Nissan’s Fairlady Z models replaced the SP310 based cars in 1969. The American version of that first Z-car featured a 2.4-liter inline six-cylinder engine fitted with a dual carburetor intake system. Known in the US as the 240Z, it offered 151 horsepower and was a runaway success.
Some 45,000 units were sold through the 1971 model year. In 1972, Nissan sold more than 50,000 copies of the 240Z. Unfortunately, the ensuing years saw the model evolve into a steadily larger and more bloated Grand Tourer. By 1989, it was known as the 300ZX, and was similar to that original 240Z in shape only. The lithe and lively 240Z was completely lost—as was its original fan base.
When Nissan replaced the car in 1990 with the all-new 300ZX, the original concept was scrapped altogether in favor of a purpose built GT concept. With its near-exotic good looks, the new 300ZX was considerably more successful than its predecessor. In fact, it became one of the most desirable sports/GT cars on the market. All of this goodness was considerably more expensive though. By the time it went out of production in 1996, the base price of the Nissan was nearly $50,000 (equivalent to approximately $76,000 today).
The company re-introduced the Z Concept five years later at the North American International Auto Show. Designed specifically to sell for less than $30,000 while offering 300 horsepower, the 350Z was a throwback to that first Fairlady Z of 1969. As of this writing, the model has evolved through two generations to become the Nissan 370Z we know today. The subject of this review, the 2014 Nisan 370Z NISMO, is the ultimate iteration of that car (to date).
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Equipment & Pricing
For the 2014 model year, while Nissan is offering the 370Z in two body styles (roadster or coupe), the $43,020 NISMO trimmed model is available as a coupe only.
Standard equipment for the 2014 370Z NISMO includes lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels fitted with summer performance tires, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, heated exterior rearview mirrors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, automatic climate control, one-touch power windows, power door locks with automatic locking, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel with alcantara inserts and a red centering mark; and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Performance features include upgraded brakes and suspension dampers, and the SynchroRev Match manual transmission with automatic rev-matching. The NISMO Z also gets unique front and rear aerodynamic fascias, and a rear wing to increase downforce to the rear tires.
Inside, you’ll find red stitched upholstery and other specific interior detailing including a numbering badge detailing where the model falls in the limited production build sequence for the NISMO Z.
Our test Nissan also featured the optional $1,350 Bose package, which consists of an eight-speaker audio system boasting two subwoofers, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, Satellite radio, Bluetooth telephony, a Homelink transceiver, and an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror.
Further, our test 370Z was equipped with NISMO embroidered floor mats for $125, a carpeted trunk mat for $95, and a $200 set of illuminated kick plates. Destination and delivery came to $790, for a total as-tested price of $46,370.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Design
Over the years, the 370Z’s design, while still somewhat recognizable as a descendant of the 2001 Nissan 350Z, has evolved considerably. In NISMO livery, it looks even more different. Leading the way (so to speak) is the extended nose design applied to the NISMO Z for the 2014 model year.
Featuring hard creased edges and a deep chin spoiler, the NISMO Z’s face now looks as if it’s ready to take on the Daytona Motor Speedway. In fact, the look is somewhat reminiscent of the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird production models modified for homologation purposes to qualify them for stock car racing at Daytona and other super speedways
But we digress…
The new nose makes the NISMO Z just over six inches longer than the standard 370Z coupe. The side skirts and rear bumper have also been reworked to improve the flow of air beneath the Z to help it hold the road better and, of course, go faster. A huge rear wing adorns the NISMO Z. More than a styling element, it too comes into play at the high speeds this car is designed to achieve. A feature you can't see, the underbody air diffuser, helps manage airflow as well.
Nice touches include the gray accent added to the car’s grille with a red stripe for trim. The side sills are finished in the same shade of gray, as is the rear spoiler. In combination with the pearlescent white paint of our test car, the overall effect is quite handsome.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Features & Controls
The racy theme continues inside the car with deeply bolstered sport seats upholstered in black and red fabric with red stitching. The fabric is chosen specifically for its ability to hold occupants in place during extreme cornering maneuvers. Manually adjustable, the driver’s seat can be adjusted eight ways, while the passenger seat can be adjusted four. Electrical adjustments are eschewed in favor of shedding weight.
The instrument pod moves in concert with the tilt-only steering wheel, maintaining optimal visibility of all of the gauges, regardless of the positioning of the steering wheel. The tachometer gets central placement, while the speedometer resides to its right and a digital fuel gauge is positioned to its left. Gauges for oil temperature, electrical system voltage, and the time of day are placed in a group of three on top of the dash to the driver’s right.
Unique to the NISMO 370Z are the upholstery of the seats, the steering wheel treatment, the leather wrapped shift knob, and the aluminum pedal set. Between the seats, on the vertical panel above the floor-mounted console, is a plaque designating each 370Z NISMO’s unique serial number and model year designation.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Comfort & Cargo
Before we go any farther, please be reminded the NISMO 370Z is the sportiest variant of the already very sporting oriented 370Z sports car. Outfitted primarily to serve as an outstanding platform for track pursuits, the NISMO Z is not configured with long distance touring comfort in mind.
That said, the seats do an admirable job of holding you in place, even if they aren’t the most comfortable you’ve ever occupied. We also found the driver’s seat to be right on the edge of lacking enough legroom for taller drivers. At 6’1”, we do fit, but we would also be appreciative of a bit more room.
Cargo capacity is just less than seven cubic feet in the shallow space underneath the rear hatch. Further, it’s compromised a bit by the rear strut tower brace fitted to improve the 370Z’s handling. There are two storage bins behind the seats, but in the interest of saving weight, they aren’t covered, nor, for that matter, is the main cargo compartment. Anything you leave back there will be visible to inquisitive individuals.
Seeing out of the coupe can be a bit of a challenge too, as the body rigidity (so crucial to the handling of the car) instilled by the thick rear pillars and small-ish windows forces a the compromise of limited outward visibility. That said, looking around the interior of the NISMO 370Z, the quality of the materials employed and the overall design makes it a very nice place to be. You can’t see out of it very well, but at least the inside looks really nice.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Safety & Ratings
Which brings us to the safety of the 370Z NISMO. Nissan would have done very well to fit blind spot monitoring to the Z, as it can be really difficult to see vehicles riding along your flanks on the freeway. You can adjust the mirrors to compensate somewhat, but true at a glance confidence simply isn’t there.
With that said, the NISMO Z’s suite of safety features includes of course ABS, traction control, and vehicle dynamics control. Tire pressure monitoring (a very good thing since there is no spare tire), brake assist, and electronic brake force distribution are featured as well.
Neither NHTSA nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) has crash tested the 370Z.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Engine & Fuel Economy
Nissan’s 3.7-liter V6 has been tuned to produce 350 horsepower and 276 ft-lbs of torque for the NISMO 370Z. Variable valve timing and an optimized engine control module, along with a specially configured exhaust system are responsible for the power gains.
The six-speed manual transmission uses Nissan’s SynchroRev Match synchronized downshift rev-matching system. This automatically adjusts engine speed when shifting to a lower gear—"blipping" the throttle the way an experienced driver would do to smooth downshifts.
Other key mechanical features contributing to the NISMO Z’s enhanced performance include higher spring and stabilizer bar rates, increased roll stiffness, and stiffer front and rear damping factors. The suspension system also gets a set of very light 19-inch forged aluminum alloy wheels, staggered in width from front to rear.
The braking system is comprised of large diameter 14.0-inch front and 13.8-inch rear vented rotors with four-piston front and two-piston rear aluminum calipers. The braking system incorporates a variable ratio brake pedal, high-rigidity brake hoses, R35 Special II fluid, and red-finish calipers. And yes, for the record, we know the red finish of the calipers doesn’t do anything to make the car perform better. But they do look cool!
The EPA says to expect 18 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, and 21 combined.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Driving Impressions
Good Lord this thing is fun to drive!
From the sound of the grumbly growly engine, to the incredible feats of cornering NISMO Z is capable of performing, the Nissan super sports car will almost always have you grinning from ear to ear when you’re out on the open road.
Screaming down a straight, getting hard on the brakes, and flinging the NISMO Z into a corner is one of the most satisfying things you will ever do behind the wheel of a sports car. The steering is a bit heavy, but delightfully communicative; the seats hold you in place as advertised, and the whole thing just flat works super well together.
Rough pavement makes itself as the tightly suspended NISMO Z transmists every little surface disturnbance directly to your seat, but the Z's directional stability is rock solid, regardless of the nature of the surface. It's like the Z says; "Yeah, that was a bump, don't worry about it, I got it." And it rolls on, resolutely on your chosen path. Once you learn how much bandwidth the Z offers in terms of its dynamic capabilities, you will feel practically invincible in nearly every situation.
The shifter seemingly glides from gate to gate of its own accord. We’ve already talked about how the SynchroRev Match feature eliminates the need for heel and toe downshifting—so all you have to do is brake, downshift and turn. Coming back to the engine for a moment though; there was a time with the Nissan VQ series V6 engine was one of the best in all of autmobiledom.
Sadly, with time and steady displacement increases, that has changed somewhat.
The engine still winds freely, and it pulls strongly, but there is a fair amount of harshness to its game now. Further, throttle response could be a bit more lively. It does what you ask it to do, but the reciprocating parts of the engine feel heavy-ish. It's not a zing-zing type of engine any more, it's more like a brum-brum now, It pulls hard, and makes good speed, but given the sound, you feel like the car should be going faster.
The brking system on the other hand is absolutely magnificent. It hauls the Z down from speed with amazing urgency. And yet, they give you exactly the amount of retardation you ask for. The brake pedal operates more like a dial than a lever—calling up exactly the scrub you ask for, no more and no less.
The 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO is basically a mildly civilized racing car.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Final Thoughts
We're huge performance fans, and it can honestly be said we’ve never met a fast car we didn’t like. Of course, we have known a few we consider better than others, and as much as we love driving it. we do wonder if the added expense of the NISMO bits is really worth it.
The base 370Z already handles beautifully, accelerates purposefully, stops with strong determination, and delivers nice steering feel with delightful responsiveness. And it's calibrated such that living with it on a day in and day out basis isn't really that demanding.
This ultimate Z on the other hand, well...it does ask you to endure some intrusions to partake in its perks.
If you’re going racing, or auto crossing, or time attacking, it’s a definite consideration, but for day to day driving, the NISMO rides quite harshly and transmits quite a bit of noise into the passenger compartment. When all of this is measured against the additional $12,000 you’ll be asked to come up with to get into the NISMO Z, well…
That’s a pretty tough call.
2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Road Test And Review: Pros & Cons
Pros: Limited production means you won’t see a lot of others on the road, rev matching transmission, beautiful interior treatment, a very thinly disguised racing machine…
Cons: Stiff ride, significant blind spots, noisy on the highway,we never thought we'd list this as a con, but this is a racing car, not a daily driver …