Harder, faster Zed brings the noise

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - TONY O’KANE

Harder Zed fi­nally hits Oz

THE 370Z notched up eight years in the Aus­tralian mar­ket in April, which, in au­to­mo­tive terms, qual­i­fies the Zed for a let­ter from the Queen. So yes, it’s old, but now two things have hap­pened – the stan­dard 370Z re­ceived a price ad­just­ment in Au­gust that saw the man­ual coupe dip be­low the $ 50K mark for the first time, while the sharper 370Z Nismo, avail­able over­seas for the past two years, is now here at $ 61,490 for the six-speed man­ual or $ 63,990 for the seven-speed auto.

And the Nismo Zed isn’t just a pen­sioner sports car in an Adi­das track­suit – it has real-deal mods that hone the stan­dard model into a fit­ter, meaner ve­hi­cle.

Not that the ba­sic pack­age was es­pe­cially lack­ing. There’s been lit­tle in the way of me­chan­i­cal up­dates for the 370Z over the past eight years, but the 3.7-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6 has al­ways been a lin­ear, fairly torquey unit, with a fat mid-range cour­tesy of vari­able valve tim­ing on both in­take and ex­haust cams and clever in­fin­itely-vari­able valve lift hard­ware on the in­take.

Yet, with only 8kw more peak power and 13kg more weight to lug, the 370Z Nismo doesn’t feel much swifter than the boggo Zed in a drag race. In­stead it’s cor­ners that the Nismo is de­signed to as­sault, not the quar­ter mile.

Firmer springs and dampers are ex­clu­sive to the Nismo, but the ul­tra-stiff sus­pen­sion over­stays its wel­come on choppy back­roads. The front tyres skip over nas­tier pock­marks and there isn’t the com­pli­ance nec­es­sary to keep trac­tion over rough sur­faces.

Once the road smoothes out the Nismo feels far more set­tled, with a fat­ter wheel and tyre pack­age (245/40 R19 up front, 285/35 R19 out back) de­liv­er­ing su­perb grip at both axles.

Mean­while, the Zed’s old-school hy­draulic steer­ing is a tac­tile, fast-ra­tio de­light, and meshes well with its re­spon­sive dou­blewish­bone front sus­pen­sion. Driven hard, there’s the sense that the taut Nismo-tuned un­der­car­riage would work won­ders on a race­track.

Free-breath­ing Nismo ex­haust pipes en­dow the V6 with a gut­teral howl at high revs, how­ever there are also elec­tron­i­cally gen­er­ated tones mixed in with the nat­u­ral note, re­sult­ing in a syn­thetic sound that’s at odds with the 370Z Nismo’s oth­er­wise ana­logue driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Gear­box whine is also prom­i­nent, but is at least in keep­ing with the Nismo’s posture as a mo­tor­sport-in­spired road car. Me­chan­i­cal noises are wel­come some­times, and re­fine­ment is over­rated in sportscars any­way. That said, road noise on coar­sechip may test your tol­er­ance.

The only ma­jor ad­di­tions to the 370Z’s cosy cabin are a pair of ex­cel­lent Re­caro seats, an Al­can­tara-wrapped steer­ing wheel, and a sprin­kling of Nismo badges and crim­son high­lights.

The 370Z Nismo ex­presses a lot of old-school sports car val­ues in the way it drives, and many of them are traits that are fast be­com­ing ex­tinct. Things like feel­some hy­drauli­cally as­sisted steer­ing, a bal­anced front-en­gine/ rear-drive chas­sis, and a zingy nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine.

The 370Z Nismo’s feistier char­ac­ter gives Nis­san’s age­ing sports car a new­found lease on life. It’s an­grier and harder to live with, yes, but its sin­gu­lar fo­cus on han­dling el­e­vates the oft-for­got­ten Zed from a big­gerengined (and costlier) al­ter­na­tive to the Toy­ota 86, to a car that en­cour­ages own­ers to hunt down the curvi­est (and prefer­ably smoothest) sec­tion of black­top they can find and just drive.

Model Nis­san 370Z Nismo En­gine 3696cc V6 ( 60˚ ) , dohc, 24v Max Power 253kw @ 7400rpm Max Torque 371Nm @ 5200rpm Trans­mis­sion 6- speed man­ual Weight 1480kg 0-100km/ h 5.6sec ( es­ti­mated) Econ­omy 10.6L/ 100km Price $ 61,490 On sale Now

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