By David Colman
Hypes: Race Car For The Street
Gripes: Poor Outward Vision
You’ve got to love a car company that specifies — on the window sticker no less — what size and brand of tires you’re guaranteed to receive as standard equipment. In the case of Nissan’s speed equipment special, the Nismo 370Z, nothing but the best in ultra high performance rubber will do. You automatically get Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires measuring 245/40R19 front and 285/35R19 rear, affixed to Rays brand forged alloy rims. And yes, Nissan also specifies the brand name of the rims on the window sticker, and requires that they be forged rather than cast. Why all the fuss about this car’s footprint? The Nismo Z is all about handling prowess, and since wheels and tires make the most important contribution to ultimate grip, Nissan has selected the best tires and wheels for their hottest handling Z.
The rest of the specification list is just as clearly focused on high performance. The suspension system, for example, is tuned with model specific sway bars, struts and shocks that are much stiffer than those of the standard 370Z. A beautifully crafted 3-point front strut tower brace ties the front suspension’s top shock mounts to the firewall for added rigidity. These competition bred measures result in handling precision and levels of grip rarely experienced in anything with a license plate. The Nismo rides very hard because the suspension is so taut that it allows nearly zero compliance over bumps. Certain undulations even cause the Z to buck like a porpoise, but these comical moments are more than offset by the incredible adhesion this chassis affords on curving roads. If you’re in the market for the ultimate handling sports car, look no further.
Nissan also goes to extreme lengths to bring the engine and brakes up to the refinement level of the suspension. The engine’s crankshaft and camshafts receive a micro polishing treatment that helps reduce internal engine friction. The Nismo’s 3.7 liter V-6 makes 350hp and 276 lb.-ft. of torque compared to the regular issue 370Z’s 332hp and 270lb.-ft. The enormous front and rear disc brakes get the Nissan “Sport” treatment, with high rigidity braided stainless steel hoses feeding special R35 brake fluid to the six piston front, and four piston rear calipers. Thus, the brake pedal is always reassuringly hard and predictable.
Both the interior and exterior of the Nismo receive special attention to distinguish this model from lesser Zs. The 8-way adjustable driver’s seat and the 4 way adjustable passenger’s seat offer lateral support commensurate with the high side loadings this car generates. Both seats sport Nismo embroidered badges on their headrests. Not only are they supportive and comfortable over long hauls, but surprisingly easy to climb in and out of. The 3-spoke steering wheel too is a work of art, with a red band incised into the top dead center position, new suede grips at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, and just enough controls to facilitate radio selection without overdoing the array. Outside, the Nismo, in white, looks as menacing as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, with a great gaping maw of a grill just waiting to suck up slower cars ahead. And trust me, with this car, all the rest are slower. To match the dive planes of the front spoiler, there’s a fat chorded rear wing, plus kick out rails on the rocker panels that make this Z look even wider than it is. Red accent pinstripes across the snout and exterior mirrors distinguish the Nismo visually from any other 370Z. One gander at this exotic looking Z renders the need for the Nismo rear nameplate superfluous.
Besides its bone jarring ride, the ultra Z suffers from an affliction that also burdens every 370Z: poor side and rear vision. The problem starts right under your nose, where the wide A pillars of the windshield, together with fat exterior rear mirrors, conspire to block side vision for a foot on either side of the car. To the back, the wing’s placement further reduces vision through the Z’s mail slot of a rear window. To alleviate the problem, Nissan has added a very useful standard rear backup camera which projects its image in the left quadrant of the inside rear view mirror when reverse gear is engaged. This placement is far superior to those which use a dash mounted screen that diverts your eyes from the mirror you should be looking at. Still, backing the Nismo Z out of a parking spot into traffic is an unpleasant chore. You soon find yourself parking only in spots you can vacate by driving off straight ahead.
In sum, the Nismo Z offers the finest pure driving experience you can buy for under $50,000. Nothing comes close to its combination of leech like handling, impressive acceleration, and bad boy good looks.
2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo
- Engine: 3.7 liter DOHC V6
- Horsepower: 350hp
- Torque: 276lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 18 MPG City/26 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $46,370
- Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars