370Z. The vehicle doesn’t stutter when in first gear or when travelling at low speeds (below 10 km/h) when inching forward on the clutch. It flattens out gear shifts, making the transition between them creamy smooth, and the pedal is much lighter than the standard 370Z. The bite point is also much wider, offering forgiveness to beginners learning how to modulate it.
I have to admit, the NISMO upgrade is almost worth it for the Recaro seats alone. The standard sport seats on the 370Z are atrocious. The headrest prongs that insert into the seatback dig into your spine if you lean on the headrest, and they just aren’t supportive or cushioned enough to make you want to take it on a long distance trip. These Recaros though are much better. Though the thigh bolsters might make it difficult for some to ingress easily, once cupped inside, they’re wonderfully supportive and adherent to your body structure. They’re the same ones you get in the GT-R NISMO as well. The one drawback is that there are no more heated seats.
If you’re not one to be too concerned about straight line speed, I’d forget about the turbocharged, all-wheel drive, expensive, and now almost irrelevant Nissan GT-R. If you want an involving, exciting, and analog driving experience complete with three pedals and a free-breathing motor, the 370Z does it all at a quarter of the price.
But is the NISMO really worth $18,300 in upgrades? Yes. The base 370Z offers you an 8 out of 10 on the thrills and fun scale. NISMO simply tops it up to a dime. It may be decidedly old-school, but sometimes that’s just what we need.
型号 Model: 2018 Nissan 370Z Nismo
顏色 Paint Type: Pearl White ($300)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $48,298
試車售價 Price as Tested: $48,598
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,550
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,330 / 1,870 / 1,315
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,567
引擎 Engine: 3.7-litre V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 350 hp @ 7,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 276 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.3 / 9.3 / 11.5
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT600