While the performance-car market has shifted since the 370Z debuted, Nissan’s two-seater still has some compelling aspects.
Model year 2016 is a quiet one for Nissan‘s Z-car; there’s a new Bose stereo with Active Noise Cancellation, and the blue color is now Deep Blue Pearl, not Midnight Blue.
These are essentially custodial changes on a car where sales are flat; the Z is moving at a rate of about 8,400 per year, which is about the rate Mustangs sell each month.
The Z’s four trim levels carry over from 2015, and 2016 pricing still spots the Z starting at a hair less than $30K. Run up the trim ladder to Sport, Sport Tech and eventually Touring will peg that number close to $40K.
Then there’s the NISMO. The NISMO aerodynamic aids were restyled last year for a simultaneously more aggressive and flowing look. Its various other performance enhancements put the NISMO’s price range at $42K – $47K.
Those trim levels are your only way of adding features, as there are no stand-alone option packages for the Z.
The Roadster can be had in base or Touring trims, no Sport. Back in February, Nissan showed a concept NISMO droptop to gauge interest, and this variant has unfortunately not yet been cleared for takeoff.
The Z’s prices put it right in the crosshairs of some of today’s top performers, but the specs lag. Even with the NISMO‘s 350-horsepower rating, the Z isn’t in the same league as others that inhabit this market.
The aforementioned Mustang GT, for instance, brings to bear a V8 with 435 horsepower and checks in at $36K. The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack, at $38K, stomps around with 485 horses. If you’re looking for brute force, then you probably won’t be looking at the Z.
Numbers aside, the Z is still lots of fun to drive, particularly in the NISMO, which is faster and sharper than the cheaper Zs.
It starts with an exhaust growl from the V6 that perks the ears of everyone in earshot. While the Z’s current incarnation has always had a mellifluous soundtrack, the dual trumpets out the back of the NISMO are even more exciting.
The V6 rewards with smoothness and flexibility; it’s true that it’s hard to go from the blistering acceleration of a Challenger Scat Pack to a more collected Z, but the Z makes up for it with a sweetly rewarding feeling of balance.
Calling the Z balanced might seem like a cop-out – isn’t the Mustang GT also a balanced car, even with its V8’s extra power? But in the Z’s case, the feeling fits, and it’s particularly palpable when you put the rev-matching six-speed manual into play.
Nissan’s SynchroRev Match is a real gift as you’re sending the NISMO through the twisties; its small rise in revs as you shift down obviates the need for heel-and-toeing and helps you keep the engine in its sweet spot. The seamless rev matching makes the Z feel like a practiced partner who helps you lose yourself in the dance. If you’d rather have an automatic, Nissan offers a seven-speed for an extra $1,300.
Handling is another Z strong suit, and the NISMO’s upgraded wheels and tires – 245/40ZR19s in front and 285/35ZR19s in back – put a lock on the pavement below. Steering feels sharp without being twitchy, and it sends up plenty of road feel to keep you informed. The firm suspension keeps the body level while still giving a surprisingly smooth ride, and the NISMO’s brakes are firm and responsive. There’s a lot here for the serious driver to like.
Inside, the NISMO is dark and sporty.
The NISMO’s Recaro seats are a perfect fit here; the bolsters clamp you in place, but they’re not as restrictive as their racer-seat styling suggests.
Red is the order of the day; it surrounds the first button you push…
…and it’s sprinkled liberally through the stitching and displays.
The Z’s center screen has hard buttons below it to aid its operation.
The Bose stereo in the 2015 test car had rich sound, and we’re curious to see the 2016’s Active Noise Cancellation feature in action.
Practicality was never a Z strong suit, and the lack of interior cubbies and shallow trunk continue that tradition.
It’s easy to see why the Z can be overshadowed; besides its lack of V8 urge, the Z is a car that has become familiar. It’s competing in a field of more recent competitors in a market where appearances are a big part of the appeal.
On the other hand, the NISMO was so delightful in its week with us that this familiar car seemed to be a well-kept secret. It’s not the most powerful, but it is still very satisfying indeed.
2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo Tech
Base Price: $45,490
Price As Tested: $46,395
Carpeted Trunk Mat: $95
Destination Charge: $810
Exciting exhaust note
More power, please!