10 Honest Thoughts After Test Driving the 2024 Nissan Z NISMO

Photography: Sam Du

  • Rounding out the three trim levels of the 2024 Nissan Z, the NISMO will be offered as the top-of-the-line grade.
  • A long list of upgrades includes 20 more horsepower, 34 lb-ft more of torque, quicker shift tuning, Recaro sport seats, RAYS wheels, and several suspension/chassis updates.
  • Nissan invited Pit+Paddock to partake in a test drive of the Z NISMO at Sonoma Raceway alongside several accredited media outlets and automotive influencers.
  • Pit+Paddock’s Sam Du reveals ten honest thoughts from the Z NISMO track drive, which provides optimism to the car’s driving experience and overall package.
  • The 2024 Z NISMO is currently on sale at Nissan dealers with a base MSRP of $66,085.

“Better in almost every way minus a manual”, is how I described the 2024 Nissan Z NISMO at its media reveal event in Los Angeles last summer. From examining its more filled-out spec list to hearing from Nissan USA staff about all the upgrades, the 428hp and 384 lb-ft Z looked and sounded much more enticing to performance car enthusiasts; however, I shared the same criticism with everyone when I found myself wondering, “Why no manual?!” How can Nissan offer a manual Z for its base Sport and mid-level Performance model, but not offer the same six-speed option for its premium NISMO? It was a question that overshadowed all other good things Nissan did for its NISMO, and it was a question I would finally have answered with my next encounter with the Z.  This time however, I wouldn’t just be examining the Z NISMO under studio lights, but actually be taking it for a lapping session around the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course of Sonoma Raceway.


“I can’t hear it.” Obviously, I’m not asking it to sound like it a Dodge Challenger or your neighbor’s obnoxious G35. However, for both my track and street drive, engine noise from the 3.0L V6 is adequate, but its exhaust note is far too timid. Nissan USA tells us the NISMO is a tad louder than the Sport and Performance grades, but I was still underwhelmed. This car has 428hp and wears the iconic NISMO badge… It should sound the part too, right?

“No manual (for the street).”  Remove the Z NISMO from a closed circuit and put it on the streets of California. This is where I wish there was a bit more driver engagement. Doesn’t make the Z NISMO a bad car, but hey, you already offer the Z Sport and Performance with the option… According to Nissan USA, they aren’t saying no to a manual Z NISMO in the future, which reminds me when Toyota launched the manual GR Supra three years later.

“Launch control works but it’s easily forgotten.” Nissan USA made it a point to highlight how the Z NISMO has launch control. Yes, it works and the car’s 0-60mph is 4.1 seconds. It’s also no slow poke, but when I lined up next to the Christmas tree on Sonoma’s quarter-mile drag strip, I was thinking more about how much more fun it would be if there was a clutch pedal…


“Jeebus, it’s quick!” On paper, the addition of 20 more horsepower and 34 lb-ft doesn’t sound like a lot, but this Z NISMO can move! I found myself nearly spinning out on my first lap, then slipping out of other corners afterward, mostly from stomping on the gas pedal too aggressively. The power delivery from the twin-turbo V6 is robust, linear (despite my heavy right foot) and you can feel how well the turbos holds peak power. While my session was short-lived, I never found myself hungry for more horses. Once I got a better feel for the car, it wasn’t long before I was flying around the same Sonoma turns I typically see on TV from NASCAR Cup and GT World Challenge.

“It’s a well-balanced machine.” Any sports car manufacturer can throw a bigger engine and larger turbos into a vehicle, but does it all work together with complementary handling? In the case of the Z NISMO, the answer is, “yes”. After the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600 tires warmed up (which are quite underrated I might add) and my jitters had disappeared, the chassis tuning of the Z NISMO felt well balanced, stable, and held its grip nicely. Putting in a clean lap was extra rewarding and had me smiling ear to ear. The aftermarket kid in me still thinks there’s room for a stiffer dampening and more chassis rigidity, but for a car that’s going to be driven on the street 95% of the time by its owners, the setup feels right.

“I didn’t miss the manual!” That is… on the track. Let’s be honest, today’s sports cars shift faster in automatic mode, which I’ve grown to accept and appreciate with my GR Supra. After switching the Z NISMO into Sport+, it toggles on its most aggressive shift map, which is 25% quicker on upshifts and 50% quicker on downshifts compared to the base model’s nine-speed. It’s good enough for me. For most beginner and intermediate drivers, you’ll be too busy enjoying the car and seeing what areas on the track to go faster, than complaining about how there’s no six-speed.

“The front looks heaps better!” At a quick glance, non-car people might not catch the change in the front bumper. Contray to the standard Z, the NISMO model extends farther out and features a redesigned grille that eliminates the terrible rectangular grille that most people hated (myself included).

“Kudos on the seats, brakes and wheels.” I live and breathe modified cars, so seeing what parts to swap out first is what usually goes through my head whenever I check out a new car. For the Z NISMO, Nissan got it right with the very sexy and supportive Recaro seats, massive 15” front and 13.8” rear brakes – far one of the best features of the car, and the 19” RAYS forged wheels, which look fantastic in all-black.

“There will be buyers.” Let’s just consider that the Z Sport starts at $42,210 while the Z NISMO will set you back $66,085. For a frugal car buyer who is looking for his or her best bang for the buck, they will undoubtedly keep walking. However, for the driving enthusiast who makes good money, doesn’t want to mod their car, doesn’t care if it’s not a manual, and is looking for something fantastic out of the box, the Z NISMO checks all the boxes.

“I’m warming up.” My fondness for the new Nissan Z has slowly improved over time. At its global launch in 2021, I wasn’t a fan of the design, especially its exterior. Then at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon, I began admiring several Z builds from shops like Varis, HKS and Blitz. Now that I’ve fully experienced the NISMO grade on the track and can reflect on all the updates in performance and improvements in design, I’m honestly warming up to the car. I probably won’t be selling my GR Supra to pick up a Z anytime soon, but I’d give the Z NISMO a second, third or fourth date, even though it wasn’t love at first sight.