As regular readers know, I have a bit of a thing for Nissan’s modern Zed car. The car is just so good, that its’ joy to drive under almost all conditions. Equally happy on windy roads as it is in the snow (with winter boots of course) it is truly a world class all around sports car. When I saw the Nismo model sitting there waiting for me, I just had to give it a go. I mean, what could be better than taking a world class sports car, stiffening the chassis, beefing up the suspension and a bunch of other track tested bits and bites?
The 350Z Nismo wears a Super GT inspired body kit that gets mixed reviews. The more reserved among us (read fuddy duddies) feel the skirts and step ladder wing are a bit over the top, while others seem to thing designers could have gone a bit farther with the wing. Either way, there is no mistaking that this is missile is destined for track usage.
Sitting on the grid at Pocono Raceway, waiting to head out onto the track, the interior feels comfortable, classic 350Z. The seats have a bit more bolstering and there is a special Nismo plaque on the center console with the build number of the limited edition car.
Heading out onto the track, the 306 horsepower Zed car pulls smoothly and with authority, the fat rear tires hook up well and launch the red monster hard. When driven at less than 10 tenths, the Nismo handles flawlessly, following driver inputs without fail and going exactly where it’s pointed. Up onto the fairly short banked section, the beast accelerated hard to 130 miles per hour, a speed only topped on the day by the mighty GT-500.
Back into the infield and cranking things up a bit is where the Nissan’s combination of chassis dynamics and technology come alive. The 350Z is a car with incredible handling on it’s own, but the well designed stability control systems turn it into a true hero car. Untrained driver’s will be able to impress themselves and scare their friends with feats of driving prowess that wouldn’t be feasible without the techie aids. At the hands of someone who is a little more adept, the machine is truly incredible! We’ve all seen those videos of Super GT cars flying over apex’s and cornering at speeds that don’t seem possible. The Nismo 350Z has been tuned with those visions in mind and it doesn’t disappoint. Just as the Cooper S loves to be tossed around the track, so does the Zed, though at much higher speeds.
The 350Z pretty much begs to be driven like a race car and I actually used a few techniques I picked up while listening to my kids’ driver coach. Carry more entry speed than you would think possible, ride over the apex curbing and allow the car to fling itself over to the corner exit. The exit speeds are incredible and the car just flows with it. In the tight, 2nd and 3rd gear infield twisties, this car is an absolute howl. A number of other testers complained that the technology influence was too intrusive, but I only found this on one section. At the end of the first infield section, there is an odd shaped, tight right that leads onto the banking. I couldn’t get this corner right all day long and the 350 didn’t seem to like it too much either. Might be something about full throttle, 2nd gear and changing surfaces. At higher speeds, the system almost seems intuitive and doesn’t intrude too much.
Throughout this whole tossing around of the red beast, I was amazed that there was very little activity behind the wheel. The seats are so supportive, that you could easily flog this car all day long without getting tired.
Another day, I’ll rate all the cars we tested on track day. I’ll give you a hint as to which one might be at the top of the list. It’s red and has a great big wing!