Nissan Z NISMO arrives with more power and new G-nose, but automatic only

The new Nissan Z has been a welcome addition to today’s bleak automotive landscape. It hasn’t quite taken off, due in part to naysayers’ complaints about the carryover chassis and interior. We found those complaints to be a bit pedantic, as the Z is a faithful successor to the original S30, a sports car that packs a ton of fun into an affordable package you can use every day. Unfortunately, we expect the grumbling to continue with the launch of the new Z NISMO.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. The Z NISMO’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 will make 420 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, which works out to 20 more ponies and 34 more lb-ft than a regular Z. But there’s an elephant in the room, and that is the Z NISMO will only come with an 9-speed, paddle-shift automatic.

Now, Nissan says that a number of improvements have been made to the transmission. The non-NISMO auto was criticized for being slow to downshift, but on the Z NISMO new software and clutch packs have reduced its downshift time by almost half, the company says. In fact, it claims that response is so good that the Z NISMO even programmed a new Sport+ drive mode that eliminates the need to use the paddles while driving on the track.

We won’t know until we actually drive the car, but we suspect that at the end of the day enthusiasts will still yearn for the regular Z’s pleasing but solid 6-speed manual. After all, as product planner Hiroshi Tamura once explained, the whole purpose of the Z is to be a “dance partner” while the GT-R guns for outright speed.

If one can overlook the automatic, the rest of the Z NISMO package has a lot to offer. The front end has been elongated by 0.8 inches and redesigned with a better looking grille. Nissan is even calling it a “G-nose” in reference to the 240ZG’s aerodynamic motorsports-derived prow. The leading edge of the hood recalls the original G-nose, but the lower grille takes on a new shape. That’s alright, because it isn’t so square anymore either, which gives the Z NISMO a more beautiful face overall.

The NISMO package adds a whole bunch of visual upgrades to the Z, increasing width by 1.0 inch. These include:

  • G-nose with honeycomb grille
  • Canards
  • Redesigned side sills
  • Taller, wider rear spoiler
  • Redesigned rear bumper with R35 GT-R NISMO-inspired corners shaped to facilitate air separation and reduce drag
  • Red accent line around the lower edge of the car
  • NISMO badging on grille and rear
  • Dark metallic gray “katana blade” roof trim
  • Exclusive gloss black Rays Engineering wheels measuring 19×10 in front and 19×10.5 at the rear. Nissan says they are lighter than the 0.5-inch narrower wheels on the Z Performance.
  • NISMO-exclusive Stealth Gray paint (Black Diamond Pearl, Brilliant Silver, Passion Red TriCoat, Everest White Pearl TriCoat are also available from the standard palette)

The visual changes exclusive to the Z NISMO continue on the inside:

  • Red 12 o’clock marker on Alcantara steering wheel
  • manual-adjust leather and Alcantara Recaro seats with red inserts and NISMO logo in headrests
  • Anodized red engine start and drive mode selection buttons
  • Red outline around the tachometer
  • NISMO logo and red graphic animation upon startup

NISMO versions have never been just about the power or looks, though. Nissan’s specialty engineers typically go over the whole car to make the chassis, handling, steering and overall response feel balanced and work in harmony with the extra power. In addition to all the equipment offered on the Z Performance, such as a clutch-type LSD, the Z NISMO offers these improvements to unseen areas:

  • Additional front, rear, and rear underfloor bracing to increase torsional rigidity by 2.5 percent compared to the standard Z.
  • Stiffer bushings for the steering rack, front and rear suspension
  • Stiffer springs and larger retuned dampers.
  • Unique stabilizer bars
  • Larger 15-inch front brake rotors (up from 14)
  • Performance brake pad compound
  • Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600 tires, a version of which are also used on GT-R (285/35R19 rear versus 275/35R19 on the Z Performance).
  • Launch control programmed for more aggressive acceleration

According to Nissan, “The overarching tuning ethos was to deliver accurate, ‘one-shot’ steering that helps drivers to pick their line through a turn with a minimum of steering adjustment needed.”

To get the extra power and torque from the VR30DDTT, Nissan cribbed additional strategies from the GT-R NISMO, such as independent ignition spark timing. They also revised the electronic wastegate to increase boost and turbine speed and gave it an enhanced oil cooler for extended track use. Peak torque now comes on a little higher in the rev range, at 2,000 rpm as opposed to 1,600, but continues on to the same 5,200 rpm.

The bad news is that the added weight of the NISMO gear and automatic transmission all but negates the additional power. The Z NISMO weighs in at 3,704 pounds, which is 102 pounds heavier than the automatic-equipped Z Performance, 168 pounds heavier than the manual transmission Z Performance.

It’s no secret the Z has been off to a slow start, but Americans might not know that in Japan sales have been suspended since July 2022. It’s not for a lack of trying. Nissan supposedly has 5,000 backorders but only a little more than 500 have been registered since it went on sale. Supply chain issues with semiconductors are apparently the culprit, and Nissan is prioritizing markets like the US. It’s unclear if Japanese customers will even be able to buy the Z NISMO when it goes on sale for the 2024 model year.

Nissan hasn’t announced pricing, but expect it be higher than the Z Performance with automatic transmission’s $52,085. It used to be that the increased lustworthiness of NISMO-tuned cars were a given. Thanks to the transmission choice, for the first time that seems not to be a foregone conclusion. We hope we’re wrong.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Nissan.

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5 Responses to Nissan Z NISMO arrives with more power and new G-nose, but automatic only

  1. Chris Tonn says:

    I dig the G-nose. I’d love to see it on the standard car.

    I’ve almost resigned myself to accepting that manuals are dying. But I shall ever rage against the dying of the stick with the Z, especially one meant to be a performance car. Are we encountering an ’81 ZX Turbo situation where no Nissan manual can handle the power, and nobody thought to go a-shopping for a B-W T-5?

  2. Jim Klein says:

    I’m sorry, but what an utter fail. Whoever decided to authorize/mandate the automatic in this iteration of the car should be fired. The whole point is to improve engagement, feel, and excitement of the car with the NISMO add-ons, and then they neuter the whole thing with the auto. Yes, F1 cars use paddle shifters, but I’m not going to be hitting Eau Rouge at 175mph in top gear anytime soon, running through nine gears using paddle shifters while negotiating my freeway onramp is frankly annoying, so they’ll rarely if ever get used after the first week. Actually, no, they won’t even get used that much as the car would be off the list already without being considered (not that I’m in the market anyway). I’ll just point and laugh at the guy driving a Nismo Z now, knowing he might as well be driving a Silverado.
    And if semiconductors or the lack thereof are the issue, I’d imagine a manual gearbox uses less of them than a flappy paddle automatic.

  3. BlitzPig says:

    I’m with Jim Klein here. What a complete fail this is. Nissan remains the rental car manufacturer to the world because of stupid decisions like this. Whenever I drive past my local Nissan dealer I have to shake my head in wonder and disgust. There isn’t one vehicle in their entire US lineup that I would consider owning now.

  4. Ray Raible says:

    l’m sorry I will stay with my 70 240, NISSAN get your heads out of wallets and use your brains (talents) to make changes.

  5. CycoPablo says:

    This is what’s afflicted so many risk-averse players in recent times, Honda included.
    Fact is, they have enough trouble being competitive against cheaper competition, never mind being profitable, on the bread-and-butter stuff.

    So in that context, the “sporty” stuff must be viewed through the lens of compromise in the name of mass-appeal. To keep exposing themselves to component supply shortages is to commit hara-kiri on the world stage.
    Such a shame.

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