They say self-possession comes with age, and it certainly seems to be coming to the Nissan 370Z.
Last year, as a toe-dipping exercise before really establishing its Nismo performance sub-brand, Nissan gave its now five-year-old V6-engined rear-drive coupe an official motorsport makeover.
The result could best be described as a momentary identity crisis. It involved some serious body and chassis stiffening and some crass aftermarket-catalogue body addenda, and frankly gave this simple muscle coupe a bit too much performance attitude for its own good.
Roll on 12 months and, following the wider establishment of the Nismo brand, the opportunity has been taken to shave off some of the misplaced edges. This 370Z Nismo, like all 2015 model-year Zeds, has thicker carpets and better wheelarch insulation, which dampen down the road roar that earlier examples suffered.
It also gets new Recaro bucket seats and a more subtle but no less purposeful-looking bodykit, with unique front and rear bumpers and side sills – plus a much less aggressive rear wing – replacing the apparently do-it-yourself styling mods of before.
Under the skin, the body braces and upgrades to the braking system and powertrain applied to the last Nismo are carried over, but both spring and damper rates have been reduced.
Weighty controls and a flat, short-travel, heavy-feeling ride are the familiar character traits of this car at low speeds. The gearbox retains its punchy feel, and the steering offers some contact patch feel.
Show the Nissan a bumpy, twisting lane, however, and you’ll quickly become aware that this isn’t a true sports car. The wheel control isn’t dexterous enough, and the damping is still too digital. Never are you more aware of the Zed’s weight than when the chassis attempts to pummel the road flat rather than flow over it.
On faster, well-sighted A-roads the Nismo finds its niche. That tremulous V6 conjures real pace where you can let it rev, and the chassis and steering take to smoother, gentler curves more naturally.
Blending in the throttle at higher speeds teases tangible balance out of the handling mix, and letting the engine linger at higher crank speeds – at which point it could shake the screws out of your wristwatch, such is the vibration it sends through the controls – at least makes it feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
Nissan Australia is planning to bring all three cars in the current Nismo line-up – including the 447kW GT-R and less exciting Juke – to Oz, but has been unable say exactly when, citing delays caused by overseas demand.
It’s believed that Nissan Australia wants Japan to sign off on a Nismo-stamped Pulsar, which would provide a higher-volume-based Nismo vehicle, before securing a line-up for local showrooms.
Truth is, though, Oz has been missing out for some time. A Nismo-tuned 370Z has existed in the US since 2009 alongside the standard car, while other parts of the world enjoyed an introduction to the updated version in 2013, when the Nismo Juke essentially heartstarted the performance sub-brand back to life as a road-car outfit.
When this flagship Zed finally does land here, it’s clear that what we’ll get is not an out-and-out sports car, more an effusive, big-hearted, sporting GT. And in recognising that, Nissan has finally allowed the 370Z the freedom simply to do what it does. And it does that as well as any of its forebears.
3 out of 5 stars
Engine: 3696cc V6, DOHC, 24v
Power: 253kW @ 7400rpm
Torque: 371Nm @ 5200rpm