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NISSAN’S Z NISMO – Return of the Samurai

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NISSAN’S Z NISMO – Return of the Samurai


Return of the Samurai

It was some twenty years ago when Nissan invited me (and many, many others) to its Nissan 360 press event, which brought together – in and around San Francisco – Nissan’s global fleet for, if you will, a fleet meet-and-greet. There were dozens of highlights, including the chance to both see and drive many of the Nissan models not available in these United States. But my personal best was driving a NISMO-modified 350Z on a winding route into Northern California’s Marin County. The day was beautiful, and with the windows down the Z’s more open exhaust offered just the right amount of amplification. If I could have shared it with my 18-year old son it would have been perfect. And if sharing it with my wife? Well, it would have been slower.

I was reminded of that drive while behind the wheel of Nissan’s most recent iteration of its current Z, the Z NISMO.  NISMO is the in-house tuning arm of Nissan, not unlike AMG at Mercedes, or M Sport at BMW. But rather than simply tuning the suspension or opening up the exhaust, the Z NISMO arrives in showrooms – or your garage! – with a menu of mods fully embedded into its structure. And while its price bump – some $12K over Nissan’s already expensive Performance grade (Performance is $55K – NISMO is closer to $67K), those engineered mods take the Z’s already expressive performance to the next level. Think Travis Kelce before dating Taylor Swift…and after bedding Taylor Swift; that is easily worth $12K.

While normally not a fan of aerodynamic additives, the NISMO-designed mods seem to work on the Z’s body shape, given that in its box-stock form the shape sits (un)comfortably on this side of subtle. And whether it’s the rocker panel extensions on the sides or the slightly taller rear spoiler, it’s all fully integrated, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to what might have emanated from Manny, Moe or Jack. 

That visual gets a heaping of help from the NISMO Z’s staggered rubber. The steroid-enhanced Nissan enjoys 255/40R19s mounted on 10-inch rims up front, while putting the 420 horses to the pavement are 285/35R19s on 10.5-inch rims. It remains a balanced, athletic look – manned up, but not menacing.

Inside the Z NISMO you’ll enjoy perhaps the best sport buckets I’ve experienced, with enough lateral support for the track and adequate width for your back(side). Plastics are what you’d expect in a $40K sportscar, but perhaps less than you’d hope from a vehicle on the wrong side of $60,000. And the digital gauges, which attempt to represent – after a fashion – an analog package, do so only if you’re on medication. I’m taking medications, but apparently the wrong ones…

If your experience walking up to the Z NISMO is elevated (along with the price!), then the driving experience – again – takes it to the next level. This is, in the current vernacular, track ready, and while I didn’t – in the week I had with it – head to a track, I did do what I could to make its platform act unfriendly. It never did. The steering is connected, its big brakes do what big brakes should, and the ride/handling balance is as good as the $65K window sticker implies. There is almost nothing I would change on this particular package, were it not for its auto-only transmission. 

Of course, most OEMs have decided the manual trans has no place on this century’s showroom. And as I’ve read, Nissan’s product team justifies the absence of a manual because the automatic is faster. To which I’d say: Of course it’s faster – it’s an AUTOMATIC! But a stick shift continues to reinforce the connectivity between man and machine; in point of fact, a manual is ‘you’, while the automatic was and is an early harbinger of AI. And when it comes to man’s interaction with Road and/or Track, there shouldn’t be anything artificial in that connection. Analog, Baby – or I’m shopping elsewhere.

Of course, at a $65K price point you can shop any number of elsewheres. That sum will get you most of a C8 Corvette, all of a Mustang Dark Horse, or any number of gently used Caymans on a Porsche showroom. If I were a well-paid marketing guru at Nissan I would have tried like hell to keep the price point under $60K, leaving $6,000 for a few track days, hotel rooms and, in all likelihood, traffic court.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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