What Is Nissan's Nismo?

Nissan's performance division is responsible for some of the automaker's most exciting cars.

A blue 2024 Nissan GT-R Nismo in front of a red GT-R race carNissan


Most automakers have dedicated motorsports and performance divisions for their racing efforts and go-fast road cars. Toyota has Gazoo Racing, BMW has M, Hyundai has N, and Nissan has Nismo.

Short for Nissan Motorsports (NISsan MOtorsports), Nismo is Nissan's motorsports division, which also makes high-performance road cars. Nismo has competed alongside other manufacturers in races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, and the Japanese Touring Car Championship.

Today, Nissan competes in Formula E and Super GT racing and offers two road-ready Nismo models in its lineup: the GT-R Nismo and the new Z Nismo.

Classic Nissan race cars on display at a trackNissan

Nissan Created Nismo as an Umbrella for Its Performance Divisions

Nissan Motorsports International was founded in 1984 to bring Nissan's motorsports, tuning, and performance divisions together under one umbrella. Two years later, Nissan won the Japanese Touring Car Championship and then entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time.

The first Nismo-branded roadgoing model was the 1987 Skyline GT-R. Just 823 examples were built, and none came to North America. The first Nismo vehicle to be sold in the U.S. was the Frontier Nismo, which was an off-road/performance version of the midsize pickup equipped with Bilstein dampers, skid plates, and all-terrain tires.

Side view of a blue 2024 Nissan Z Nismo on the race trackNissan

The Nissan Z Now Has Its Third Nismo Model

The first Z Nismo debuted in 2007. For the 2023 model year, Nissan gave its coveted Z sports car a redesign, pairing retro looks with a 400-hp twin-turbo V6 engine and an optional six-speed manual gearbox. To help it better compete with rivals such as the Toyota Supra, Nissan has given the Z, now in its seventh generation, its third Nismo model.

For Nismo duty, Nissan revised the turbos and added a better cooling system, resulting in an additional 20 horsepower and 34 pound-feet of torque. Only a nine-speed automatic transmission is available. The Z Nismo also gets enhanced brakes, suspension tuning, and aerodynamic bodywork, all for around $66,000, including the $1,095 destination charge.

A gray 2024 Nissan GT-R Nismo parked on a desert roadNissan

GT-R Has Been Available in Nismo Spec Since 2015

The Nissan GT-R, now in its sixth generation (R35), has been available with a Nismo badge and track-ready upgrades since 2015. Unlike the Z Nismo, the GT-R Nismo doesn't get any engine upgrades. Instead, Nissan fits a limited-slip differential up front and a large, fixed wing in the rear. Power comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 producing 600 horsepower that's routed to all four wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Stopping power is provided by Brembo brakes.

Pricing starts at $223,000 for the GT-R Nismo, a full $100,000 more than the GT-R's starting price.

A white 2017 Nissan Juke Nismo driving in a parking garageNissan

Other Nismo Models Have Come and Gone

While the first Nismo model to arrive in the U.S. may have been an off-road midsize pickup, Nissan soon debuted the 2007 350Z Nismo, which had an aggressive aero kit along with a Nismo-tuned suspension system.

Other Nismo-badged production cars include the first and only Nismo SUV, the Juke Nismo, which was available from 2013 to 2017 and had additional power and a tuned suspension. Nissan gave the Sentra compact sedan a Nismo model from 2017 to 2019. It had no extra power, but it had an available six-speed manual transmission.

Nismo also offers performance parts for current and older models, including the 200SX and R32-, R33-, and R34-generation Skyline GT-Rs.

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Connor Hoffman
Connor Hoffman is a writer and editor based in Kansas City. Prior to becoming a freelance writer, he was an editor at a national car magazine and worked in communications at a major automaker. He loves off-roading and camping in his 4Runner, golfing (poorly), and shredding on his mountain bike.