The new Z-Car burst onto the scene in 2002, and while it was never a game changer like its ancestor the 240Z, it's sold in solid numbers and outlasted some of its Japanese rivals. It's still a relevant, fresh car too and part of how Nissan has been able to do this is with numerous special editions of the 350 and 370Z over the years. One of the most hardcore yet is the 370Z NISMO. Developed by Nissan's Specialty Vehicles Group with the help of Nissan's tuning subsidiary Autech Japan, the NISMO is a bit boy racer in its appearance but it's not excessive (there are no huge stickers, massive wings or gaping scoops), and Nissan has called the car, both inside and out, "racing-inspired".
On the outside, that means a longer nose with integrated chin spoiler along a functional rear spoiler. It's also lowered as well as lightened with aluminum hood, doors, and hatchback. On the inside, Nissan also claims that the NISMO has been laid out with racing in mind, but it's not as spartan as one might think. There are still power locks, climate control, power outlets, a sound system and even cupholders. Sportier touches include the push button start and the instrument layout. There's a cool cluster on top of the dash with oil temp, voltmeter and clock, while the other group in the middle includes the speedometer and tachometer.¬†Power is from the familiar 3.7 liter VQ-Series DOHC V-6, but on the NISMO you get it topped by a red engine cover and, thanks to exhaust tweaking and some work on the chip, it now makes 350 horsepower and 276 lb/ft or torque, a modest but noticeable bump in performance.
The six-speed manual gearbox is still the SynchroRev Match unit that matches your revs for you on downshifts. It's a neat bit of technology, but some might lament that it takes some of the art out of driving. Thankfully, the system can be shut down with a button by the shifter. Probably the biggest change from the standard 350Z, though, is with handling. The engineers really went to work on the double-wishbone front and four-link rear suspension, bringing front spring rates up 15%, rear springs 10%, front stabilizer bar 15% and rear stabilizer bar 50%. Needless to say, it's stiff and more ready for a track day than a good old Sunday drive.
What the 370Z NISMO is, in the end, is a semi-hardcore tuner car that is semi-usable in the real world. A weekend machine, it's something for blasting through the country or taking to the occasional track day or autocross. It's civilized enough for daily use, but just barely. Commuting in it would get tiresome with that rock hard suspension, especially on real world roads, but with a price tag of just over $40,000, it's great value for a seriously fun recreational car. People with ordinary tastes might be wiser to just the regular 370Z, but people who value who value performance just a little bit more may not be able to resist the NISMO.