Inching through rush-hour traffic in the 2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo is a bit like buttering your bread with a broadsword; sure, you'd look way awesome doing it, but there are probably better uses for the blade.
A more hard-core version of the Nissan 370Z, the Nismo Z throws away all pretense of being versatile, subtle, or comfortable in an effort to make the Z34 chassis as quick as possible. It wants to be street-legal race car.
Like a broadsword, the Z is simple. You'll find none of the Nissan GT-R's technological gadgetry here. It is also brutal, lacking the Subaru BRZ's lightweight ultraprecision. With its powerful V-6, rear-drive architecture, and big, meaty tires, the Nismo Z is Japanese muscle.
Nismo performance upgrades
When you choose the $43,020, performance-oriented 2014 370Z Nismo over the standard Z, which is $13,030 less expensive, it should go without saying that you're getting a lot of go-faster gubbins marked with Nismo logos for your money.
Upgrades start in the engine bay, with the Nismo-tuned engine, which lives under a Nismo signature red engine cover and exhales through a Nismo-tuned exhaust with polished Nismo dual-exhaust tips. This retuned version of the Z's 3.7-liter V-6 now outputs 350 horsepower, 276 pound-feet of torque. Compared with the non-Nismo Z, that's 18 more ponies and 6 more pound-feet of twist. Interestingly, the fuel economy estimates are the same: 21 combined, 18 city, and 26 highway mpg.
Peek beneath the Zed's bulging front fenders and rear haunches, and you'll spot the Nismo-tuned sport suspension. The chassis is firmed up with a three-point Nismo strut tower brace in the engine bay and the whole ride sits atop a set of 19-inch Rays forged aluminum-alloy wheels with a Nismo design. The wheels' sizes are staggered -- 9.5 inches wide up front and 10.5 inches wide in the rear -- and are shod with 245/40YR19 and 285/35YR19 Bridgestone Potenza S001 high-performance tires at the front and rear, respectively. That's a lot of sticky rubber. If I'm not mistaken, that's the widest OEM wheel-and-tire combo available on the Z.
This model also features unique Nismo aerodynamic upgrades, including a front fascia with an integrated chin spoiler, a rear fascia with an integrated underbody diffuser, side skirts, and a rear double-wing spoiler; all of which were finished in a contrasting Gun Metallic gray paint on our example, rather than being color-matched to the rest of the body's Pearl White paint.
Inside the cabin, there's red and black fabric trim on the Z's eight-way (for the driver) and four-way (passenger) manually adjustable sport seats with deep leg and torso bolsters. You also get an Alcantara leather steering wheel with a red stripe marking top center, red contrast stitching scattered about the interior, and leather trim on the e-brake handle and the six-speed transmission's shift knob.
That six-speed manual gearbox is the only option available for the Nismo Z -- as it should be -- which features the Z's SynchroRev Match blip and hold on downshifts and upshifts. Don't worry, we'll speak more on that in a bit.
The rear-wheel drivetrain is also augmented with the rear-axle viscous limited-slip differential from the standard 370Z's Sport package, as well as that package's upgraded sport brakes, high-rigidity brake hoses, and R35 Special II brake fluid.
Sparse cabin tech
The Nismo Z shares a number of the standard Z's cabin tech pros, cons, and options. For example, even after eight model years and a midcycle refresh, the Z's floating instrument cluster still uses that stupid fuel level and temperature combo gauge with the amber LED segments that can be impossible to read at a glance in direct sunlight.
That gauge has been a sore spot for me since the Z's debut in 2008, but the standard cabin tech isn't all bad. For example, Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless entry and push-button start are standard on this trim level, as are auto on/off Bi-Xenon headlamps.
A Bose audio package is available, and was equipped on our example (a $1,350 option), upgrading and replacing a standard four-speaker system with an eight-speaker rig that features dual subwoofers. I'm sure that I wouldn't even want to sample the four-speaker system after spending a week in the Z's noisy cabin. Either pony up for the Bose system or learn to enjoy the sound of the engine, the wind, and, loudest of all, road noise.
Along with the louder output, the Bose system's six-disc in-dash changer replaces the single-disc unit, while a SiriusXM satellite radio tuner and rudimentary Bluetooth hands-free calling join the standard AM/FM radio and 3.5mm analog auxiliary input. There is no USB input, iPod connectivity, or Bluetooth audio streaming to be found at this trim level, in any of the Nismo Z's available option packages, or listed on Nissan's Web site, so if you want to listen to music on your smartphone, you'll have to do without the ability to control your device using the receiver or steering wheel.
Illuminated doorsill kick plates are a nice, if superfluous, touch on our test car at $200. Carpeted trunk and floor mats add $95 and $125, respectively, to the bottom line, the latter bearing embroidered Nismo logos.
Finally, for $790, the Nismo Z gains a much-needed rearview monitor, which displays via a tiny LCD integrated into the rearview mirror, along with a HomeLink Universal Transceiver and a digital compass. A rear camera is an indispensable addition to a vehicle like the Z, where rear visibility is close to nil and the Nismo spoiler fills most of the gun-slit rear glass.
Aside from that camera, there is no available safety tech -- no blind-spot monitoring, no cross-traffic alerts, no collision warning. The Nismo also lacks the standard Z's 7-inch, hard-drive navigation system option, which is where you'd usually get the USB and Bluetooth audio connectivity that was so sorely missed during our testing.
SynchroRev Match revisited
I'm a remarkably smooth shifter without it, but the rev-matching gearbox helped me to make perfectly blended and quick shifts at speed.
For those unfamiliar, the SynchroRev Match system works by electronically controlling the throttle between shifts, while leaving the clutch and shifter work to you, the driver. Let's say you're braking for a turn and need to drop from third to second gear. When you depress the Z's clutch and move the shift lever to the second gear, the engine's rev-matching software will automatically blip the throttle and hold the engine speed, momentarily, at the appropriate revolutions per minute while you release the clutch pedal. The result is an effortlessly smooth shift that doesn't upset the vehicle and jerk passengers around.