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Roadshow Video Reviews
2014 Nissan 370Z NismoIt's the hottest Z, a factory track car, and an unadulterated sip of whiskey straight from the barrel.
It's the hottest Z you can get without turning a range yourself or writing a check to a tuner. A factory track car, an unadulterated sip of whiskey from the barrel. Let's drive the 2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo, and check the tech. So, what exactly is a Nismo Z? Well, first of all, it's a gutsier Z car with more power, a big body kit we'll talk about in a second; better, bigger staggered wheels, real tough sport suspension. Whoa. There we go. An H-pipe cat back exhaust system, manual transmission only. This whole car speaks to one thing. It's the purity. It's kind of a club raiser from the factory with the factory warranty, but it doesn't have a dramatically different anything in terms of power trade. This is a handling statement, more than anything else. As I drive this car, I feel a little ridiculous with its extreme body kit. I am more of a wolf in sheep's clothing kinda guy, but that's just me. And most importantly, this is not a car for the faint of heart. You don't buy this because you want an everyday Z. You buy this because you've got another car or two to do your everyday driving in. It would be a waste to poke this thing around and stop and go traffic for 90 percent of its life. Okay. Let's pull over, take a look at the outside. Now, spot a Nismo Z pretty easily. First of all, very different front body work that extends the car a remarkable 6.2 inches, all here in the name of aerodynamics. Kind of an analog to a Porsche 911 Slant Nose. Out back, unmistakable, that huge kind of obnoxious wing. And around all four corners, special raise wheels, staggered front to rear. Now, when you get in this Z, first of all, things are tight, intimate and sporty the way they should be. Kind of a high belt line, so it's a little bit claustrophobic. And sight lines on the back, let's not talk about that. There aren't any. Speaking of "there aren't any," there's almost no technology in this car available optionally or standard. Here's your media rink, AM and FM, no HD radio, satellite radio's an option, single disk, six disk is an option, auxiliary jack right there. That's it. No Bluetooth streaming, no USB port, no special iPod connection, no SD cards. This is a fairly primitive cabin. It says, "do one thing. Drive the damn car." Here's where you think I might be showing you a little peek-a-boo nav screen. But no, it's just a little flocked storage box. You can't even option nav on a Nismo. The seats are grippy, they're in a special fabric for Nismo cars, but I don't believe they're different than a standard Z. They're a good sports Z, but they're not unique to this car. In terms of drive controls, there's very little because this car is 6-speed manual only. You do have one interesting noodle dude ad attached to that, though, the S mode, a Synchro mode. When you enable this, you can get an S alongside your gear selector, the car will automatically blip throttle when you downshift. It will do it faster than you can, although the [unk] to buy this car may not need the help. The remaining cabin tech is instrumentation. And it looks like you've got a lot of it, right? In classic Z style. But as I observed the car for a couple of days, I realized it's largely gauge theater. First of all, over here on the left, it's where I think is the ugliest gauge in the autodom. This little multi-LED bar graph for fuel and temperature looks like something out of a stripped merino. But then, while you've got that dumb gauge for temperature, you've got a precise gauge for oil temperature. Well, that's weird. Why don't they both get a numerical dial gauge? Vault meter to the right is real stupid. All that thing's gonna do almost its entire life is read 14.2, and that's a waste of real estate for that clock. That pod should be oil pressure. The clock could go anywhere. And there's no oil pressure read-out anywhere else on this car. Big tasty red-trimmed tech in the middle, digital read-outs for your gear position-- even though it's a manual, as well as the S mode indicator-- and the speedometer is analog only. I'm not big on having to have a digital speedo, but when you have one that compressed, where every five miles is just a tiny fraction of an inch, I would actually like a digital read-out so I can figure out my speed at a glance. This is not an easy speedo to read. I don't need more tickets. On the steering wheel, of course, because there's not a lot of tech, there's not a lot of tech controls. We do have a voice command button over here, but notice that Bluetooth, that it drives, is also optional with a Bose Audio upgrade. That's right. Get this car without options, and you'll be using a headset. Rear camera, also optional-- what there is of it. Having no LCD in the dash, it shows up in a portion of the rear view mirror. Small but essential for backing up this cocoon on wheels. Now, in the engine bay is where you'll learn that the Nismo Z is truly a driver's car. How do we know that? Because they don't kill you with a ton of extra power on this model. In fact, they're barely upping it all. This 3.7-liter V6 is very similar to the one in the standard Z. It picks up a few horsepower, 18 more to get to 350. Also note, this V6 does not have direct injection, which is taking over the industry these days. And it's kinda old school in that respect. Foot pounds of torque, a 276. That's a mere 6 more than on a base Z. This car is much more about a little free-er breathing engine and great handling. How finesse the new ones is that. 0-60 for this 3,300-pound vehicle is about 5 seconds flat. Maybe a little quicker than that in the right hand. Rear wheel drive only, there's no all-wheel drive variant. The limited slip differential in the rear is the old school viscous couple, not electronically controlled. MPG on this car is 18 city, 26 highway. Not bad, actually, given the fact that this car has a role that is anything but sipping fuel. In fact, let's go find out what it really is. Everything in this car is raw, and direct, and hard. The suspension is a wonder of audacity, that they actually think people are gonna drive this thing on an everyday basis. This is the worst riding car I have ever reviewed for CNET, over 1,200 cars. And this one is actually unlivable as your daily driver. So, make sure you have this as your second or third car. It is so punishing. I wish you could see-- with this wide-angle lens, you can't see the amount of rattling that this car punishes you with. But it's amazing. And of course, that's because it's a rigid, stiffly sprung, very flattening track suspension without any adaptive tricks. It's done the old-fashioned way with high spring rates and a lot of beef underneath. The next thing you feel is this very meaty, mechanical tough feeling gear shift. It's a very hard gate. You gotta push it through the different slots. But it's not hard to find them. You know, what's interesting about this car is it's not overwhelmingly powerful. It's linearly powerful, which I love. Really evenly powerful. Let's put it through a couple of tight turns here under power. It just rotates beautifully. That's that front mid-engine stuff. They are not kidding. The engine's far enough back on this rear-wheel set up that it just pivots right around the middle. That's a great driver car. It just gets around a corner right there, snap that rear end right where you need it. It's just a fun little car to drive. For that S mode, it works spot-on. That just revs for a downshift as soon as you notch in to the lower gear. I don't think I could ever do it faster. But I still feel guilty about using it. Not the most comfortable. Again, the ride is beastly, the cabin's kinda tight. The sight lines are a disaster. I just keep looking forward. It's a hook, I'll give you that. Point-and-shoot, baby, point-and-shoot. Let's price our Nismo Z. It starts off at about $43,800. Now, to get it CNET style, you gotta do a couple of things. Add $1,350 for the Bose Audio package, which is more than the extra Bose speakers and apps, it also gets you six CD, satellite radio, and that's how you get Bluetooth hands-free. So, it's a definite must and a pretty good value. $790 gets you the rear view camera-- which although it's tiny in that mirror and very high dollars for a square inch, is a must on a car with non-existent rear sight lines like this. All in, about $46,000. I like this car a lot. It's got a raw, unique, in-your-faceness that doesn't make any apologies. And it's much greedier than an MS or AMG car from Germany. On the other hand, because it's so raw and undistilled, if it's your daily driver, you're gonna feel it.