- Lusty VQ 3.7-litre V6 engine
- Much-improved body control
- Attractive fastback aesthetic
- Dated cabin technology
- Choppy touring ride quality
- NISMO a touch pricey
Those looking to spend about $60,000 on performance motoring have never had it better. There’s considerable choice at this price point – sixty grand can buy a properly diverse set of new wheels. All-paw hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS join more muscly options like the Ford Mustang GT and, for a little while longer, the Holden Commodore SS V Redline, while pure options like the Mazda MX-5 RF or Toyota 86 leave plenty of spare change leftover, without short-changing on thrills. But that same $60,000 can now buy an altogether more unique Japanese sports car: the 2017 Nissan 370Z NISMO.
To be honest, it was almost surprising to find out that the regular 370Z – a car that debuted to the world in 2008 – is still kicking. However, the arrival of a pureblood NISMO variant is, indeed, something to get excited about. Like AMG is to Mercedes and STI is to Subaru, NISMO are the real deal. They substantially alter donor Nissans, upping the engine outputs, reconfiguring the suspension and brakes, and swapping in more focussed and aggressive aesthetics.
And so they’ve done here. The new NISMO trim ($61,490) is the fastest and meanest of today’s Nissan Z-cars, and it sits atop a repriced, three-tier 370Z lineup that now starts under fifty grand. That’s not too bad for a 245kW, 3.7-litre V6 in the basic, six-speed manual coupe; skip the $2,500 auto and the (admittedly good-looking) $11,000 convertible option. The rational choice here is between the $49,990 coupe or the properly-ballsy NISMO ($61,490), which sees the wick turned up by 8kW and 8Nm to 253kW and 371Nm. But the bump in output is probably the smallest difference the $11,500 jump to NISMO territory makes: the real change is underneath, where the 370Z NISMO’s chassis finally feels planted controllable. Firmer springs, harder damping and wide, grippy Dunlop SP Maxx Sport rubber keeps the NISMO planted where the basic car more easily gets the jitters. And the NISMO aesthetic is unmissable: the clean lines of the standard are cluttered with new aero, huge new exhaust outlets are subbed in, and red accents are found inside and out.
But before we get into all that, a bit of history. The 370Z is the current iteration of Nissan’s sporty Z-car lineage that traces back to the Datsun 240Z of 1969. The Z-cars play second fiddle in the Nissan lineup only to the GT-R supercar – a NISMO edition of the ballistic GT-R launched here earlier in the year, priced at $299,000. While the current Z’s 2008 vintage dates it on paper, it’s held up better than you’d expect a nine year old car to have done so. The looks, in particular, remain fresh and exciting – the fastback profile and lunging stance really work, especially in NISMO form.
Inside, the button-laden cabin does age this car, but quality materials and a good driving position mean the basics are taken care of. What the 370Z needed was that price cut to acknowledge its age vis-a-vis its rivals. The 370Z NISMO model is new, but the coupé and convertible underneath it in the range have had their prices cut between $4,940 and $7,440. Nissan are hoping this will revive slow sales, and it should. The 370Z is a fun car to drive, it packs a solid feature set and, despite its age, it’s the best Nissan product on sale today, barring the insane GT-R.
Nissan says they’ve found two broad groups interested in the 370Z NISMO. They’re targeting on one hand younger car enthusiasts that might otherwise go for an 86 or WRX, and on the other, dads who no longer need practicality. Nissan boldly ventures that the former demographic might even be considering an Audi TT. Certainly, opting for a relatively little-known Nissan coupe over any of those options is a bold move, but after a day’s hard driving across Queensland’s stunning D’Aguilar range, I think the 370Z ought to be a contender for these people. It’s not a bad looker and it’s got plenty of stuff, but that’s not the point. The 370Z – and especially the NISMO – is a salute to a form of motoring that won’t be around for long. A naturally-aspirated, big-block 3.7-litre V6 that loves to rev, driving the rear wheels alone through a six-speed short-shift manual: that’s an endangered species if I ever saw one. Almost too thirsty and dirty for modern emissions regs, the 370Z NISMO is an enjoyable antidote to the 2.0-litre turbocharged engines that will continue their path to monopolising the lower-cost performance segment.
