For anybody out there who knows the quote 'I live my life a quarter mile at a time,'? then the 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO needs no introduction. For those not familiar with the Fast and Furious series of movies, this car is the result of Nissan's in-house tuning division, NISMO (abbreviated from NISsan MOtorsports), after it went to work on the all-new 2009 Nissan 370Z Coupe. As much history that Nissan has with both the Z nameplate and the NISMO performance division, it is rather surprising that the current sixth-generation Z has only been offered with the NISMO upgrades twice.
Nissan's first NISMO Z arrived in 2007 on the 350Z, but the second-generation tuner car builds off the smaller, lighter and quicker 370Z resulting in a vastly improved model. Like most factory-tuned vehicles such as the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO (also known as the NISMO 370Z) is available with very few options and a high starting price. While a base 370Z Coupe starts at $29,930, the 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO commands a much steeper price point with a starting MSRP of $39,190. That $10,000 difference may seem like a lot, but looking at the big picture, the NISMO model essentially replaces all of the technology and luxury from the Touring with Sport Package trim level with factory tuning (that is covered by a full warranty) to the car's performance and handling.
2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO Exterior
The sporty design of the all-new Z is made even better with drastic visual improvements made to the front and rear fascias on the NISMO, but what you see is what you get as the only exterior options available on the NISMO Z are the five different paint colors. Giving the NISMO Z a truly unique look, Nissan equipped the car with a stylish body kit and exclusive, super lightweight forged wheels. Under the hood, the engine compartment is dressed up with a red engine cover to match the interior trim and a NISMO logo on the three-point strut tower brace.
Although Nissan claims the NISMO body kit improves the aerodynamics, the NISMO Z has the same drag coefficient as standard 370Z, but the car does manage to deliver a styling and stance that is much more aggressive than any stock Z. The attention-grabbing body kit includes a new front fascia with lower chin spoiler, sculpted rocker panels, new rear fascia with a built-in air diffuser, double-tiered rear spoiler and large polished dual exhaust outlets. The staggered-width NISMO 19-inch wheels on this Z are branded with the NISMO lettering and finish off the unique styling while simultaneously retaining some of the stock look from the RAYS wheels of the 370Z Touring. Besides the wheels, the only other NISMO branding on the outside of the car is a small chrome badge on the right side of the hatchback opposite the 370Z lettering.
2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO Interior
Like the exterior, the cabin of the 2009 NISMO Z comes fully equipped with no option packages and just four Ã la carte options. This means that there is no navigation system or leather seat available, but the dark gray cloth with stitching accents is definitely a fitting look for the tuned Z. Red stitching is used throughout the cabin on the seats, door panels, center stack, shift lever boot and steering wheel. Thankfully, iconic elements of the 370Z are still used in the NISMO Z such as the pair of three-gauge pods mounted above the center stack and used for the instrument cluster. Not just a stripped track car either, the NISMO Z still offers luxuries such as power seats, tilt steering column, cruise control, redundant steering wheel audio controls and a basic AM/FM/CD head unit with standard auxiliary jack.
Each NISMO 370Z is fitted with a plaque of authenticity mounted to the divider wall between the seats to display the serial number and model year of the particular car. Although it isn't clear how limited the NISMO Z production run will be, my test car was No. 21. Other cues that help distinguish the NISMO 370Z from the regular models include NISMO embroidered bucket seats and a unique tachometer with a silver background and NISMO logo. The only interior options available on the NISMO 370Z include embroidered floor mats, a carpeted trunk mat and illuminated 'Z'? kick plates - the latter two were installed on this test car.
2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO Performance & Handling
Matching the upgraded styling from the NISMO body kit, Nissan's VQ37VHR 3.7-liter V-6 was retuned to 350 horsepower and 276 lb-ft of torque thanks to modifications to the exhaust system and engine controller. The only transmission available is the six-speed manual used in the 370Z with Sport Package which includes a short-throw shifter, close-ratio gearing and SynchroRev Match. Power is fed from the transmission to the rear axle through a NISMO-exclusive lightweight carbon fiber composite driveshaft. Other weight-saving tactics include the use of lightweight aluminum on the hood, doors and hatchback, but the NISMO 370Z still weighs about 68 pounds more than a base 370Z model. Despite the added weight and the increase in power, the 2009 NISMO Z actually gets slightly better fuel economy than a standard 370Z with EPA estimates of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
The styling of the NISMO Z is only outdone by the actual performance of the car. A specific free-flow, H-pipe dual exhaust system and retuned engine control module (ECM) both give the NISMO Z its boost in power, but an array of NISMO performance suspension parts helps improves the car's handling abilities. Performance upgrades were made to the brake system, body dampers and the entire multi-link suspension setup including the stabilizer bars, shocks and springs.
One of the strong points about the 370Z is its ability to feel just as comfortable on the road as it is on the track, but the same cannot be said for the NISMO 370Z. Of course, those spending the extra money for the NISMO should expect a tighter suspension, and this car doesn't disappoint. In daily driving, the suspension tuning results in a very rough ride, but in spirited driving in tight corners (what the NISMO Z is made for), the car hunkers down and sticks to the road. For improved handling on the track, the only performance option available on the NISMO Z is a set of $580 NISMO semi-metallic performance brake pads which Nissan reiterates are not intended for street use and do not carry any warranty.
2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO Safety
The redesigned 370Z has yet to be tested by in any configuration by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it does come with a long list of safety features. This test car came standard with a total of six airbags (including seat-mounted and roof-mounted side-impact protection), active head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, traction control and vehicle dynamic control.
In its second generation, the NISMO Z gains the usual suspension and aerodynamic upgrades, but it also adds a modest bump in power output. The 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO ditches the balanced driving dynamic of the stock 370Z in favor of acceleration and handling that is more suited for a track car. Not only does the NISMO 370Z get plenty of looks driving around town with its unique styling, but it's probably the best factory-tuned sports car on the market in terms of handling, performance and pricing.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
Nissan provided a vehicle for this review.