Nissan Z Nismo review: better off Zed

Dean Evans
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Nismo version adds $18k to the price of the Z. But you get a lot for that.


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Base price
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Fuel Consumption (l/100km)
Maximum power kW
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0-100 km/h
  • Awesome performer
  • Slick gearbox
  • Ride & handling
  • Modest luggage space
  • Could be visually bolder
  • Big 11m turning circle

The 1990s were a golden time for turbo performance cars. Nissan had its 300ZX, 200SX and Skyline GT-Rs, Mitsubishi its Galant VR4 and Lancer Evolutions, Subaru its Legacy RS and WRXs, Toyota its MR2s and GT-Fours, Mazda its RX-7. What a time to be a car guy.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Standard Recaro seats are better off red.

I had a throwback feeling jumping into the Recaro seat of the Nissan Z Nismo, the first one registered in New Zealand. It adds stiffer suspension, bigger brakes, more hardcore bodywork and visual tweaks, and a whole lot of ’90s cool.

Like the regular Nissan Z, it has two turbochargers either side of its 3.0-litre V6, a boost gauge, and a sneezing velociraptor of boost valves chattering away, driving through the rear 19-inch tyres, with sports performance as a priority. What more could you want?

A Nismo version, of course! So, with the arrival of the Z Nismo two years after the regular model, which has sold modestly well (43 NZ sales in 2023), we’ve got our hands on this Slate Grey with Super Black Roof hero model, with just a few hundred run-in km on the clock.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Spoilers, skirts and those signature red stripes for the Nismo Z.

As the ultimate incarnation of the Z, the Nismo attracts an $18,510 premium over the regular $90k Z. What does that get you? Quite a lot!

Three drive modes make it even faster, into Sport or Nismo Sport+, that sharpens shifts and introduces launch control.

Starting at the best upgrade, the Nismo front bumper is deeper, more aero and purges that gaudy, gorky rectangular grille of the standard Z. Better yet, it somehow magically offers enough ground clearance to avoid it scraping or gouging at every steep driveway, parking bumper or kerb – not once did it touch road in our week with it.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Busy at the back, with Nismo muffler and perforated exhaust tips.

The side skirts are a little deeper and carry the signature red line to the rear bumper, with Nismo muffler and perforated exhaust tips, with a modest three-piece boot spoiler – could have been a bit bolder there, though. While the wheels are the same 19in size, they are a little wider, and carry Nismo markings, made by Rays, so they are instantly better.

Atop the dash, there’s a very 1990s tri-pod of gauges for battery volts, turbo boost and, quirkily, turbo speed, which any 90s turbo enthusiast will love.

Nismo mirrors and badges finish off the exterior, while inside, the sculpted, red accented, leather and Alcantara Nismo Recaro seats are like being spooned - in a good way: supportive and reassuring. The Nismo steering wheel is also leather and Alcantara where it matters, and along with all the safety stuff like warning lights and buzzers, there’s stop-go radar cruise control, and a configurable dash with a Sport screen that puts the Nismo-branded electronic tacho front and centre, with a configurable option of a boost gauge alongside. Neat.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Dashtop is dominated by a trio of gauges, 1990s-style.

Atop the dash, there’s a very 1990s tri-pod of gauges for battery volts, turbo boost and, quirkily, turbo speed, which any 90s turbo enthusiast will love... more prudish observers might question its point (there is little point, it’s just fun!). It is, however, superb to bore people with the fact that the turbos spin at 210,000rpm... Eye-roll and yawn not required, thank you.

No, it really doesn’t need a manual gearbox, in the same way the Supra doesn’t need a manual.

It doesn’t really need a tacho or gauges, though, because the nine-speed automatic gearbox is a perfect pair with the torquey 309kW/520Nm turbo engine, up 11kW/45Nm from standard via boost, ECU and exhaust tweaks. Smooth like any auto at low-speeds, above 30km/h it does an incredible job by mimicking the snappy, immediate shifts of a dual-clutch gearbox.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Engine tweaks add 11kW/45Nm, tipping it over the 300kW mark.

Three drive modes make it even faster, into Sport or Nismo Sport+, that sharpens shifts and introduces launch control. It barely needs it, though: Nissan doesn’t quote a 0-100km/h time, so we used our RaceBox GPS timer, and recorded back-to-back times of 4.2 seconds, almost half-a-second quicker than the stock model.

Though we deactivated traction control and maxed out the shifter to Sport+ for launch control, it proved fastest by simply squeezing on the throttle for the first metre or so, then nailing it, as the rear end sinks, the nose lifts, the tyres squirm and squeal just a fraction in protest that they’re on their limit of grip, while launching the Z Nismo down the road at maximum velocity: 4.25, 4.24 on consecutive runs, neat, simple, very effective. Anecdotally, that makes it identical to the Supra auto we tested in 2019.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Nineteen-inch Rays wheels look the part.

No, it really doesn’t need a manual gearbox, in the same way the Supra doesn’t need a manual, and the Nismo Z is faster and more fuel efficient for it (11.6l/100km vs 12.0 in the Z manual), and with shift paddles, it also offers quasi-manual control, if you must. You just don’t need.

Reworked Nismo suspension is an absolute delight. While there’s a distinct focus on track performance, with stiffer springs, larger and retuned shock absorbers, and new (presumably thicker) anti-roll bars, the on-road ride and handling package is sublime, with an unexpected and incredible suppleness to soak up the lumps and ruts, and an added layer of damping that absorbs the bigger thunks that would normally have you wincing at the cracking noise through the low-profile tyres, big diameter wheels, chassis or seat – and all while keeping bodyroll to an absolute minimum.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Reworked Nismo suspension transforms the car in fast driving.

Practicality? Well, it’s a two-seat sports car, so there’s a modicum... the boot floorspace is large-ish, but attacked by the rear shock towers, so lots of smaller, flatter, softer bags can fit: fully visible through the glass, of course. There are small storage bins behind the seats, and a few pockets here and there for wallets and phone and things: just enough to be useful, not too much to be wasteful.

Comparisons with Toyota’s Supra are inevitable, both being $100k twin-turbo, two-seat sports cars. They’re both so similar, but each remarkable in their own way.

Nissan Z Nismo.
Nismo adds a real shot of excitement to the Z sports car.

The Nismo version of the Z is quicker than its standard model, more appealing and by the time its body, brakes, seats, wheels, extra power and speed and little extras are added into the equation, then add the exhilarating performance, daily drivability and the comfort, ride and useability, the Nismo Z is a extraordinary machine and an XL shot of excitement in a market being flooded by electric SUVs. The exciting Japanese 1990s turbo sports car is still alive, and it’s the 2024 Nismo Z.

ENGINE: 3.0 V6, twin-turbo petrol GEARBOX: 9-speed auto POWER: 309kW/520Nm 0-100KM/H: 4.2sec (tested) ECONOMY: 11.6l/100km WEIGHT: 1640kg PRICE: $108,990.


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