Compared to a base 370Z, the Nismo version gets an extra 18 crank horsepower, a stiffer suspension and a handful of aerodynamic changes, making it a car for those who wish their daily commute involved the Nürburgring or Laguna Seca. Unfortunately, unless your daily drive actually is a racetrack, you’re likely to get tired of feeling every nuance of the pavement. During our time in the Nismo Z, we felt intimate with the roads around our Los Angeles office in a way that was a little bit awkward and uncomfortable. Granted, the 370Z Nismo sticks like glue, but did we need to know where every single crack was on our local stretch of Wilshire Boulevard?
Visibility and fuel economy also hinder the 370Z Nismo’s practicality. Though much improved over the old 350Z in this regard, the 370Z still makes backing out of parking spaces challenging. The optional in-mirror rear view camera display on our test car did help somewhat, however. In mostly around-town driving, we averaged only 15.9 MPG, well under the EPA rating of 18 city/26 highway/21 combined.
Practicality aside, the Nismo Z is an endearing car. It’s silly, in the best way, with its ridiculous aerodynamics (which are at least more attractive than those of the heinous Nismo 350Z), its special-edition badges and Nismo steering wheel looking lost in the otherwise subdued and monotone interior. Whether its designers intended it that way or not, this is a car with a sense of humor. It’s a car that tries to make you smile, even if it’s not as polite about it as a Mazda MX-5 or as subtle as a Porsche Cayman. Behind the body kit and red-painted brake calipers, the 370Z Nismo actually has a lot to offer as a drivers’ car. The steering is light and precise, with plenty of feel, and the 6-speed manual’s shifter is a pleasure to use, even in traffic. On the street, the Nismo Z takes corners flatly and with ample grip from its 245-mm front/285-mm rear summer tires.
If it were wearing any other sort of bodywork, journalists would likely remark on how good of a drivers’ car the Nissan 370Z Nismo is. It’s quick, responsive, and sporty to drive, just not overwhelmingly so, and that may be the problem. The car looks overwhelming, and it doesn’t deliver the kind of driving experience that its wacky styling would suggest. The Nismo Z is no Dodge Viper; it’s not even your neighbor’s modified Mitsubishi Evo. Unfortunately for Nissan, the 370Z Nismo gets positioned as a more “extreme” version of the 370Z, and it doesn’t deliver extreme differences in performance. But, if you instead think of it as a slightly improved 370Z that happens to be wearing a silly costume, the car suddenly becomes much more enjoyable. We may be in the minority on this, but we actually think the Nissan 370Z Nismo is cute, in an awkward, ugly duck kind of way.