Nissan Z Nismo review: better, but it’ll cost ya Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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Nissan Z Nismo review: better, but it’ll cost ya

Published: 25 Sep 2023

What’s this, a more powerful Nissan Z?

You got it. But honestly, the extra power isn’t the main attraction. Nissan gave the Z coupe better aero, a ton of new chassis bits, and a properly wide and sticky set of tires. The result is a car that rights many of the base Z’s wrongs. There’s just one teensy problem: this thing is stupid expensive.

Expensive? How expensive?

Like, $66,085 expensive, including Nissan’s mandatory $1,095 delivery fee. That’s a $12,780 increase over the next-rung-down Nissan Z Performance, and a full $22,780 more than the base Z Sport. It’s also more expensive than pretty much all of the Z Nismo’s primary competitors, including the BMW M2 ($64,195), Ford Mustang Dark Horse ($60,865), and Toyota GR Supra 3.0 ($58,745). Hell, it’s almost the same price as Chevy’s mid-engined Corvette.

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But maybe you don’t care about any of those cars. That’s fine. Let’s look at the eye-watering price another way. The last model year of the previous-gen Nissan 370Z Nismo was 2020, and at the time, a fully loaded example with the automatic transmission cost $48,085 including destination. Is the new car really $18,000 better?

Hey, I’ll ask the questions around here. But first: specs. Hit me.

Thanks to recalibrated turbochargers and improved cooling, the Z’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 puts out an extra 20hp and 34lb ft of torque in Nismo guise, for a total of 420hp and 384lb ft. Nissan doesn’t quote an official 0-to-60mph time for the Nismo – or any Z, for that matter – but third-party testing puts the Z Performance in the low four second range. Considering the Nismo isn’t really that much more powerful, I don’t imagine it’s vastly quicker off the line. The Nismo lugs around an extra 100 pounds, too.

As for the chassis, Nissan gave the Z Nismo new dampers with increased spring rates, and the coupe rolls on wider Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires wrapping 19-inch Rays wheels. Larger brakes and more robust pads help the Z scrub off speed quickly, and the more rigid body keeps the front end from diving too much if you brake hard and late going into a turn.

Wait a second, doesn’t the Z Nismo only have an automatic gearbox?

Indeed it does – the same nine-speed auto you’ll find in other Z models. Nissan says the retuned transmission executes quicker downshifts, which is true, but the nine-speed also has a tendency to hold gears way too long in the Z’s Sport and Sport+ drive modes, which is annoying when you’re just having a nice drive on a winding road.

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Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard, but they’re small and not especially satisfying to use. Plus, the transmission is slow to respond to inputs, so there’s no real reward for choosing to shift this way. You’re better off leaving the gearbox in its full-auto setting, which is a real let-down.

Why no manual? Nissan says it’s all for the sake of quicker acceleration and faster lap times. Sluggish as it might be, the nine-speed auto does shift quicker than a human using a clutch and a stick. But man, the engagement factor takes a big hit. The M2, Mustang, and Supra all offer manual gearboxes. Nissan’s choice to omit this is nothing but sour grapes.

Is the interior any different?

Not really, aside from some fancy Recaro seats, which are manually adjustable and actually rather comfortable. The Nismo has the same 9-inch multimedia touchscreen as other Zs, running Nissan’s outdated infotainment software. But at least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly, so that’s a win.

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After a day driving around Northern California, the biggest takeaway about the Z’s cabin is that it’s loud – sorry, LOUD – in here. The increased tire noise is pronounced, and while I appreciate Nissan amping up the exhaust note, it tends to drone at highway speeds. You’ll want to crank the stereo to drown it all out on a long drive.

So is the new Z Nismo really $18,000 better than the old one?

I certainly don’t think so. But that’s not to say the new Z Nismo isn’t good. Driven back to back with a Z Performance on Sonoma Raceway in Northern California, the upgrades make a noticeable difference. The Nismo is flatter through corners and the tires offer an absolute ton of grip. The Nismo sounds better than the base car, too, and its standard Recaro seats keep your torso from jostling about.

Unfortunately, the steering still needs work; it’s too light and vague for a car like this. The chassis is also borderline too-stiff to use the Z Nismo as a daily driver, and just like the base car, adaptive dampers aren’t available.

Who should buy one?

The Z faithful, but that’s about it. The Nismo looks rad, sounds cool, and has mega curb appeal. I can’t imagine picking one of these over an M2, and there’s no way in hell I’d buy one over an Acura Integra Type S or Honda Civic Type R, both of which are more functional and way, way better to drive. But I suppose if you already love the new Z, you’ll probably be stoked about the Nismo. I just wish this car had broader appeal.

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