Like the standard 370Z, whose model designation reflects its engine displacement, the NISMO utilises Nissan’s VQ-series 3.7-litre V6 engine. The naturally-aspirated donk produces 253kW at a heady 7,400rpm in NISMO form, compared to 245kW at 7,000rpm in standard guise. Torque is also up 8Nm from 363Nm at 5,200rpm to 371Nm at the same engine speed. The additional power is the product of a new H-configured dual-outlet exhaust system that also looks and sounds menacing – and there’s been a remap of the engine control module. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a viscous limited-slip differential shared with the donor car, though the LSD’s final-drive ratio is shortened by NISMO.
Although a seven-speed torque converter automatic with paddle shifters is available, the only gearbox on test on the 370Z NISMO’s local launch in the D’Aguilar mountains north of Brisbane was the excellent six-speed close-ratio manual. The action is lovely; the clutch is relatively heavy but predictable, while the shifter – a short-throw leather and alcantara – thunks reassuringly through the gate. It’s an engaging and interesting manual, but it’s a manual you feel at home with almost immediately. For a pretty old-school car, the 370Z NISMO is an easy thing to pick up and run with. That’s doubly so, as this manual was the first to feature switchable downshift rev-matching when the technology appeared on the 370Z in 2009. Since then, other brands have implemented this – including Porsche and BMW – and it works well, automatically blipping the throttle simulating heel-toe action. It is turned off by a long-press of a button mounted north of the shifter.
To offset the weight of the big six up front, the cab is well fear of the front axle, achieving a decent weight distribution of 53% front, 47% rear. Driver and passenger sit not far aft of the wide rear tyres – the 19-inch Dunlop SP Maxx Sport GT 600 rubber measures a beefy 285/35 at the rear and a skinnier 245/40 at the front. The fresh Dunlops provided admirable grip throughout the day, so much so that inducing classic rear-drive oversteer characteristics was harder than initially expected. The even, linear flow of torque means that, unlike in a small turbo, the tyres aren’t overwhelmed low in the revs. With stability control left in play, the 370Z NISMO is kept disciplined and in check: it’s a focussed partner on a long hill climb, rather than feeling like the rear constantly wants to step out beneath you, as in a Mustang GT. That was something of a surprise. Electronic nannies turned off, mind, makes burning rubber an easier proposition.
As you’d expect, hustling the aspirated V6 up and down the D’Aguilar peaks of Mount Glorious and Mount Nebo means keeping that engine close to its power peak above 7,000rpm. It was a near constant second-third-fourth-third-second shift pattern – a welcome break from, say, the long DSG gearing of a Golf R that lets you drive in third gear all day. Whether the manual is left in standard rev-matched mode or not, it’s a rewarding way to drive; the 370Z is quick but not fast, but it feels mechanical and deliberate in its operation – it’s a car that you have to really drive actively. You do the work.
And that work is made easier, because NISMO have added sharp focus to the 370Z’s chassis and suspension through a selection of intelligent parts upgrades. The standard car can feel unsettled quickly; the NISMO drives straight to the other side of the continuum, feeling tightly wound and sprung at all times. For that reason, it’s no GT-car – long distance touring isn’t comfortable. But a weekend blast on a good road is something to savour here. Increased spring, damping and stabiliser rates join a reinforced three-point front strut tower brace for an altogether more rigid experience; you feel pinned to the road with very limited vertical movement through the new NISMO dampers, front and rear.
Reduced body movement has also translated into improved cornering prowess. Direction changes are entirely unfussy, with nil perceptible body roll. The steering is very quick and it’s quite sensitive to speed: once you have a bit of pace afoot, the grippy Alcantara wheel needs barely a nudge to be darted around a tight corner. The front end feels alive and communicative; this rack is still a hydraulically-assisted power system; the 370Z has so far avoided moving to an electric power steering rack like most other Nissans that typically feel pretty dead. It’s no wonder, then, that the 370Z is the most engaging Nissan to pilot on a tight and technical road.
