Did Nissan improve the Z with the NISMO edition?

By J.A. Ackley
Sep 25, 2023 | Nissan Z, Nissan Z NISMO | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

Photography Courtesy Nissan

The new Nissan Z didn’t debut to the most glowing reviews–our own track testing uncovered several faults–but the automaker aimed to correct that with the new Z NISMO.

Did Nissan succeed? Nissan offered us some back-to-back laps at Sonoma Raceway with the Performance and NISMO models to find out.

What Were Those Changes?

“Once the speeds increase, that confidence starts to erode,” said J.G. Pasterjak in our on-track review of the Z Performance. “The Nissan Z becomes nervous and just doesn’t feel as fully locked down as a car in this class should be.”

[Why are we so disappointed with the new Nissan Z? | 2023 Nissan Z track test]

Nissan didn’t seem to ignore that complaint with the Z NISMO. Virtually all the changes revolved around making the car more stable, more predictable when pushed hard on the track.

Engineers increased torsional rigidity of the chassis by 2.5% with new front and rear crossbars plus a rear V-shaped reinforcement.

They increased lateral rigidity by 12.2% via stiffer lower link bushings, compression rod bushings, and rack insulators. The electronic power steering assist was recalibrated for improved steering feel.

Nissan increased the damper size and force, upped the rate for the springs and anti-roll bar, and added a rebound spring in the rear.

The brakes get bigger, both the rotors and calipers, and pad material becomes more track-appropriate.

The tires get wider in the rear by 10mm, to a 285/35R19 size, and grippier with the move to the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600. That rubber wraps around 0.5-inch-wider Rays wheels, with 19x10s up front and 19x10.5s in the rear, both of which are not only bigger but also lighter.

Aerodynamics get improved, too, with a front fascia change and a wider, taller rear spoiler. The front and rear aero revisions result in a more balanced aero package, Nissan says, with more downforce front and rear, and less rear drag.

The engine gets power increased by 20 horses and 30 lb.-ft. of torque, up to 420/383 respectively. Nissan added an intercooler sub radiator to increase air intake cooling. They also improved the traction control.

As of now, the Z NISMO comes with only an automatic transmission. (More on that later.) Nissan did add a Sport+ mode with a track-tuned shift program for circuit driving. Revised clutch packs allow for faster shifting. Nissan says it reduced downshift time by almost half when compared to the Z Performance.

But, will these improvements be noticeable on track?

How the NISMO Compares with the Performance Model

During even our initial encounter, the Performance and NISMO models felt night and day different at Sonoma Raceway. Push the Performance model hard, and driver confidence started to erode–something J.G. stated during our initial test.

Then, came our turn with the NISMO.

What a difference.

Everything about it inspires confidence.

Point the car into a turn, and it does what you expect it to. Get on the brakes hard, and you know how they’re going to react–plus there’s plenty in reserve. The steering feels appropriately firm no matter the speed. Similarly, mid-corner grip feels predictable.

Getting off the corner, the chassis continues to grip as power is applied, and the nine-speed automatic transmission quickly and intuitively makes its way through the gears, both up and down.

(By the way, for the manual purists, Nissan is not opposed to offering a manual at some point. If you want one, Nissan said they want to hear from you.)

Nissan is targeting this car against the BMW M2 and Toyota GR Supra. All three cars offer different driving experiences, but all three fit the mold of a track car that you could drive daily.

On the road, the Z NISMO felt comfortable and its ride didn’t seem harsh despite its on-track prowess. The Recaro seats feel comfortable, even for a bigger driver, yet provide more than ample support. For a bigger driver, such as my six-foot-four frame, the Z NISMO is a tight fit. (Its blind spots seem larger, too, due to its C pillar design.)

The M2 offers much more interior space, and the Supra actually had more headroom.

How will the Z NISMO perform at the FIRM, our official test track? Based on our few laps at Sonoma, we feel that the updated Z should rank closer to the M2 and Supra than the Performance model. But how much closer? Nissan execs said it should give them a run for the money.

