Now, this is a model worthy of the attention of Nissan’s Motorsports division. The 370Z might not be the most celebrated sports car in the Japanese carmaker’s repertoire – that would be the GT-R – but it does carry the brand’s proud five-decade Z lineage, a fact that it not-so-subtly reminds us of with single-letter badging both exterior and interior.
It is an unapologetically analogue experience in a world where the feel and play of driving a car seems to be increasingly replaced by a sensation of climbing into a 3D video game, which is, in many ways, both the 370Z Nismo’s greatest triumph and greatest weakness.
Primarily, the two-door, two-seater is wonderfully rewarding when you give it a bit of right-foot encouragement, with its 3.7-litre V6 building to an immensely satisfying high-pitched hum that approaches a bite-size version of Formula One cars of yore that drew on twice the cylinders. The seven-speed automatic transmission is as keen as you will be to move up through the gears, so much so that using the paddle shifters is only a borderline improvement in upshifting keenness.
The steering isn’t fingertouch light; the pedals give you a distinctly direct connection to the mechanics of the car; there is a proper handbrake in the proper place. You don’t even get a reversing camera, which will force the pampered among us to remember that you can’t always rely on technology to blindly guide you – even if you might not personally be repeating that mantra when backing into a tight parking space. The 350hp (22hp up on the “regular” model) always feels like plenty, while at the other end of the movement scale, the 14-inch Nismo brakes are bigger than those to have graced any 370Z.
The toybox external looks are probably not to everybody’s tastes, and the general styling is probably overdue for a refresh, given the car has been with us for almost a decade now (and five without a full update). That said, the trademark Nismo embellishments – chiefly sporty, angry red highlights on the 370Z’s extremities – do help to make this souped-up incarnation a likeable sight, to my eyes at least.
The idiosyncratic metallic door handles also add character. The whole effect is slightly spoilt at the rear of my test car, though, by a big badge celebrating 50 years of A W Rostamani, the parent company of Nissan dealer Arabian Automobiles.
The interior is somewhat more flawed. The black-and-red Nismo racing seats are undeniably classy additions, while the trio of circular displays in the middle of the dash and the odd pull-down cubbyhole below them are a splendid antidote to carmaking homogeneity. Yet there is an overabundance of hard plastics throughout the cabin. And the less said about the painfully outdated stereo display, the better. Forget a DeLorean if you want to time travel – the moment I sat down and reached for the volume knob, I thought I had been transported back 10 years. In an era when even budget new cars often come equipped with slick, tablet-style screens, that is tough to defend. Having also recently driven the latest Altima and Patrol, which both suffered from similar Back to the Future fun, Nissan might want to think about a few range updates – for a company from Japan, you would certainly expect more tech innovations.
In essence, though, the 370Z Nismo is about driving. Admittedly, it is nowhere near on a par with the legendary fire-breathing monster that is the GT-R – and, in all honestly, Nissan has never pretended otherwise. But if that is Gojira, to use the Japanese iteration of its nickname, this is a mini-Godzilla set to gobble up tarmac on a far smaller budget.