NISMO: The Meaning, The Models, And Is A NISMO Worth It?

If you’ve spent time shopping the sporty compact car segment or watching endurance car racing, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the NISMO name. But do you know what NISMO stands for? Or what the name signifies? And does the NISMO badge add any value to a Nissan model?

What Does NISMO Stand For?

According to Nissan, the NISMO name, “derived from NISsan MOtorsport,” “is the embodiment of ultimate Nissan performance.” Formed in 1984 from a merger of two divisions, NISMO engineers and development drivers work together to create “road cars that offer a uniquely thrilling and authentic experience.”

What makes a car a NISMO?

For 2020, the GT-R NISMO is about total balance. New race-proven turbochargers, improved gearbox shift control, lighter components, reduced overall mass and upgrades to the brakes, wheels and tires contribute to a 2.5-second reduction in lap time around Nissan’s development track. There’s also an improvement of the GT-R’s inherent high-speed stability, even at speeds of up to 186 mph.
2020 Nissan GT-R NISMO | Nissan

NISMO brings Nissan performance, enhanced aerodynamics, competition-tuned suspensions, and race-inspired cockpits to a variety of Nissan models. The goal of these modified Nissan models is to “put you in the sweet spot of track-inspired performance and a road car you feel comfortable driving on your daily commute.”

While NISMO engineers spend countless hours gathering and processing design and performance data, the most significant advantage to NISMO is its team of development drivers. These drivers test each subtle change and modification to ensure each NISMO model drives and feel like a NISMO model should.

Is NISMO only for Nissan?

A white 2021 Nissan GT-R NISMO parked at a race track
2021 Nissan GT-R NISMO | Nissan

Yes, NISMO is only for Nissan models. However, Nissan’s competitors have their own unique performance divisions. Toyota Racing Development (TRD), for instance, is the in-house performance brand for Toyota. Current TRD models include the Toyota Sequoia, 4Runner, Tacoma, and Toyota Tundra.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) handles similar duties for Honda. The division’s current HPD models include the Honda Civic Type R, Honda Ridgeline Sport, Acura TLX, and Acura NSX supercar. 

So which Nissan models are NISMO?

Currently, Nissan’s website only lists two NISMO models, the sold-out GT-R NISMO and the discontinued 370Z Coupe NISMO. However, according to Best Car, a Japanese magazine, a new Nissan Fairlady Z NISMO model is anticipated in the Summer of 2024. 

The Fairlady Z NISMO could sport a variant of the standard Z’s 400-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter “VR30” V6. Though, the NISMO version will likely be more powerful thanks to “a sports exhaust system and revised engine tuning,” says Drive.

With orders for the Fairlady Z NISMO suspended as of July 2022, finding a used NISMO model is likely your best option for buying one for the foreseeable future. Previous NISMO models available in the United States include many of the following:

  • 2004-2008 NISMO 350Z
  • 2009-2020 NISMO 370Z
  • 2014-present GT-R NISMO
  • 2013-2017 Juke NISMO
  • 2017-2019 Sentra NISMO
  • 1989-1994 Skyline GT-R NISMO

Is buying a NISMO model worth it?

Like any other performance-oriented sports car, any Nissan model that undergoes NISMO modifications is worth buying. However, Drive reports that the NISMO touch could increase the standard model’s price by up to 40 percent. 

This increase is because NISMO takes regular Nissan models and embellishes them with hand-built touches, driving the cost increase. These hand-built touches include several pieces that require a three-step hand-masking and painting process and custom, hand-fitted rear spoilers and side sills. 

In addition, NISMO tunes the engines in its Nissan models to provide more horsepower. It also uses unique suspension components for better handling on either track or street driving conditions. So, while some other automakers may use commercially available aftermarket components and decals to create their “performance edition” vehicles, NISMO takes performance a step further than most of its competition. 

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