Fair­lady pro­duces a podium-me­nac­ing lap time, but the over­all recipe is out of date

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST DRIVE -

NISMO is an ab­bre­vi­a­tion of Nis­san Mo­tor­sport, so surely its tweaked 370Z would feel right at home on a race­track? Yes and no. Its firmer sus­pen­sion, grip­pier rub­ber, stiffer bodyshell and big­ger brakes cer­tainly de­liv­ered against the stop­watch, Luffy record­ing a stun­ning 1:36.9sec cir­cuit of Win­ton, a mere sec­ond be­hind the tur­bocharged (and de­cid­edly newer) hot hatches from Ford and Honda and good enough for a clear third on the day.

It achieved this time thanks to its field-best av­er­age corner speed, its 82.97km/h ef­fort just 0.01km/h greater than the Civic Type R’s, but hey, a win’s a win. It stopped from 100km/h in only 33.68m, again trail­ing only that pesky Honda. On the drag strip it wasn’t quite so im­pres­sive, but 5.87sec to 100km/h and a 14.07sec quar­ter mile at 167.17km/h isn’t too shabby, its rel­a­tive lack of torque only be­gin­ning to show at the top end.

Sur­pris­ingly, it also sounded the busi­ness from out­side, do­ing a damn good im­pres­sion of an E46 M3 (se­ri­ously!) as it howled its way around the track, its sharp, metal­lic song be­ing mu­sic to the ears of by­standers. This only makes it all the more frus­trat­ing that from be­hind the wheel the Nismo sounds like an asth­matic vac­uum cleaner, feel­ing harsher and more strained with every rev from 6000rpm to the 7500rpm red­line.

De­spite lack­ing any great en­thu­si­asm for revs, the engine is ef­fec­tive and the gear­ing well-suited to Win­ton. The gearshift is far from but­tery smooth, but it is at least short in throw. As much as it’s painful to ad­mit, Nis­san’s auto-rev func­tion on down­shifts is ab­so­lutely flaw­less and al­lows you to gain cru­cial me­tres un­der brak­ing, safe in the knowl­edge you can sim­ply se­lect the next gear at any time and the com­puter will sort out that tricky heel-toe thing.

Un­for­tu­nately, this elec­tronic wiz­ardry only re­moves another layer of driver in­volve­ment from what is a fairly one-di­men­sional driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. A pow­er­ful, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated rear-drive coupe on a race­track should re­sult in a smile a mile wide, yet the 370Z Nismo has, in DC’s words, been “smoth­ered in grip”.

Wear­ing Dun­lop SP SPORT MAXX GT 600 tyres mea­sur­ing 245/40 front and 285/35 rear, the Nismo just doesn’t have the power or abil­ity to gen­er­ate enough speed to stress its sticky boots. As a con­se­quence, you sim­ply bar­rel into cor­ners as fast as you can then mash your foot to the floor on exit – there’s lit­tle fi­nesse re­quired. At a very fast track this sta­bil­ity might be an ad­van­tage, but at Win­ton the 370Z just wasn’t that en­ter­tain­ing. Our res­i­dent racer was a fan, plac­ing it 6th, but every other judge was less im­pressed, rank­ing it ei­ther sec­ond- or third-last. –

PO­LAR­IS­ING De­spite hav­ing mega grip, au­ral tal­ents and an age­less de­sign, the Nismo di­vided the judges – well, Luffy seemed to like it

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