Despite the additional performance parts, which include beefier Nissan Sport brakes with rotors measuring 355mm in front, 350mm in back, the NISMO adds just 13 kilograms over the standard 370Z. Where they’ve been available, weight savings have been found; the 19-inch wheels are super-lightweight forged alloy built by RAYS. The spare tyre has been jettisoned in favour of a repair kit: that’s at least 10 kilograms down. The big, lazy seats of the standard car are chucked in favour of lightweight Recaro buckets. Interestingly, aside from active headrests, no amenities inside are ditched to save weight. At 1,480kg, the 370Z remains something of a big bruiser of the two-seat sports car segment and it does feel its mass on the road, with a sense of heaviness communicated through the wheel.
When the road affords the space for the V6 to be fully revved out, it’s a decent sounding engine with some zing at the top-end; it would have been even better if the new NISMO exhaust had integrated some crackling and popping sound effects. They’re missing here, so the thrills come from the six’s building crescendo which starts as a pleasant burble at town speeds; the mid-range is a bit benign but above 6,000rpm, there is plenty of aural entertainment on offer.
It’s an older design and the 370Z hasn’t moved into advanced safety technology yet. There are six airbags and the expected stability control suite, of course, but don’t expect any adaptive technologies like autonomous braking, active cruise control or blind spot monitoring, and you won’t be disappointed.
You’d assume the 370Z’s interior would remind you strongly of the late 2000s – and it does, but only from a design perspective. It was a real surprise to climb in and find that the black plastics are almost all soft-touch and yielding. The leather and alcantara textures feel relatively upmarket. And there’s even some impressive attention to detail in the cockpit: the normally-hard surface where a driver’s leg rests against the console is, instead, trimmed in soft, stitched alcantara. A tick for a good initial first impression, then.
Let’s start with the seats, which are built by Recaro for the 370Z NISMO; they’re an adapted design of one of the German company’s standard sports buckets; the holes for a harness are there, if you want to install one. While electric adjustment isn’t on offer, the seats do offer a good range of manual adjustment – eight-way for the driver, including base height and under-thigh angle adjustment, which means you can get your bum nice and close to the road while your knees are more than adequately supported. The only problem with the driving position is that the steering wheel adjusts only for rake, and not for reach – that’s an unfortunate blast from the past. At least the instrument binnacle adjusts with the wheel, so you can see your speed – a good thing too, since there is no digital speedometer. Whoops.
The small, monochrome driver information display in the gauge cluster looks old and, admittedly, so does the seven-inch touchscreen that sits atop the centre console. That said, the infotainment system, while dated, isn’t a disaster – it may well be easier to use than some current Toyota systems, for example. Though it’s a bit of a button-fest, the buttons themselves are large and easy to identify, and navigating through the system isn’t that bad. That said, compared to the intuitive and modern screen in a Mazda MX-5, or Volkswagen’s easy-to-use technology, the Nissan’s in-car system is two generations old.
The system does navigation, though, operated through a large rotary control. Nissan markets the on-board ‘music box hard drive’ as a feature – I wouldn’t know how to get music onto a system like that in 2017, but my tester 370Z’s USB port did support iPod streaming, though the car didn’t really like my choice to play through Spotify, continually attempting to make my phone choose from the Apple Music app. Odd. However, the eight-speaker Bose stereo quality is decent and bassy courtesy for a subwoofer.
It’s an intimate affair in the Nissan’s interior. Driver and passenger sit close together, sharing a single cupholder within a narrow central tunnel that features a soft-ish armrest. That said, for many, this will be a car piloted alone. Behind the seats sits a shelf where a bag can be stashed; other options for storage in here are limited. The door bins can fit a water bottle (just); that’s about it.
