2024 Nissan Z Nismo Review and Test Drive
Nissan builds a Z for both the road and the track.
In 1970, Nissan redefined the idea of a sports car for U.S. shoppers by introducing the approachable and attractive Datsun 240Z. More than 50 years later, the automaker continues to build this iconic sports car, introducing the seventh-generation Nissan Z in 2022. The latest Z carries on with sleek styling, a powerful engine, rear-wheel drive, and an available manual gearbox — all the attributes of a proper sports car.
Although the current Z delivers more power and better performance than previous versions, the car reaches new levels of excellence with the introduction of the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo. Nismo stands for Nissan Motorsports, and the Nissan models with the ultimate in performance have featured the Nismo name since 1984. These days, Nissan offers the Z Nismo and the GT-R Nismo, which is the most powerful vehicle in the brand's lineup.
The Nissan Z Nismo gets a horsepower boost, plus suspension, steering, brake-system, and chassis enhancements that help it attain even faster lap times on the track. After several laps around California's Sonoma Raceway in the new Z Nismo, I have to say that Nissan made some impressive improvements to a car that was already plenty capable. At the same time, the Z remains quite entertaining to drive on a twisty back road.
The 2024 Nissan Z comes in Sport, Performance, and Nismo trim levels, and base prices range from the low $40,000s to the mid-$60,000s, including the destination charge to ship the car from the Nissan Motor Tochigi factory in Kaminokawa, Japan, to your local dealership. For this Nissan Z review, I evaluated the Nismo equipped with premium two-tone Passion TriCoat/Super Black paint, illuminated sill plates, and floor mats. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for my test car totaled $68,680, including the $1,095 destination charge.
To properly evaluate the 2024 Z Nismo on the road and the track, Nissan invited me to Sonoma, California, to drive the new sports car. The automaker paid for my airfare, lodging, and meals during the evaluation.
2024 Nissan Z Nismo Review: The Design
When Nissan redesigned the Z last year, the company looked to the past, incorporating design cues from this sports car's rich history. The LED headlights feature a unique half-circle design that mimics the look of the original Japan-market 240ZG, while the 300ZX from the 1990s influences the taillights. Although the Sport and Performance models carry over the same look for the 2024 model year, the Nismo introduces changes that improve airflow and downforce, in addition to visually setting the model apart from the other trim levels.
When viewing the Z Performance and Z Nismo side by side, the most apparent difference is in front. The Nismo's nose extends farther forward over a more stylish, slightly reshaped grille. That grille is wider on the Nismo, and uses a thin honeycomb mesh to improve airflow into the engine. A black bar directly below the nose spans the grille and features the Nismo logo. The Z Nismo stands out further with a unique three-part rear spoiler, revised rear fascia, special 19-inch RAYS alloy wheels, and a red accent trim that runs along the lower edge of the entire vehicle.
The Nissan Z is, first and foremost, a sports car, so there isn't much in the way of luxury materials inside. Hard plastic trim is used throughout the cabin, although it doesn't feel cheap. Higher trims add leather to the lower dashboard. The three dedicated gauges integrated into the top of the dashboard add a sporty touch to the Z.
An 8.0-inch touchscreen display is standard on the base-level Sport, with a 9.0-inch on the higher trim levels. Unlike many competitors, Nissan has not moved entirely away from buttons and knobs, so the climate controls are straightforward, with three simple dials. In addition, there are physical shortcut buttons below the display screen and dedicated volume and tuning knobs.
It may only seat two people, but the Z's cabin feels spacious, with good headroom and large doors for easy entry and exit. You'll find a reasonable amount of storage in the center bin under the armrest, and there are additional cubbies behind the seats, although these are difficult to access while on the road. Dual USB ports and space for a mobile device are ahead of the gear selector.
Nissan offers power-adjustable heated seats in the Z Performance, trimmed in leather. The new Z Nismo gets full-on performance seats by Recaro, featuring leather and Alcantara artificial suede trim with attractive red stitching. The Recaro seats are the only choice on the Z Nismo and provide excellent support, with firm bolstering designed to keep occupants from moving around during enthusiastic drives on a track. All adjustments are manual, and the seats are not heated. While I wouldn't call them uncomfortable, they are rather stiff.
The Nissan Z has much to offer, but utility is not this sporty car's forte. The relatively shallow trunk provides just 6.9 cubic-feet of cargo space, and the wheel wells intrude on the area, further limiting its usefulness. It is still possible to fit a few small bags, though, and there's a cargo-net option designed to keep items from flying into the cabin upon hard braking.
2024 Nissan Z Nismo Review: The Technology
As the top-level trim of the Nissan Z lineup, the Nismo features the 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Navigation; Bluetooth streaming; and Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto connectivity come standard with the larger display. Nissan also offers SiriusXM Travel Link, which can provide sports scores, fuel prices, and traffic information.
The infotainment system's menus are straightforward, offering shortcuts to audio, navigation, and communication options at the bottom of the screen. Physical buttons directly below the screen provide a redundant interface, and these are handy when using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay because the onscreen menu isn't visible when those smartphone integration platforms are operating.
