June 25, 2018




2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo

It has been around for 9 years, but it still looks good. Even so, in car terms, 9 years is an ion.

The look carries the design ethos from the preceding 350Z, and is muscular and angry. The shape of the 2-door, 2-seater belies the engineering lurking beneath the skin.

The 19” forged RAYS alloy wheels look apocalyptic and angry.

The rage escalates to a thrilling crescendo when the raspy 3.7 V6 wakes from its slumber, spitting, popping, and gurgling its mournful battle cry.

The drive panders to those base instincts, but a 6-pot cannot match the visceral animal magnetism of a V8. Despite that, 370Z remains one of only 2 Nissan passenger cars left standing. It is the slightly less mental cousin of the ludicrously-certifiable GTR.

It continues a long line of Z cars dating back over 40 years, but sold a piddling 30 in January 2018. Putting that into perspective, the biggest seller, Ford’s Mustang, sold 440 for the same period. In fact, last year Mustang sold over 9,100. That is only 100 less cars than the rest of the segment combined.

It explains why Nissan persists with the low volume Z car range.

The Nismo touches to the exterior are confined to some cosmetic details like the H-pattern exhaust and the mini spoiler on the hatch lid. The front fascia has been tweaked, but if it wasn’t for the badge, the Nismo would be easily mistaken for any other 370Z.

Although the Nismo sits slightly lower than the base model, the difference is imperceptible.

The pearl white duco glistens alluringly, and you find yourself falling just a little bit in love, almost to spite yourself.

Smart start and entry are among few of the considerations given to modern motoring. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time, especially once you’re inside.

Looking behind the seats, there is rigid stabilser bar that extends across between the suspension towers. It has “racified” (sic) an otherwise slightly ho-hum cabin. The Alcantara and leather seats hold any driver firm, regardless of the enthusiasm with which the steering is flung about.

The single cup holder is useless. It is fairly shallow, so you bang into the cup when changing gears, and you run the risk of spilling your double strength latte all over the gear stick. There are no other bins or trays apart from the centre console lock box.

There, however, are a couple of small bottle holders in the doors, but only the tiniest of vessels will fit.

So, you put your mobile in front of the gear lever and hope for the best. It is then that you might press the sports button by accident.

If you reach round behind the seats, there is a spot for a small hand bag, but it is a bit of a kerfuffle, especially if your back is acting up.

While on the subject of seats, the Nismo racing seats are sans heating. That feature is lost in the top model because of the seat design.

The boot will hold a couple of overnight bags and is generous by small sports car standards. It’s better if you pack light, and use flexible totes rather than hard-cased bags.

On the centre console, you’ll find the climate controls and radio buttons which feel a bit last decade. There is a single zone auto setting for the air conditioning, but all that plastic feels a bit low rent.

The standard Satnav uses a touch screen and a huge rotary dial which is surprisingly easy to use. But, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? Nope, nada, nil, zilch.

I liked this look a decade ago, but it is now so old fashioned in the era of tablets and integrated infotainment systems. I expect a little more from a car in the mid 60’s.

The driver’s display uses dials, and bright orange LEDs from game consoles of the 90’s. They could have given it some spit and polish with a single LCD display, but the aging architecture probably wouldn’t allow such mod cons.

There are no driver aids apart from the ABS and stability controls you’d need for even a basic safety rating. There is no lane departure alert, active or otherwise. Nor is there blind spot monitoring, auto parking or AEB.

So, you’re probably thinking this scene is a bit grim, but then you press the starter button.

The moment the Z car splutters in to life, all misdemenours evaporate.

The gear gates have a slightly offset pattern, as if someone pushed the double-H from one corner. Once you get used to it, it is as sweet as a nut.

The clutch is similarly delightful. It is precise, and is somewhere between easy and semi-firm. The engine blips to rev match in sports mode.

It has a nice linear take-up allowing a driver to change gears as easily as in mum’s dinky city-runner.

The V6 feels lusty without being suicidal.

It puts out 243kw at a quite high 7,400 RPM. To get that top performance, your fuel bill would make you cry. Max torque of 371Nm is at 5,200RPM, so this engine is meant to be taken by the scruff of the neck and throttled to within an inch of its life.

As you do, the sound is impressive, but it is just as happy to lope lazily around town.

Not content with shopping and boulevard-cruising, we took to the M4 for a midweek break in the mountains.

The little Nissan was fabulous on the highway, but the tyres were extremely noisy on anything but the smoothest of smooth tarmac, and I couldn’t have cared less.

The base car has a 0-100 of around 6.1 seconds, but the Nismo didn’t feel appreciably quicker. It is the corners where the Nismo tuning shows up the wannabe challengers for what they are.

As you sweep majestically through those long easy bends, the chassis comes to life. There is not a skerrick of give. The tighter the bend, the better.

As the bends become corners, you’re tempted to give it the beans.

Keeping the movements smooth while dropping a cog or two wrings out the very best of the Z. As you downshift, the system rev-matches so that gear changes feel more akin to a DSG. It really is a magnificent piece of work.

Suddenly, I found myself transported back in time to the Z’s I drove and lusted after in my teens.

The rest of my time with the 370Z was spent in a blissful haze of reminiscence. Whether it was clutch, or the 6-speed, or the sweet raspy engine, I can’t say. But, I loved every second, and would do it all again in a thrice.

The engine really only comes into its own at full pelt. But if you’re happy to listen to the sublime, yet slightly raucous symphony, treating the car like a long, leggy, GT is just as satisfying.

As low as it is, you’d still be fairly happy crossing the country in reasonable comfort. The ride gets a bit choppy over rougher roads, so don’t go on any, and you’ll be tickety-boo.

When I first drove the 370Z, the base model cost an eye-watering 75 grand. Now that model is $54,000 and some change. Such is a sign of the times.

At a smidge over $66,000, the Nismo adds hand hewn, race inspired, technical amazingness.

I admit to being slightly down-hearted at the thought of parting ways, but we have the GT-R in a few weeks, so perhaps I should get some little pills to help me sleep meanwhile.

I beg you not to notice the rego plates of our test car, please.

Related stories:

Behind The Wheel 370Z Nismo review

GayCarBoys 370Z achives




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