Nissan New Zealand gets busy with Nismo
There's a new version of the Nissan GT-R in New Zealand. But that's not the most exciting thing I have to tell you: in fact, the GT-R is simply the super-fast poster boy for the real announcement - that Nismo is now officially on sale in NZ.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, then (a) hang your head in shame and (b) wait patiently in contrite deference while I explain.
Nismo is an abbreviation of Nissan Motorsport International Limited (so it should probably be "Nismoinli", but that probably sounds too Italian), which is the in-house tuning, motorsport and performance division of Nissan.
Nismo came about in 1984 after Nissan merged its two motorsport divisions, with the idea of focussing on sports car racing, while also providing support for teams competing in the Japanese domestic F3 series.
Since then Nismo has competed successfully in everything ranging from Japanese domestic series (like the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship) right through to the Le Mans 24 Hour race, the FIA GT1 World Championship, as well as being an engine supplier in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series.
In 1988 Nismo built its first car, the Saurus (based on a weird single-seater concept Nissan built for the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show), for a one-make racing series and at the same time also helped develop the revived Skyline GT-R (yes, the mighty R32 Godzilla) and later built 500 "GT-R Nismo" cars required to homologate the GT-R for Group A.
Alongside its motorsport efforts, Nismo also designs and manufactures aftermarket performance parts for Nissans, as well as tuning the living daylights out of Nissans on its own. Possibly just for fun.
Anyway, Nismo has quickly and quietly built a deeply hallowed reputation among those who like hot Nissans, and ridiculous speed in general, with those folk who like going sideways noisily particularly appreciating their black magic.
So it makes no small sense that Nissan harness that popularity and hope some of the sexy excitement rubs off on the rest of their range, much in the way Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi have done with their in-house tuning operations (AMG, M and RS - now know as Audi Sport).
The first car off the Nismo rank in NZ is the most iconic of them all, and a direct descendant of the car that Nismo helped make into a legend all those years ago - the mighty GT-R.
This is no GT-R with a fancy wing and some stickers (although there are stickers), this is a comprehensively Nismo-tweaked beast with a hand-built engine that inherits the turbochargers form the GT3 racing car, a Nismo ECU, a high-flow fuel pump and a modified cooling system.
This sees the output jump from the 419kW and 637Nm of the standard car to 441kW and 652Nm. Which is enough, really.
But it isn't just the engine that Nismo has fiddled around with, there is also Nismo-tuned suspension with hollow stabiliser bars, 20-inch super-lightweight alloy wheels with GT-R-specific NR1 spec tyres (the same used for the GT-R's record Nurburgring run), a bonded body for increased stiffness, carbon fibre-backed Recaro race seats, a carbon fibre front bumper that is 30 per cent lighter than the standard one, a carbon fibre boot lid that is 43 per cent lighter and wider front guards to accommodate the monster tyres.
All of this comes at a cost, however, with the GT-R Nismo listing at a colossal $308,000. Yes, that's $103,000 (or three Nissan Jukes) more than a standard GT-R. But it is one hell of a car.
Brutally fast while also remaining ridiculously easy to drive slowly, the GT-R does come across as a bit video gamey and all too easy, but the amount of technology at work is constantly amazing and deeply impressive.
Feeling all that clever tech keeping the car pointing in the right direction and hanging on to the road is a rather remarkable experience. While it lacks the tactility and subtly of something simpler with RWD and with less tech, the feeling of utterly bulletproof confidence and sheer ability is extremely addictive.
But Nismo isn't all about the GT-R, and the second Nismo car to land locally will be the 370Z. Not as comprehensively tweaked as the GT-R, the 370Z won't be anywhere near as ferociously pricey either, with an expected price around 20 per cent higher than the standard 370Z, which starts at $59,990.
Nissan NZ boss John Manley, is tight lipped about what else might be coming, but said that the idea was for the entire range to be touched in some way by Nismo and, when pressed, admitted that a Nismo-tweaked Navara would suit the local lineup nicely.
With the advent of a Mercedes-Benz ute (and the almost obligatory AMG version), HSV's entry into the ute segment and various V6 powerplants from VW and Ford creeping under ute bonnets, a powered-up Nismo-tweaked Navara could be an absolute winner.