Finally. At last. Better late than never.
That's how I would describe the launch of the Nissan 370Z in the Philippines.
Fans of Nissan will know that this isn't a new car, as the 370Z generation is the sixth overall, and its been around since 2008... but not here. Previous Nissan distributors have displayed a 370Z at previous events, but they never did get to launch it for sale.
This year, that changes. The 370Z is now available from official Nissan dealerships and not just from the gray market. Unless I'm mistaken, the almost 12-year wait relative to the 370Z's world premiere is the longest ever for a brand to launch a model in the Philippines.
There are two important questions that need answering with the 370Z's arrival. The first one is simple: was the wait worth it?
To answer that question, Nissan handed us the key to not just any 370Z, but the 370Z NISMO. Will this white car with all the cool NISMO bits and pieces be enough to convince us?
The quick history lesson tells us that the Z is perhaps the proudest model of Nissan, possibly even more so than the GT-R. That argument is very much understandable: while the GT-R is a technological dream that uses electronic wizardry and all-wheel drive for supercar-conquering performance, the Z has and always will be a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Simpler. Purer.
Walking up to it again after a while, the shape is still nice to look at with that wide front, the long snout, a cabin pushed rearward, and the fastback silhouette. It really looks good, and even more so for this NISMO model.
Fans know that NISMO stands for NISsan MOtorsport, the brand's performance, and racing division. It certainly looks the part as this one has a different front aero bumper, larger forged alloy wheels from Ray's, nicer side skirts, a cool rear ducktail spoiler that kicks up neatly, and a lot of other neat little touches here and there. Really though, what I truly liked about the look was how the white was accented perfectly by the red, gray, and black accents
Some would think that being a NISMO means that this just has a nice body kit but this is a true NISMO model, and the enhancements are far more thorough, especially inside. There's a profound black with red accent theme inside that I absolutely love. I like the red tach that stares me in the face; it makes you want to step on the throttle and let it rev all the way to the 7500 rpm redline. There's also a triple gauge pod arrangement on top of the dash (which is also on the non-NISMO Z models), but it's not really a triple gauge unit: you have oil temperature, a voltmeter, and a clock.
The steering wheel is a clear indicator of the bonafide NISMO credentials with the centerline indicator and Alcantara on the flanks; it actually makes me wish I brought my FIA-approved gloves. But what I absolutely love are the NISMO-badged Recaro seats. They just look so... proper. And expensive. There's no electronic adjustment; you recline or adjust the height via knobs, not switches. You have to love a car that makes no apologies for being the way it is.
The Z is a liftback, and when you open the boot you realize that there is a decent amount of space there. Some competitor models have completely sacrificed boot space, but the Z's cargo space isn't bad at all, and you can go shopping with it. The one thing that surprised me though was the lack of a floorboard for the cargo area; instead, you put stuff on top of a Bose subwoofer that fits rather neatly into the upside-down spare tire.
Pop the hood and the first thing that catches your eye isn't the massive V6 that occupies the engine bay, but the prominent NISMO strut bar that stiffens the vehicle by bridging the shock towers and the firewall. The engine itself is a 3.7-liter V6, as befitting the 370Z. Nissan buffs will know that international-market Nissan Z cars tend to match the first three numbers to engine displacement fairly consistently: 240Z had a 2.4L, the 280Z has a 2.8L, the 300ZX has a 3.0L, and the 350Z has a 3.5L.
The engine of the 370Z normally makes 337 PS, but in the NISMO that has been elevated a little bit to 349 PS (the brochure says 344 PS, but we think there may have been some confusion in the conversion) thanks to some enhancements to the engine control unit as well as a more free-flowing exhaust system. And yes, the exhaust note sounds very nice, albeit still a tad muted for my taste. However, there is one factor that kind of confused us: despite being a NISMO variant, this 370Z variant is only available in the Philippines with the 7-speed automatic. Oh well.
The exterior and interior look very good for a performance car, but it's really when you start driving that you realize this isn't just a cosmetic upgrade.