Road noise does become intrusive on poor surfaces in the 370Z NISMO, likely because of the big and low-profile tyres that provide it with tenacious grip. The Bose stereo works to try to abate this through active noise cancellation; this doesn’t work that well. A hundred kilometres over coarse-chip at 100km/h will still result in a dull headache. But hey, this isn’t a tourer.
Well, you don’t buy a car that looks like the NISMO for practicality – but the NISMO’s everyday usability is a relevant question when you consider that genuine rivals like Subaru’s WRX STI and Volkswagen’s Golf R have sizable cargo capacity due to their family car underpinnings.
The 370Z is a small, low-slung two-door from the start, so direct comparisons to family hatchbacks and sedans isn’t fair. Instead, it’s important to consider the Nissan’s 235-litre boot with reference to the boot space of the Mazda MX-5 RF, which has a tinier 127 litres, or the Toyota 86, which has 237 litres, due to spare wheel intrusion.
Storing objects in the Nissan’s boot is frustrated by the design of the cargo space, though. The boot floor is very high, and the hatch glass is low – so large bags have to be pushed right to the front towards the seats. However, in that area, they are impeded by a suspension brace that intrudes into the cabin itself. It’s largely a canvas overnight bag affair, the 370Z – but for most of its owners, that will be all that is necessary.
In the cabin, storage space is at a real premium; there is just one cupholder between the two seats, plus two small door pockets that can take a bottle of water and not much else. There is shallow box between the two seats that houses a USB port for charging a phone. Mazda, in particular, have designed a more intelligent cabin in the MX-5 which actually offers more storage spaces in a smaller package.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Nissan 370Z depreciation prediction
Given the very recent price reductions across the 370Z range, our depreciation forecasts are not yet available. However, based on the 2017 model year prices, Glass’s Guide predicted a 56 per cent retained value over three years on the previous coupe model’s initial $56,930 outlay. The depreciation rates will likely be adversely affected by lowering the cost of entry to a new model.
Nissan 370Z fuel economy
Nissan claims a combined fuel consumption rating of 10.6L/100km for manual variants, or 10.4L/100km for automatics, a rating that carries over to the NISMO unchanged. Fuel consumption for the 370Z Roadster is a touch higher at 11.2L/100km for the manual and 10.9L/100km for the automatic. This sits well for the performance that it offers – a Subaru WRX STI claims 11.2L/100km overall, with the Mustang GT claiming 13.1L/100km overall.
Nissan 370Z servicing and maintenance
All Nissan models are offered with a three-year/100,000km warranty with three years of roadside assistance included. All new Nissans are also covered by Nissan’s myNissan Service Certainty program, which offers six years/120,000km of capped price servicing. The 370Z range has servicing every six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
Over three years/60,000km of driving (whichever comes first), the standard 370Z’s servicing comes to $2,143 or a high average of $715 per year. Please note that 370Z NISMO service pricing is yet unavailable, but considering that it uses the same engine and mechanicals, we expect it to largely mirror the standard 370Z coupe.
Like the 370Z NISMO, the Subaru WRX STI features short six-monthly service intervals, though you do get 2,500km more distance between services at 12,500km. Servicing costs range from $303 to $605 for a high $2,300 cost over three years, or an average of $767 per year. Yet a Ford Mustang GT costs almost $1,000 less than both over the same time period to service thanks to 15,000km/once yearly service intervals. Its $1,430 three-year service cost equals an average of just $477 per year and unlike its rivals, the Ford’s capped price arrangement lasts for the life of the car.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan aligned the timing of the launch of the 370Z Nismo with a repricing of the other grades in the 370Z range. The big news is that the standard 370Z coupe now starts at $49,990 before on-road costs – a reduction of $6,940, and falling under the critical fifty-grand marker. Price reductions across the range top out at a $7,440 reduction for the automatic coupe, but even the smallest reduction – $4,940 for a manual convertible – is substantial.
The NISMO edition is new to the range. Priced at $61,490 for the six-speed manual and $63,990 for the seven-speed automatic, the NISMO commands the flagship position in the range – though the $60,990/$63,490 non-NISMO roadster convertible trails it narrowly on price. Curiously, no open-top NISMO has been developed as a production car; it is hardtop-only.
