Nissan knows how passionate fans of the company's 370Z can be. The enthusiast community has long embraced the Z as a capable performer right out of the box and a willing platform that accepts a wide range of aftermarket modifications. The Japanese automaker has something special planned for this year's ZDayZ event in May. Each year, Z fans from all over the country descend on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, and this time, they'll have a chance to take a look at a very special vehicle when they aren't bombing down the infamous Tail of the Dragon.
Nissan has turned to Autoblog for help picking one of the vehicle's most important systems: the suspension.
The company is building the ultimate 370Z track car by allowing fans to vote which components will be used in the project, and they've turned to Autoblog for help picking one of the vehicle's most important systems: the suspension.
In order to keep things civil, the choices have been limited to three options from some of the biggest names in aftermarket handling. Follow the jump for a look at the choices and cast your vote. Polling will be open for a full week before the figures are tallied.
Before we get started, let's take a look at why we want to abandon the stock suspension hardware to begin with.
Manufacturing a sports car is an effort fraught with compromise. Buyers want a machine that's both fun to fling down their favorite stretch of road and capable enough for weekend track jaunts without being harsh enough to pummel their kidneys into puree. According to Bruce Robinson, senior development engineer with Nissan, ride comfort was one of the largest complaints about the last generation 350Z.
"It had a little bit of understeer, so we wanted the car to be a little more neutral," Robinson said, "and the ride quality, impact harshness and freeway hop wasn't as good as some of our customers wanted."
As a result, the U.S. market 370Z offers a more compliant ride thanks to revised spring and damper rates, even compared to its European counterpart, and the vehicle's shorter wheelbase helps negate some of the understeer issues found in the 350Z. While that means you're less likely to spill your coffee the next time you clip an expansion joint, it also means the stock 370Z is saddled with more body roll, pitch and lean than we'd like out of a dedicated track machine.
The solution is to send the stock springs and dampers packing for more aggressive bits. Aftermarket suspension kits typically have a number of advantages over the factory hardware. In addition to stiffer spring rates, most offer adjustable dampers, either with customizable bound, rebound or both, as well as adjustable ride height. Those variables allow the suspension to be tailored for each track depending on the quality of the road surface.
Nissan says that for 2013, the company plans to introduce new shocks for the rear of the 370Z Sport. Until then, we have an aftermarket suspension to pick.
Option #1: NISMO S-Tune Springs and Dampers
Few people know vehicles better than the engineers at NISMO, and the tuning arm has long been synonymous with impressive performance. With factory-backed testing and development, the parts are designed specifically for your chariot of choice. In our case, that means the 370Z. NISMO offers an S-Tune suspension package that includes both springs and dampers. The pieces drop overall ride height by slightly less than half an inch and boast improved spring, bound and rebound rates. Of course, NISMO hardware also carries a limited Parts and Accessories warranty straight from the factory and can be installed by your local dealer. Those are big benefits for those who would rather skip spinning their own wrenches. Look to pay around $1,200 for the set, uninstalled.
In this case, cost is no object and the hassle of installation isn't on our heads. While the S-Tune pieces are a good first step toward giving the 370Z sharper handling on the road, they lack the adjustability required of a good track set up. With fixed bound, rebound and ride height, the dampers and springs won't help us pull every last tenth out of our track heathen.
Option 2: KW Variant 3
If you've even pondered improving your vehicle's suspension, odds are KW needs no introduction. The company is favored by race teams and manufacturers alike for its proprietary valve technology. The Variant 3 line is designed to provide track-levels of adjustability while still retaining street car manners. That's an ideal Goldilocks set up for a vehicle that pulls double duty as daily driver and weekend warrior.
The kit can drop the car anywhere from a little more than half an inch all the way down to two inches below stock in the front and a little below half an inch to 1.8 inches lower than factory in the rear. With progressive spring rates on all four corners, the system is capable of delivering a comfortable ride until the going gets twisty. At that point, the springs firm up nicely, requiring more pressure to compress each coil.
Unlike most aftermarket coilover kits, KW doesn't rely on rigid springs for grip. Instead, the handling comes courtesy of the advanced valving inside each damper. The Variant 3 system offers a total of 16 clicks of adjustability for both rebound and bound in low-speed settings, while parameters for high-speed piston movement remainfixed for safety.
All told, the kit will set you back $2,299 for springs and dampers on all four corners. If we were putting our money down, it would go toward the Variant 3 coilovers.
Option 3: APEXi S1 Damper System
Apex Intergration has evolved into a one-stop shop for performance modifications. From intakes to exhaust systems and nearly everything in between, the company specializes in high-quality aftermarket components engineered and tested by industry professionals. When it comes to suspension, the company's S1 Damper System is a solid contender. The pieces are 100 percent made in Japan, which, as the prophet Marty McFly reminds us, is where all the best stuff is made.
Though the S1 system makes use of a standard 65 mm spring, the lower case design allows the vehicle's height to be adjusted without changing the spring rate. Pretty handy. Speaking of ride height, the coilovers can alter the vehicle's clearance by plus or minus 1.3 inches. With 20-way adjustable dampers and adjustable camber built right in, these are the Swiss Army knife of suspension. The S1 Dampes carry a 784 pound/inch spring rate in the front and a 672 lb/in rate in the rear, and the $1,690 price tag places it squarely in the middle of our three options.
Time to Vote
Now you have the details. If you were choosing a suspension for your own dedicated track car, which would you use? Hit up the poll below and let us know. Your votes will cast the final decision. Stay tuned for a closer look at the finished product in May, and check out the video below for more information on the Project Z. Want more? Check out the Nissan Performance Facebook page.