One challenge for the Z, in any trim, seems to be production. In its first full year of production, Nissan sold only 1229 units. Nissan said those numbers do not reflect the demand but instead the ability to produce cars. The Z car shares the production line with, of all things, the Nissan Ariya. The company hopes to ramp up Z production, but also added the car isn’t expected to sell in numbers like the Altima, its best-selling car.

Ultimately, in terms of performance, the Z NISMO is vastly improved over the Performance trim. However, one glaring question remains: At a suggested retail price of $64,990, will consumers pay more for a Z NISMO than an M2 ($63,200) or Supra ($54,500)?

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/25/23 8:43 a.m.

Well, it certainly looks the part.

I'm excited to see how it performs at the FIRM.

roninsoldier83 GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/25/23 11:41 a.m.

I'm sure it's more focused. I'm also in the manual-all-the-things camp. But ignoring that for a second, it has to be addressed: $65k starting price?!? 

My biggest issue with these sedan-derived "sports cars" is that they're getting dangerously close in price to actual sports cars- namely the Cayman and C8 Corvette. At least the M2 has a back seat, so I suppose it can get a pass... but at this price, I'm going to be looking very hard at a base C8. 

gixxeropa GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/25/23 11:45 a.m.

I'm not married to a manual transmission, a nice paddle shifted auto can be great, but the value proposition is questionable on the nismo. Especially when you add in the limited production likely leading to large dealer markups

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
9/25/23 11:53 a.m.

I kind of don't care if this car can compete on equal footing with the Supra and M2, I just need it to be better than the base model Z. Thankfully that's a low hurdle to clear, but this nameplate really deserves better treatment than it got with the non-NISMO version. Here's hoping this is truly the upgrade it looks like it is.

SoonToBeDatsun240ZGuy MegaDork
9/25/23 1:09 p.m.

Now that I'm back on the Nissan bandwagon, what does the comment in slant below mean?

Are they short key components? Chips? Engine blocks? Transmissions? Rear axle carriers?  Labor issues - finding enough qualified employees?  Too many customers wanting the Aroyo it shares an assembly line with?  

What prohibits the ability to produce cars?

Just curious.

Nissan sold only 1229 units. Nissan said those numbers do not reflect the demand but instead the ability to produce cars. 

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
9/25/23 1:25 p.m.

In reply to roninsoldier83 :

According to Chevrolet's site, a baseline 2024 C8 is $68K for my area. It's not too much higher, indeed.

I have heard automaker execs say that many cars today within a category perform alike and for around the same price. So, what they're trying to sell is the driving experience. That's where they feel they can differentiate themselves.

For example, let's say the M2, Supra and Z NISMO perform alike, for argument's sake. They package that performance in very different ways.

Nevertheless, the C8 Corvette offers a great value for its package. Our track tests have proven that for the Z51 and Z06 packages.

SupraFiend New Reader
9/25/23 1:27 p.m.

It's just paint issues holding them back. It's a new set of paint robots in that plant and they're having some teething issues. Rushed to production, just like the car. I hope the majority of these revisions make it into the pedestrian 2024 models and bring up the base line. A bit of chassis bracing and better bushings shouldn't require a price bump. Keep the shiny bits for the pricey Nismo, offer a Track pack with the brakes and LSD for like 3 to 5 k and boom, the Z is the car to beat for value, performance and fun. It's already winning in the looks, manual transmission from the get go, and having the right mix of new and old parts to keep dev costs down versus out sourcing your Halo car to the Germans.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
9/25/23 1:28 p.m.

In reply to SoonToBeDatsun240ZGuy :

The Z shares the same production line as the Ariya. I'm under the impression that Ariya gets more time on the line, which limits the capacity to produce more units for the Z.

300zxfreak Reader
9/25/23 2:53 p.m.

As my nom de plume indicates, I'm a Z32 guy, and from all that I read and see, I'll stick with my current upgraded 300TT for now. I just see don't see a really good reason to go to the latest. Also, the info above kind of indicates why I have never seen a new Z on the road, anywhere, ever.

racerfink UberDork
9/25/23 2:57 p.m.

It doesn't help that the VR motor is having Kia/Hyundai levels of failures in Infinti vehicles.  When a lot of those motors are going in customer cars for their other brand, I can see how that would limit what the 400 gets.

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