Why the Nissan Z NISMO comes in automatic only

Zed-heads were all excited about the Z NISMO until it came out and it was confirmed that the only transmission option would be an automatic. That understandably caused dismay among enthusiasts, and made it the first Z in NISMO history that wasn’t definitively more desirable than its non-NISMO version. We spoke to some Nissan representatives to try to understand why this was the case.

According to our source, there was an internal debate about whether to offer the manual transmission in the Z NISMO. However, even with the extra power and torque a three-pedal Z NISMO would have been slower in acceleration than a standard Performance trim with the 9-speed auto. Ultimately, the automatic camp won out because it simply couldn’t abide a NISMO model that was slower than its non-NISMO counterpart.

The Z NISMO generates 420 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. But that’s apparently not enough to give a stick shift NISMO an acceleration advantage over an automatic Z that’s down 20 horses and 34 lb-ft. Car and Driver tested standard Zs with both transmissions on 91-octane fuel and found the following results:

  • Nissan Z 6MT: 0-60 in 4.3 seconds; ¼-mile in 13.0 seconds @ 111 mph
  • Nissan Z 9AT: 0-60 in 4.5 seconds; ¼-mile in 12.7 seconds @ 115 mph

A separate test with different atmospheric conditions on 93-octane fuel yielded this:

  • Nissan Z 6MT: 0-60 in 4.1 seconds; ¼-mile in 12.6 seconds @ 115 mph

That means an automatic Z on 93 octane might even break the 4.0-second barrier. On top of that, Nissan reduced the Z NISMO automatic’s shift times by nearly 50 percent by adding sturdier clutch plates and remapping the transmission software. No one outside of Nissan has gotten their hands on a Z NISMO for testing yet, but it’s almost certainly going to return more impressive numbers.

As a sidebar, pricing on Z NISMO has been announced in Japan and it’s ¥9,200,400, or about $65,000. US pricing isn’t always a direct yen-to-dollar conversion, so the amount isn’t definitive but it at least gives a ballpark range.


Paul Hawson, Nissan North America’s Director of Advanced Product Planning and owner of a tuned R32 GT-R, added that NISMO customers are more track-focused. Because they’re more interested in outright speed, that also helped push the Z NISMO in an automatic-only direction. However, he also noted that Nissan is open to feedback and if enough people ask for it, they will consider a manual transmission option.

There you have it, straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. It all comes down to the numbers. Remember, the GR Supra initially came with an automatic only as well, but Toyota added a manual in 2022 after an internet uproar. So if you want a stick shift Z NISMO, you know what to do.

This post is filed under: News.

7 Responses to Why the Nissan Z NISMO comes in automatic only

  1. speedie says:

    All the cars I own are manuals and I love driving them, but I like manuals for the enjoyment I get using them not because they offer better performance. Automatic equipped cars have been out performing manuals for decades now. People need to let go of this idea that a true sports car has to have a manual. This car will be used for track days where time to speed is most important. Nissan made the correct choice for this car.

  2. Chet Manley says:

    I think its a load of horse manure that Nissan thinks the automatic transmission being a bit faster will be the deciding factor. Here’s the thing, a Tesla Model 3 performance version is already at 3.1 seconds for 0-60 with the vanilla Dual Motor mom-car at 4.0 seconds. So the enthusiast looking for 0-60 times over anything else will ignore this car completely and get in line for the EV.

    Credit where it’s due, Porsche sticks manuals into things and charges a premium for them, also they even stuck a turbo on the 924 back in the day knowing it would be faster than the relatively-premium 944.

  3. Ollie Tabooger says:

    This looks like one of two things to me:

    a.) Did they just forget about a Nismo model? Just about every other manufacturer makes the vanilla models slower so the performance version appears even faster. There’s a reason the active aero and higher hp on the Corvette ZR1 exists only on that trim. Nissan could have put on a restrictive exhaust, a milder ECU tune, or narrower tires for the standard 400Z and not had this issue.
    b.) Did the Nismo not turn out as intended? Were they hoping for better but this is all they could muster from the chassis? Not being able to eclipse the standard model with a manual transmission says a lot about the trim level.

    I am tired of having to fight for every manual transmission. Its not like enthusiasts are quiet about wanting them, its not like we hold off on buying cars that don’t offer them. Toyota already went through this fight with buyers last year as you said in the article and Nissan’s engineers (and marketing staff) are seemingly literate. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit…

  4. Taylor C. says:

    I wonder if these are sales tactics that automotive companies use to help stir up interest to the general public. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m pretty sure that these companies do listen to the enthusiasts (for the most part) to try and understand the targeted audience. For the Supra, folks who were probably die-hard stick shift drivers probably caved in and bought the initial automatic versions.

    Either way, I am optimistic that Nissan will offer the stick version of this, otherwise I’d eating my own words!

  5. Jim Klein says:

    I wrote the other day that the decision to not offer a manual was an utter fail when you ran the first story and it’s still an utter fail after this explanation, perhaps an ever bigger fail as there is no technical reason for it not being offered (i.e. it can’t handle the power or something). If all you want is a fast car from 0-60 or 0 to whatever you won’t be buying a Z anyway, you’ll just catch up with the 21st century and buy an EV. It’s all about the engagement and feel, not about the acceleration number being 0.2 seconds different or whatever it is. I guarantee that a well shifted Z, even if physically slower than the equivalent automatic, will FEEL faster than the auto. If nothing else, it won’t be boring the way the auto will be after about a dozen runs. It’ll be fun. A Versa Note with a manual would be more “fun” to drive than an automatic Z for any amount of time longer than a dealer’s test drive time allotment. On top of that, the manual Nismo Z may be a little slower on a defined straight-line acceleration run, but it likely won’t be when you can hold a gear when/how you want through a corner (no, paddle shifters are NOT the same) or on a great road. If all I want is straightline acceleration, the Z is not and will never be the first choice (and shouldn’t be and wasn’t created to be).

    Nissan, just suck it up and offer the manual since it appears you ARE sort of willing and able to do so, i.e. there is no technical reason not to, but you were more concerned about the opinions of 12-year-olds in gym class to whom a lower number is all that matters. The adults will buy the manual if it’s offered, otherwise they should just buy a Silverado instead of a Z to begin with, or I suppose a Titan.

    It is really not that difficult.

  6. Alan says:

    Quantifiable numbers over feeling and emotion. Is that the message you want to tie so tightly to a top-tier trim level of one of the greatest sports car legacies in history, Nissan? The ghost of Ghosn is alive!

  7. Suyog says:

    Well-written! It’s intriguing to see how automotive technology is shaping the driving experience, and the decision to offer the Nissan Z NISMO solely with an automatic transmission is a testament to this evolution. While some purists might yearn for the tactile connection of a manual gearbox, it’s important to recognize that this move isn’t just about convenience – it’s a step forward into the future of performance driving. Thank you so much for sharing this info.

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