When the Toyota GR Supra was launched, everyone chided it for not offering a manual gearbox. As good as the ZF 8HP automatic is, being told two-pedal or kick rocks in regards to a sports car stung. Several years later, vindication came in the form of a three-pedal car that’s everything we wanted it to be. We all saw it coming, but we didn’t see Nissan making a similar mistake. The 2024 Nissan Nismo Z is automatic-only and for the first time, Nissan has released a hardcore Nismo variant of its Z-car that I don’t want.
We won’t go into huge depth on the Nismo Z’s appearance as I’ve previously covered it, but the car does get revised fascias over the standard car. The updated front bumper draws inspiration from the G-nose Zs of the 1970s, and I reckon it works. Just watch, it’ll be a hot commodity in the aftermarket soon enough. As for the rest of the visual package, it’s typical Nismo, which means red stripes and skirts. If you like this sort of thing, chances are this car’s right up your alley.
As far as rolling stock goes, the Nismo Z starts with 19-inch forged RAYS wheels up half an inch in width over the Z Performance’s rollers at each corner. For tires, Nissan chose Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600s, an aggressive summer tire trusted by the brand. Are there better and cheaper tires out there? Sure, but consider this a DNA link to the GT-R. Sitting beneath this wheel-and-tire combination are the same calipers as the Z Performance, but with one-inch-larger front discs and a pad compound more suited to performance driving.
It wouldn’t be a Nismo car without comprehensively reworked suspension, so the Nismo Z gets stiffer springs, new dampers, new anti-roll bars, and a whole load of new bushings over its more common brethren. While revised suspension bushings sound swell, I’m more interested in the stiffer bushings used in the steering rack mounts. The possibility for a little bit more steering feel sounds nice. Oh, and closely related to suspension is extra front and rear chassis bracing claimed to increase torsional rigidity by 25 percent. Considering the age of Nissan’s FM platform, that bracing sounds much appreciated.
Power is up, but only slightly. An extra 20 horsepower and 34 lb.-ft. of torque aren’t massive gains, but they are appreciated. More important is the improved cooling package, with a new oil cooler to keep temperatures happy during spirited driving. However, just downstream of the engine is something that kills the mood altogether.
Confirming prior rumors, the only transmission option on the Nismo Z is a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Granted, it’s not quite the same nine-speed automatic gearbox as in the standard car — it features upgraded clutches and can shift nearly 50 percent quicker than the standard ‘box — but it’s still a two-pedal job with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and the option to trundle along in the right lane just off idle at 65 mph.
Now, that might make me sound like an insufferable manual-or-die twat but trust me, I’m not. I couldn’t imagine how much worse some of today’s techiest supercars like the McLaren 750S would be with h-pattern ‘boxes, nor do I think that every family crossover should come with a slick-shifting six-speed with a defined clutch bite point. That would just be idiotic. However, some performance cars need manual gearboxes to feel their best. Hot hatchbacks, pony cars, compact sports sedans, and reasonably attainable sports coupes all fall into this basket.
Since driving idiotically fast rarely happens during the lives of these cars, they better give us involvement. The trouble is, involvement is harder to find than ever before. The motors used for electric power steering are huge mass dampers compared to hydraulic fluid, increased focus on small-overlap protection has added weight, general consumers driving more mainstream cars on the same platforms as many enthusiast vehicles want ever greater noise isolation, ever smoother rides, and ever more ways to forget that roads aren’t perfectly flat and smooth. All of that can cut down on engagement, and a manual gearbox is a relatively common-sense way to add it back.
Plus, if you really love driving so flip-flapping much, you’d know the satisfaction that comes with a perfectly-matched heel-toe downshift. Like the first time the training wheels came off your bicycle, the first song you learned to play, the first step in your career, and the first time you truly knew you loved someone, skilled operation of a manual gearbox requires effort, reflection, and learning. It’s humanness spent on a mechanical thing, moments of reality in an era of doomscrolling and 24/7 availability. Who wouldn’t want to feel something that feels real?
I’ve been lucky enough to have some seat time in the new Nissan Z and found it promising but rather soft. The one thing it didn’t need? More power. In an era when manufacturers like Ford, Toyota, Honda, BMW, and even Hyundai are going all-out on blowout last-of-the-manuals high-performance models, it feels wrong to see Nissan sitting on the sidelines. So instead, here’s how I’d build a manual Nismo Z — sort-of.
I’d start with the 6MT Performance trim as it gets the wicked fixed calipers and clutch-type limited-slip rear differential we all want. From there, we’ll add a set of Super 200-treadwear tires (RE-71RS sound fun), rear subframe collars, and Nismo’s own coilovers, adjustable camber and toe arms with sealed spherical bushings, anti-roll bars, and pads. From there, we stiffen the body with a triangulated strut tower brace, add a large aftermarket oil cooler, and keep the powertrain otherwise stock. Sure, the end result will likely be harsher than the showroom-stock Nismo model, but all these parts should add up to the harder manual Z we all really wanted. The 2024 Nissan Nismo Z should satisfy those who just want the largest possibly payment on a Z. For everyone else, there’s the possibility of building your own interpretation of what a Nismo Z should be. Alternatively, there’s a chance the ECU for the Nismo Z is unlocked, at which point it’s pretty much just a gearbox, shifter, pedal box, console, driveshaft, hydraulic system, and tune away from being manual. Wouldn’t that be nice?
(Photo credits: Nissan)
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