Apple CarPlay connects wirelessly, but Android Auto does not. I connected my Samsung Galaxy S23+ to a USB port and the Android Auto setup menu came up immediately. Getting into the car later and plugging in my phone loaded Android Auto each time without issue. Android Auto takes up the entire screen, but the physical Menu button quickly returns to Nissan's native system.
While Nissan's voice-recognition system is not quite as sophisticated as the natural-language systems in some modern vehicles, the tech works well for basic functions. You activate it using a button on the steering wheel, and the voice system works in conjunction with a menu system on the display screen. For example, say "Navigation," and you'll open a menu of possible additional voice prompts in the navigation system. The system is also helpful for making hands-free phone calls or selecting a radio station, but these require you to speak the specific commands on the screen.
Every Nissan Z comes standard with most of the expected advanced driving-assistance systems. However, though the car does have adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and lane-centering assist are unavailable on the Z.
The Z's lane-departure warning system provides an audible alert when crossing over lane markers, and the adaptive cruise control is easy to activate and maintains a safe following distance to the vehicle ahead. When I changed lanes to go around slower cars, it promptly and smoothly accelerated up to the preset speed. In addition, while driving on the track and closing rapidly on the vehicle ahead, I discovered that the Z's forward-collision warning system also works quite well.
The seventh-generation Nissan Z has been on sale for a year, but neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has performed crash-test evaluations.
2024 Nissan Z Nismo Review: The Drive
To distinguish the Z Nismo from more affordable versions of the sports car, Nissan made some improvements to the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which now produces 420 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Those figures represent a bump of 20 horses and 34 lb-ft of torque compared with the Z Sport and Performance trims.
Unfortunately, the Z Nismo comes standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission. While a manual gearbox is available for the other trim levels, Nissan has no plans to offer it in the Nismo. The automaker says the automatic transmission is quicker overall than the manual, and since the company's goal was to make the Nismo the fastest Z on the track, it comes only with the automatic.
Nissan allowed me to push the limits of the Z Nismo in the controlled environment of Sonoma Raceway. I also drove the Z Performance on the same course to establish a baseline of comparison.
Both versions of the Z are speedy off the line. Nissan doesn't provide official acceleration times, but based on my experience, I'd say the Z accomplishes this task in about 4.5 seconds, with the Nismo slightly quicker.
For ultimate acceleration (and a thrilling ride), I tested the Z Nismo's launch control at the Sonoma Raceway drag strip. The setup is simple: left foot on the brake, pull both shift paddles back, throttle to the floor, and release the brakes. The result is a quick squeal of the tires as they find grip, then a surprisingly controlled but still exhilarating launch. I was well past 110 mph when I reached the braking zone at the end of the drag strip.
The Z Nismo is about more than straight-line acceleration, though. The steering provides excellent feedback and is satisfyingly precise, quickly changing the Z's trajectory in response to a driver's input. The stickier tires, added aerodynamic downforce, and stiffer chassis translate to the ability to push the Z hard into corners with stable and predictable results. I urged the Nismo Z to go faster every lap, and it never felt loose or out of control.
Braking is strong and linear, giving drivers the confidence to brake later and harder before diving into a turn, and even after several laps, I detected no brake fade.
There is no question that the Nismo is faster on the track than the rest of the Z lineup. With the ability to brake later for turns, accelerate quicker with more power, and stick better to the pavement, I could fly through sections of the track at speeds 10 to 12 mph faster in the Nismo than I could in the Z Performance. That may not sound like much, but the difference is significant on a racetrack.
While the Nismo's role in the Nissan Z lineup is to be the fastest on the track, only some buyers will have the opportunity to take it off to the races. I'm happy to report, therefore, that this version of the car is equally fun to drive on public roads. With a pleasing exhaust note and plenty of power on tap, the Z Nismo is an excellent choice for an enjoyable jaunt up a twisty mountain road or a cruise through the country.
As entertaining as the Nismo is, there are drawbacks to getting this more powerful Z variant. With its stiffer suspension, more rigid chassis, and tight Recaro sport seats, the Nismo's ride gets rough, especially when the pavement is anything but perfectly smooth. In addition, when cruising on the highway, the road noise is on the loud side.
The Nissan Z is not a vehicle to purchase with fuel savings on your mind. However, it does deliver better efficiency than other sports cars I've driven. According to the EPA, the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo gets 19 mpg, compared with 22 mpg for other Z models with an automatic transmission. That rating aligns with my real-world experience. After about 70 miles on the streets in and around Napa, California, the trip computer in my Z Nismo showed 18.5 mpg.
Is the 2024 Nissan Z Nismo a Good Sports Car?
There aren't many affordable new two-seat sports cars available to buy in the U.S. (affordable being a relative term), but the 2024 Nissan Z is a great option for the driving enthusiast. With excellent performance on the road or track with any trim level and attention-grabbing styling to match, the current Z properly carries on the tradition born from 50 years of sports cars, deserving to wear that last letter of the alphabet. No matter the trim level, the Nissan Z delivers the enjoyment expected of a proper sports car.
The Z Nismo's styling updates give the car a sportier look, and it is more appealing than the standard Z. However, the Z Performance might be better unless you plan to go to the track regularly. The Z Performance lacks the Nismo's cool look, but the ride is more compliant, the seats are more comfortable, and it's available with a manual gearbox.