Muscular, clad in red and white and capable of performance I wouldn’t have credited it with a couple of months ago. No, not the Japanese rugby side, but another export from the Land of the Rising Sun – the Nissan 370Z Nismo.
Already a fast, sharp-handling coupe, the 370Z has been given a makeover by Nissan’s performance arm, who have re-tuned the suspension, installed a twin sports exhaust system and upped the power output from the 3.7-litre V6 engine to 339bhp from 328bhp.
And it’s not just the engineers that have a flair for the dramatic, the styling team have added a two-tone red and white paint scheme, Recaro bucket seats, an aggressive body kit and 19-inch alloy wheels into the mix as well.
The result costs an extra £10,000 against the standard 370Z, but that gets you something that looks and drives like a genuine sports car rather than a flashy grand tourer.
This is not a car for the everyday. Driving in nose-to-tail traffic is a more unpleasant experience than usual, the rock-solid ride and heavy steering left me bruised and abused by the end of my commute and the handbrake -oddly - is on the wrong side of the centre console.
Drive it as it’s supposed to be driven however – on a long, gently meandering, traffic-free cruise across the country, a sprint up the motorway or, better yet, a few laps of your local race course on track day – and you’re rewarded for glossing over such outdated notions as practicality, comfort and being able to get in and out of it without looking like you’ve had one too many shandies.
Nought to 62 comes in 5.2 seconds and the steering – so weighty seeming around town – feels very direct, and wonderfully old fashioned at speed. The suspension set-up keeps it stiff as a board round the corners, and each gear change is accompanied by a satisfying ‘thunk’ that I hadn’t even known was missing from my life until now.
Peak power hits you at around 5000 revs and the subsequent burst of pace and noise will make you forget all about your sore back as you concentrate on clinging on for dear life. The first thing any onlookers will notice about the driver wobbling out of the right-side door at your destination will be the enormous smile on your face.
At £38,000, the 370Z Nismo is getting awfully close to an entry-spec Porsche Cayman in terms of price, so many buyers with the funds to purchase brand new could be tossing up between the two. The Cayman comes with badge appeal and the cabin is geared more towards comfort.
While there’s little between the two in terms of price, the Nissan comes out on top with the numbers that count, packing 68 extra horses under the bonnet and delivering 60mph 0.3 seconds quicker.
If you are making the choice then, I guess it will just come down to what puts a smile on your face.
Engine: 3.7-litre V6
Transmission: 6-speed Manual
Performance: Top speed: 155 mph, 0-60 in 5 seconds
Power: 339 bhp
Torque: 371 Nm 274 lb-ft
Economy: 26 mpg
Emissions: 248 g/km