Nissan’s Z isn’t exactly a revolutionary car, even for a brand not known for refreshing its product more than once every couple of decades, but when it debuted, it definitely got people all fired up. Part of that, I suspect, is that many folks have a soft spot for Z cars and others just like anything that’s rear-wheel drive and available with a manual transmission.
Now, we have the hot version, the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo, which offers up a little more power, stickier tires and no manual transmission. How does the lack of a third pedal affect the driving experience when the car’s ultimate goal is faster lap times? Is it worth the borderline-staggering $66,085 price tag (which includes a $1,095 destination charge)?
We’ll get to that stuff in a minute. First, you should know that the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 in the Nismo produces 20 more horsepower and 34 more pound-feet of torque over the standard car. This bump comes from increased turbine speed in the turbocharger and, more importantly, from an independent ignition timing control system borrowed from the R35 GT-R. This system allows the car to tailor its ignition timing for each individual cylinder.
The good news is that more power is cool, but the bad news is that it’s mostly indistinguishable from the non-Nismo version, even on track where you’re trying to squeeze everything out of the engine that you possibly can. It does sound better than the Z Performance, though, which is cool, though I find it drones during normal street driving.
Cliches aside, the Z Nismo’s biggest problem (aside from its price) is the lack of a manual transmission. Nissan upgraded its nine-speed auto with better cooling and quicker shifting, but it’s still a torque converter automatic. Much of the competition, like the new Ford Mustang Dark Horse and the BMW M2, is still available with manual transmissions, and even if a three-pedal gearbox is slower around a race track, people who buy sports cars still want them. See, for example, Porsche’s journey with killing the manual in the GT3 a couple of generations ago.
The Z Nismo is a more hardcore Z all around, and that includes its suspension. On track, this isn’t a liability, and the car does a decent job of staying composed even over bumps on off-camber turns. Things are less favorable on the road, with a seriously busy ride at lower speeds, though that does smooth out as you move faster. It’s not a dealbreaker on its own, but something to be aware of, especially if you’re considering using the car as a daily driver, which you shouldn’t.
The Z’s brakes are great and feel super strong, even under repeated hard stops. During my lapping section at Sonoma Raceway, I never felt the pedal getting long or in any way sapping my confidence. Like the Z Performance, the Z Nismo gets handsome wheels courtesy of Rays Engineering, though the Nismo’s rollers are unique, as are the Dunlop SportMaxx tires, which are borrowed from the GT-R.
The interior of the new Z is a big upgrade over the old (and I do mean OLD) 370Z with decent screenage and quality seats. The Nismo upgrades this interior with unique manually adjustable seats and a partially Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel. Some of the interior switchgear is red, too.
Outside, the Nismo takes inspiration from the classic G-nose 240Z with its long nose and ducktail spoiler. It also pulls some inspo from the GT-R with its squared-off rear bumper, which Nissan claims helps downforce while reducing drag. Whether you like the styling or not is subjective, but the Z generally looks better in the metal than it does in photos, and this is true of the Nismo as well.
From a tech standpoint, the Nismo gets a couple of useful tweaks as well. The biggest change here is the addition of a Sport Plus drive mode that sharpens up the throttle and the shifts in the transmission. Also new is a “Traction Mode,” which is activated by long-pressing the traction control button on the left side of the steering wheel. It allows a little more slip and supposedly lets you leave corners faster, though I couldn’t tell the difference in my short time with the car, likely due to the overall high grip levels of the car’s tires.
So, does the Nismo Z offer enough on top of the standard car’s halfway decent performance cred to ask for its $66,000-plus asking price? Nah, dude. This is a car purely for Nissan nerds and repeat Z buyers, especially when you can buy cars like the the Ford Mustang Dark Horse or a six-cylinder Toyota Supra for less money and with three pedals.
The Z isn’t technically bad, but it doesn’t make sense in a world where the competition offers more compelling drivetrain options and nicer interiors for the same or less money. Unless you have to have a Z, look elsewhere for fun.