Badges, we don't need to see no badges to separate Nissan's Nismo 370Z from its cult-car predecessor or a stock 370Z. Just toss it into turn two at Willow Springs International Raceway, and the difference--along with the tail--will quickly come forward.
During our walk-around tour of the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z, we spotted plenty of visible evidence, besides all the badges, to erase any notion of it being merely a badge-engineered special 370Z.
Clues also reveal it to be a more seriously track-oriented machine than the previous limited-edition (1,500 units from 2007 to 2008) Nismo 350Z. Most obvious is that rather than simply resculpting the front-end styling to achieve more downforce and enhance airflow, Nissan North America's Special-ty Vehicles Group, with conversion partner Autech Japan, grafted on a new nose that slopes down lower and about six inches farther. It contributes to an overall length of 174.3 inches, nearly seven inches longer than a 370Z (the wheelbase remains at 100.4 inches).
The rear diffuser may appear less aggressive than that of the Nismo 350Z, but it is more effective when combined with the new front end, side skirts and revised dual-plane rear wing to manage airflow underneath the car. Downforce increases significantly compared with both the 370Z and the Nismo 350Z, while maintaining the stock 370Z Cd of 0.30.
Under the hood of the new nose resides a 3.7-liter VQ-series V6, uprated to 350 hp at 7,400 rpm from 332 hp at 7,000 rpm. Torque also gets a bump from 270 lb-ft to 276 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm.
The increased body rigidity of the stock 370Z means that additional bracing, à la Nismo 350Z, was not needed beyond stiffening the strut-tower bar. A front and rear body damper was added to manage vibrations for improved handling and stability.
Suspension changes involve increased spring rates (15 percent front, 10 percent rear) and front/rear stabilizer rates (15 percent/50 percent). Shocks are 40 percent stiffer in front and 140 percent stiffer in the rear.
Wider Nismo five-spoke, forged-alloy, 19-inch wheels (9.5 inches front, 10.5 rear) wear Yokohama Advan Sport rubber (245/40 and 285/35, respectively). Nismo Sport Brakes (14.0-inch front with four-piston aluminum calipers and 13.8-inch rear with two-piston aluminum calipers) combine with a variable-ratio brake pedal for improved feel and confidence.
A close-ratio six-speed manual with synchronized downshift rev matching is the sole transmission.
Snugging into the sport seat, we put all these goodies to work on the nine-turn, 2.5-mile Willow Springs circuit. Having warmed up with a 370Z and a Nismo 350Z, we noted how much of the old Nismo evolved into the new Z's handling.
In the Nismo 370Z, we expected more of the same. What we got felt more like a drift car than a race car as we accelerated around the long, sweeping second turn and the tail came alive. It's intimidating until you realize how easily this rotation can be played with steering and throttle action. Then it's great fun. Add in the engine's fondness for the redline, and things can get very busy, very quickly.
You can see for yourself when the Nismo 370Z arrives this month for less than $40,000.
2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $39,850
DRIVETRAIN: 3.7-liter, 350-hp, 276-lb-ft V6; RWD, six-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3,300 lb
0-60 MPH: 5.2 sec (est)
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 21 mpg
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