Both non-NISMO body styles employ a 245kW/363Nm tune of the 3.7-litre ‘VQ’ V6 engine. Standard equipment is relatively strong across the 370Z range. The standard trims include 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, LED taillights and daytime running lights, heated leather seats, a 7-inch touchscreen with navigation and an eight-speaker Bose stereo. There’s also keyless entry and start – and on the safety front, a reversing camera. No modern adaptive safety technologies are available.
The NISMO model adds a host of aesthetic and performance upgrades. These include the slim power and torque bump to 253kW/371Nm; outside, you’ll find red accents on the unique front and rear bumpers and side skirts; a rear spoiler; 19-inch RAYS alloy wheels; and Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 tyres. Inside, the NISMO adjustments include red and black leather and alcantara Recaro seats, a NISMO tachometer and paddle shifters in automatics.
Under the skin, the NISMO adds performance dampers in the front and rear, a three-point strut tower brace, increased spring, damper and stabiliser rates, and a NISMO-specific H-configuration exhaust.
Reducing the standard 370Z’s pricing to $49,990 plus on-road costs is a positive move by Nissan Australia. This means that the 370Z is now priced competitively against many lower-powered rivals, placing it in the thick of the parallel hot hatch market. The Nissan’s USP is offering more engine and rear-wheel drive dynamics, as well as the availability of an automatic transmission. Some offerings are more practical for the money but as a sports car, not many are likely to care.
The Nissan 370Z covers a unique sports section of the market, where exact rivals are rare and therefore a wide range of cars are likely to be cross shopped. Those looking for performance for a reasonable asking price are well covered however, with a wide range of cars from many different manufacturers available.
Subaru WRX STI spec.R ($57,490)
Subaru’s slingshot WRX STI sedan is a motoring legend, and has just been updated in its latest form with updated styling, more active safety equipment – a rarity in this class – and with better brakes for even better overall performance. Still powered by a 221kW/407Nm 2.5-litre turbo Boxer four, the WRX STI is capable of a 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.2 seconds. Like the 370Z NISMO, the WRX STI offers performance thrills for reasonable cash, though the slightly less powerful and softer WRX (197kW/350Nm) is almost $20,000 less and almost as quick.
Toyota 86 GTS ($36,490)
Another automotive legend appears as a competitor to the 370Z NISMO in the form of the Toyota 86 GTS. While not a true match for the 370Z’s performance with its smaller 151kW/205Nm non-turbo 2.0-litre four, the 86 offers a more fun driving experience by being purer and more involving for the driver for more of the time. It also offers two (tiny) rear seats and a larger boot, proving that a coupe can be more than just a weekend car. Also available in Subaru BRZ form if you prefer the Subaru starred badge instead of the big T.
Mazda MX-5 RF GT ($43,890)
Like the 86, the MX-5 is certainly not a performance match for the 370Z NISMO – albeit quick, its 118kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four is definitely no rival for the 370Z’s 3.7-litre V6. But when it comes to overall dynamics and driver involvement, the MX-5 cannot be beaten – it offers purity and balance that are largely unmatched in the current automotive world. A recent addition to the MX-5 range, the new RF bodystyle adds interest to the MX-5 range by offering a safer, more refined and more luxurious option.
Ford Mustang GT ($57,490)
Closest to the 370Z NISMO in both performance and pricing, Ford’s wildly successful Mustang GT offers a strong value equation – its 306kW/530Nm 5.0-litre V8 offers even more performance for less coin. The Mustang is also a proper four-seater with a large boot, making it more practical than the 370Z NISMO. While it’s more of a GT car than an all-out sports car, it’s still a good drive with its Australian-tuned suspension and is very comfortable over long distances.
|Power||253kW at 7,400rpm|
|Torque||371Nm at 5,200rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||171kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||10.6L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||72 litres|
|Average range||679 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Rear wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,480 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||235 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||Not applicable|