Mountain Wheels: For summers on the track, the Nissan 370Z Nismo makes it happen
Special to the Daily
2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo Tech Edition
MSRP: $45,490; as tested, $46,425
Powertrain: 350-HP 3.7-liter V-6 engine, six-speed manual transmission
EPA figures: 21 mpg combined (18 city, 26 highway)
While much of the United States continues to consider this winter some sort of wretched curse — low fuel prices not withstanding — let me spin you a short tale that may give you some hope of an early spring. Or any spring, at all.
The Nismo edition of the already explosive Nissan 370Z sports car, that modern variant of the revolutionary Nissan/Datsun Z-car lineage stretching back to the 1970s, is the kind of vehicle created for warm, dry roads.
For on those surfaces — unlike this winter’s coast-to-coast skating rink — a not insignificant number of adjustments to the standard 2015 Z turn the Nismo into a reasonably priced, cunningly able track car.
One you can still use around town, although you better find friends who are fellow racers if you want to entice them into the Nismo’s cabin for more than five minutes at a time, while headed to Sonic.
And that’s because the Nismo makeover — also found in the Nismo version of the curious Juke, and the already brutal GT-R — ensures weekend racers will be firmly planted in place with a set of genuine Recaro race seats that will cause you to permanently reevaluate your descriptions of “sporty seating.”
I am not a large North American but this was the only vehicle I’ve been in, minus a Lotus or a Porsche Boxster, where I was not actually able to comfortably park my posterior. The seats are really, really serious, with high edges, rigid torso bolstering and a seat bottom so thin that it looks like it was made for a 9-year-old.
And while that crippling throne is about the extent of the deal for the Juke, in the 370Z’s case, Nismo-izing the car also adds a series of body modifications that make it look a heck of a lot like a GT-R, with front and rear airflow treatments designed to increase downforce in a track setting. Whatever sense of vaguely feminine roundness to the standard-issue Z’s lines is squared up and toughened out, all in testament to the brutally angular GT-R.
Then, add very bright LED daytime running lights, ultra-gigantic exhaust tips and 19-inch aluminum wheels, and you’re still only part of the way home. For they’ve cranked an extra 18 horsepower out of the Z’s regular 3.7-liter V-6, bringing the total to 350, with 276 foot-pounds of torque.
You could opt for the fancy and sophisticated seven-speed automatic transmission but you’re really going to want the cool six-speed manual, which includes the one-of-a-kind SyncroRev Match system — electronically assisting you to do the heel-and-toe, rev-match shifting you’ve seen the racing greats do, as it blips the throttle for you.
You soon find out it’s not just the seating that’s stiff. A big behind-the-seats strut tower brace and additional performance dampers make the car more poundingly ground-oriented, plus a specially tuned suspension; special Nismo brakes with bright red calipers are also part of the package, naturally.
Remarkably, the almost-GT-R treatment you get in the Nismo 370Z is only a little over $42,000 in its most basic form, with the tech edition I drove (including the navigation system) stickering at $46,425. The GT-R is $100,000, at the very least, and its Nismo variation is a brutal $150,000.
I know that there is really no actual comparison between a 350-HP rear-wheel-drive sportster like the Z and the 545 or, dear goodness, 600 horses found on the very high-end GT-R, but this is an interesting starting point, and maybe a nice gateway drug for would-be aspirants to GT-R’s superhuman status.
BUILT FOR TRACK TIME
And the civilian-level complaints about the Nismo Z tend to dilute the magic you’ll find in a vehicle this purpose-built for track time. Admittedly, I had the car in a brief, brief respite between snowy days and was only able to very gingerly go out and stomp around on still-frozen roads, rather than getting all out-of-my-mind crazy on a race course, as the car’s really designed to do. Talk about spoiling the fun of an experience.
Nonetheless, what I did get to see and feel and experience was a car that’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun on those summer days, once you squeeze in the butt and get down to business.
The Z is already a very straight-forward driving experience, virtually melting into corners with its low-slung shape and fantastically expressive driving stance. So with the added adrenaline provided by the tight squeeze of those seats, mixed with the absolutely awesome blipping of the throttle on downshifts, and you really could do some remarkably wonderful and stupid things with this car.
At only 3,394 pounds, the 350 horsepower also goes a long, long way, with brutal acceleration available in third and even fourth gear. Floor it and the exhaust note is totally adolescent; the big brakes rein it all in quite safely, and everything in between is pretty fun, as well.
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