2024 Nissan Z Nismo: A track-focused revival of iconic performance

Nissan Z Nismo (carbuzz.com)

Exploring the Nismo upgrade for the Nissan Z at Sonoma Raceway

When the Nissan Z made its highly anticipated return to the market last year, it left some enthusiasts feeling slightly underwhelmed, with concerns that it leaned too much towards comfort and road-focused driving. However, the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo aims to address these criticisms head-on by offering increased power, a stiffer suspension, and a more track-focused mission. Nissan’s Nismo division, renowned for developing high-performance vehicles, has taken the Z to the next level. CarBuzz had the opportunity to test the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo at Sonoma Raceway in California, evaluating its performance against both the base Z and other sports cars in its mid-$60,000 price range.

Exterior: Aesthetic Enhancements
The 2024 Nissan Z Nismo brings a fresh approach to the Z’s exterior, paying homage to the iconic 240Z and 300ZX models. One notable improvement is the unique front end design, which dispels the criticism of the base Z’s square grille. Through a combination of a black Nismo-badged upper portion and a chiseled lower grille, the Nismo achieves a more refined appearance. Additional exterior enhancements include a red accent line on the front diffuser, side skirts, and rear diffuser, along with an aggressive ducktail spoiler and forged 19-inch RAYS wheels. These changes elevate the Z’s already striking design.

Interior: Modern Meets Classic
Stepping inside the 2024 Z, it becomes evident that the platform shares similarities with its predecessor, the 370Z. However, Nissan has invested in modernizing the cabin, featuring a nine-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. The cabin includes physical buttons and knobs for ease of use. The customizable 12.3-inch gauge cluster offers different display modes, with Sport Mode prominently showcasing the tachometer in red for track-oriented driving. While the Nismo variant retains most of the standard Z’s cabin features, it adds Recaro seats for enhanced sportiness. These seats, while not luxurious, offer comfort for extended driving, although they sacrifice power adjustment and heating functions found in other Z trim levels.

Performance: Amplified Power
The 2024 Nissan Z Nismo elevates performance by enhancing the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, now delivering 420 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque—marking a 20 hp and 34 lb-ft increase over the base Z. This boost in power results from improved cooling and electronic wastegate control to increase turbo speed and boost pressure. While exact 0-60 times have not been confirmed by Nissan, independent tests suggest a sub-four-second acceleration.

For maximum performance, the Z Nismo exclusively offers a nine-speed automatic transmission, though Nissan has expressed openness to introducing a manual option if there is demand. The automatic transmission benefits from revised clutch packs and engine management software, delivering 25% faster upshifts and 50% quicker downshifts. A Nismo-specific Sport+ Mode further enhances transmission responsiveness and gear holding. The exhaust system also contributes to the enhanced driving experience with a throatier sound and more pronounced cracks and pops on the overrun.

Driving Impressions: Sharper and More Confident
While the base Z aims to provide a comfortable and versatile sports car for daily driving, the Nismo version takes a more focused approach towards track performance. The stiffer suspension, although compromising ride comfort slightly, improves cornering stability and responsiveness. The steering is well-balanced and offers precise feedback. The Nismo’s reprogrammed nine-speed automatic transmission delivers quick and responsive shifts, especially in Sport+ Mode. On the road, the Nismo feels like what many expected the base Z to be—a more focused and engaging sports car.

Track Impressions: A Transformation
Comparing the Nismo to the standard Z on the track at Sonoma Raceway underscored the significant difference in performance. The Nismo’s stiffer suspension and stickier Dunlop SP SPORT MAXX GT600 tires provide improved grip and stability, enabling higher cornering speeds and earlier throttle application. On the straightaways, the Nismo achieved significantly higher speeds than the base Z, cementing its track-focused identity. The transformation of the Nismo on the track is remarkable, making it feel like an entirely different breed of sports car.

Pricing & Verdict: Competitive but Emotional
The 2024 Nissan Z Nismo comes with a starting price of $64,990. While this places it in the same price range as competitors like the BMW M2, Ford Mustang Dark Horse, and Toyota Supra, all of which offer manual transmissions as options, Nissan anticipates limited production for the Nismo. Ultimately, the choice between the Nismo and its rivals will depend on individual emotions and brand loyalty. For devoted Z enthusiasts seeking peak Nissan-style performance, the Nismo delivers a significant upgrade over the base Z. However, those without a strong allegiance to the brand may explore other options in this competitive segment.