2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo

If you blinked, you missed the opportunity to pick up the last iteration of the 370Z Nismo, because after just a touch over a year of availability, Nissan is replacing it with this updated 2015 model – the third 370-based iteration from the brand's in-house tuner. Consider this version to be the 370Z's swan song. An all-new version is expected soon with a downsized turbo mill (something in the vein of a 240Z would not be impossible). That reality aside, the latest 370Z Nismo is a compelling package. It looks like a million bucks, takes a corner with verve, and gets belated tech goodies. Here are our impressions from a drive we took last week near Nissan's US headquarters in Tennessee.

Driving Notes
  • The Recaro seats are wonderful (shocker!). In fact, the interior in general has a much more strapped-down feel about it. A run-of–the-mill 370Z feels pretty great, although it's not a place for the big-boned. As with past Nismos, upgrades include contrasting colors on the faux-suede seat inserts, the gauge hood, the ten and two positions on the steering wheel, and a red centering stripe on the wheel. The upgraded materials are all nicely chosen and the cabin is a very sexy place to live – weirdly practical, too, considering the huge cargo area. Checking the "Tech" model option box brings a 7.0-inch nav screen in place of the upward swinging door over a storage cubby, a much-needed backup camera, an impressively good Bose stereo, and de riguer Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming. Everything seems to work as advertised.
  • This is probably the best-realized version of the 370Z's styling. The car looks finished in a way that can only come with – get this – six years of refinement (believe it or not the 370Z debuted in 2008). The nose and tail have been given a more purposeful look that's also less street-racer. A side benefit is improved aero performance with more downforce and a whopping three inches of reduced overall length. Muy bueno. The side skirts claim to improve aero, but we think they just look cool. Also, we dig that Porsche 911 RS-style ducktail spoiler and restyled 19-inch Rays Engineering alloys.
  • The 3.7-liter V6 engine remains one of the gems of the auto industry: quick to rev, gutsy torque curve, and a bit more power than the standard car, although the same as the last model – still up by 18 horsepower and 6 pound-feet of torque versus the standard Z, to 350 hp and 276 lb-ft. The exhaust note is a delight, offering just the right amount of raspy crackle without even a hint of fart cannon.
  • Straight-line acceleration can get into illegal territory really quickly, but it's the other elements of performance that shine. Stomp the brakes too often and you may walk away with a chest bruise, for instance. The Nismo benefits from chassis bracing and increased spring rates that provide a machine that's more tool than car – it's only as good as the driver wielding it, so in the hands of a master, it turns out beautiful work.
  • Most of our complaints have nothing to do with the Nismo-ness of the car and everything with the Z itself: the weird gauges for fuel level and engine temp, aging interior plastics, terrible – terrible – rear visibility, and less than stellar steering response. This platform is really showing its age.
  • Although we will always prefer manuals, we're beginning to turn the corner on the paddle-shifters versus the row-your-own manual – the best dual-clutch boxes are just quicker. However, in the 370Z Nismo the traditional hydraulic autobox still can't respond quite urgently enough. With anything but full throttle, there's too much of a delay.
  • The manual box is simply a delight to work. Pleasingly notchy shifter, well-placed gears and rev-matching for the normals, but optimal heel-toe pedal placement for experienced drivers. Even better news for true believers who buy the manual is a shorter final drive ratio, bumped from 3.69:1 to 3.92:1. Automatic cars get stuck with a 3:36. Of course, it's all in the trans gearing choices, but we'd by lying if the manual didn't feel a lot more responsive in the all-important second and third gear ratios.
The 370Z has always had one crucial fault: a starting price about five thousand dollars too rich. Nissan undoubtedly has very good reasons for the model's price point, but it always feels like there's just not quite enough bang for the buck. Pricing for the refreshed Nismo version hasn't dropped yet, but the old car started at around $43,830 and we wouldn't expect it to budge much. Does it look cooler, go a bit quicker in a straight line and around corners, and have a better interior? Yes. Is it worth almost $8,000 over the base car's starting price? Probably not. But that doesn't make it any less fun.