The suspension isn't a standard one; NISMO upgraded it with sportier dampers and springs (read: stiffer), and you'll really feel the difference on bumpy urban concrete roads. You'll also want to avoid places like EDSA or other roads notorious for potholes. But here's the unusual bit though: I'm not quite sure if the ride was actually lowered, as the Z NISMO can still negotiate most village speed bumps (humps) without scraping and without having to make exaggerated maneuvers.
The second major change for the Z NISMO is the steering system. This isn't an electronic power steering unit that feels numb. This is a proper hydraulic system, but one that has been tuned for a more engaging drive. There is significantly more resistance and weight when you're trying to turn, and it can feel a bit cumbersome in the city if you're used to one-handed driving. This NISMO wants you to use both hands at all times. As such, you won't like it if you have to make a three-point U-turn.
This a driver's car, and you feel it. The suspension is stiffer, the steering is firmer, the exhaust is louder, and the seats aren't going to be comfortable if you spend long hours in rush hour traffic. It sacrifices comfort for performance, that much is clear. And as for fuel economy, don't be surprised if you're getting about 6.1 km/l in the city (23 km/h average) and about 10.8 km/l on the expressway (89 km/h average). At least the A/C is ridiculously cold (in typical Nissan fashion) and the automatic makes dealing with traffic better... but we didn't take this out for a normal everyday drive in urban conditions.
After fueling up, I decided to take the Zed NISMO up to roads where I can better enjoy what it's like. I've had to pleasure of driving the Z on many occasions before on the race circuit, but there's something about a public road drive that makes a huge difference. And this time, it was raining.
The 3.7L VQ engine likes to rev quickly and sing at high RPMs, and I obliged it on several occasions. 0 to 100 km/h can be done in 5.3 seconds for the automatic variant. The body of the Z squats only a little bit on full acceleration, as the chassis upgrades and enhancements really do their respective jobs well.
If there's one thing I love about this Z variant, it's the braking. Those massive brakes scrub off speed very well, though you should warm them up to get the optimum braking performance out of them. They'll also quite resistant to brake fade given the large surface area and the fact that Nissan upgraded the brake lines.
In the corners, it just feels so confident; perhaps much more so than the wet surface would have me think. The steering that can be cumbersome in urban driving is a godsend in the mountains, and it just won't stop talking, telling your fingertips exactly what the front tires are doing. The LSD makes it a bit of fun too if you opt to turn off the traction control but do so at your own risk.
There are, however, several things I need to point out about the 370Z NISMO that I was driving. The first one is something they can address: that there was an issue with the dealer-option audio system. The installation doesn't seem to have gone as planned, and there are some issues with the wiring that deactivated the audio controls on the steering wheel, the Bluetooth microphone, and affected the speakers on the right.
The second is the automatic gearbox. Yes, it does work well and it isn't bad by any means, but with a car that feels as direct as the NISMO, this should really be a manual. Any driver that takes pride in their manual driving skills will enjoy a three-pedal system with six gears. That version would also come with a rev-matching system that simulates heel and toe downshifting and braking. Not that I would use that feature though; I'd prefer to heel and toe myself.
The other bit is perhaps the biggest one: the 370Z is showing its age. Even though it looks good, it's hard to get over the fact that the Z is a pretty dated design by now. The interior is perhaps the most telling; while I like the NISMO upgrades inside, it just feels a generation (or even two) behind some of its contemporaries, chief of which would be the Toyota GR Supra.
That also brings us to the second question that needs answering: how does the 370Z NISMO stack up against the GR Supra?
I've had the pleasure of driving both pretty extensively, and on this same mountain road. Both the 370Z NISMO and GR Supra are fantastic and truly enjoyable in the right conditions. But the approach is different. The PhP 5 million (more or less) Supra already benefits from a lot of advancements in design, engineering, engine performance, turbocharging, connectivity, and everything else in between. The 370Z NISMO which costs PhP 3.888 million, by comparison, is old school. And that isn't a bad thing.
There is no special switch that adjusts an electronic power steering unit. There is no setting that alters the manners of the suspension. There's no mode that turns everything red. The only setting you get is NISMO. That's it.
This car is not for everyone... and you have to love it for being that way.