What is it?
This is the Nismo version of the Nissan 370Z coupé. Rather than simply being a collection of aftermarket parts, the Nismo Zed is a complete factory-built car, available only as a coupé and with a manual gearbox.
Its chief differences over the regular car are a touch more power (now 345bhp) and torque (276lb ft) from a new ECU and freer-flowing exhaust, plus substantially revised spring and damper settings.
It also looks quite different, with new bumpers, a bigger wing and broader tyres. The appeal, or otherwise, of the more extrovert styling is subjective, but I reckon it suits the 370Z shape and gives it something of a junior GT-R look. Inside, there is a more thinly padded steering wheel, different pedals and manually adjusted sports seats.
What’s it like?
What the Nismo modifications don’t address is the Zed’s lack of refinement. The rear damping force is more than twice as strong, which makes the ride firm, if not to the point of being harsh.
The flipside of the significantly stiffer set-up is a serious ramp-up in enjoyment. The Nismo turns more keenly and the front end bites more strongly, reducing the tendency for the front end to push wide through faster corners.
Whether it’s because of the more tactile steering wheel, the gripper tyres or the suspension tweaks, the Nismo steers more sweetly than the regular car, with more feel and less weight.
It doesn’t feel massively faster, but it revs more keenly and sounds a lot sweeter. The throttle response is sharper, too, which makes heel-and-toe downchanges easier – even without Nissan’s clever SynchroRev Match system.
On the type of road that America isn’t exactly famous for – well surfaced, with a mixture of corners from fourth-gear sweepers to 270-degree hairpins – the Nismo is hugely entertaining. So much so that you can forgive it the odd bit of tyre noise or, occasionally, less than perfectly smooth engine.
Should I buy one?
As an overall package, the Nismo makes much more sense to me. It retains the upmarket interior and tauter dimensions of the new Zed but takes the driving experience back towards that of the 350Z. Although its balance is now more neutral, as it was in the 350Z, the Nismo has more grip and a sharper feel. Which is exactly the progress I was expecting from the regular 370Z.