EAGLES NEST, N. M. -- For a pulse-busting romp on the wild side we strap into a 370Z Nismo 2-door GT-style sports coupe from Nissan and let it rip over a blacktop ribbon stretching from Taos to Eagles Nest, tucked in a high valley of the Sangre de Cristo Range of New Mexico.
Our 370Z devours this kinky route with the sure-grip posture of a high-performance sports machine. It hugs every contour of the convoluted course as we cut clean and quick lines across apexes of so many curves.
The bullet-shaped 370Z is a fresh incarnation of the fabled Z-car of Nissan in a limited-production version from Nissan's Nismo performance division rigged with stiffer suspension settings, larger disc brakes, racing-inspired body styling -- and a power boost to Z's heady V6.
The iconic sports hatchback coupe from Nissan tracks back in a line from the original Datsun 240Z of 1970 to the 1996 twin-turbo 300ZX and a swift 350Z of 2003. Like the original 240Z, the 370Z Nismo, derived from the 2009 370Z, conforms to hatchback styling with a front-mounted powerplant, rear-wheel-drive orientation and over-the-top piston power.
It's a genuine GT sports coupe, muscular in shape but lethal in monochromatic treatment with two doors on flanks of a snug 2-seat cockpit.
And it looks so lean and mean, the exaggerated prow fixed with big boomerang-shaped HID (high intensity discharge) bi-functional xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lights plus black headlight bezels, fenders bulging to cover the oversized rubber rollers, a broad windshield cocked back at an extreme angle and the low roofline tapering past a hatchback window to the curt tail interrupted by an edgy spoiler wing.
The Nismo aerodynamic body appliances include a protruding nose with canard design at each corner for improved downforce and an integrated chin spoiler, special side sills and rear bumper to control airflow beneath the coupe and the tail spoiler to increase downforce on the engine-driven rear wheels.
Of course, the 370Z Nismo edition is lean and mean -- the most powerful Z-car ever. Nissan's V6 displaces 3.7 liters and carries dual cams on top with electronic NDIS (Nissan direct ignition system) and VVEL (variable valve event and lift control). It produces 350 hp at 7400 rpm, with torque pumping up to 276 lb-ft at 5200 rpm.
Two high-tech shifters are available: A close-ratio 6-speed manual featuring SRM (synchronized downshift rev matching), or a 7-speed automatic with DRM (downshift rev matching) and adaptive shift control for quick driver-controlled shifting via standard paddle shifters or the console-posted shift lever.
Nissan labels the Z-car platform as FM (Front Midship), which describes the engine's position on the chassis as front wheels move forward and the engine mounts so its center of gravity falls behind the front axles.
A sophisticated multi-link suspension at all four wheels employs aluminum-alloy components to trim the unsprung weight. Other weight-saving components include a carbon fiber composite radiator housing and aluminum for the front hood, rear hatch and both side doors.
The suspension's double wishbone design up front mounts on a diecast aluminum alloy cradle to reduce lateral bending of the front body structure, while the multi-link design in back has structural reinforcements and underbody V-bar to check rear lateral bending.
For keen stopping power, the Nissan Sport Brakes package consists of ventilated discs (14.0-inch front and 13.8-inch rear rotors) with 4-piston front and 2-piston rear aluminum calipers.
Wheels and tires upgrade to 19-inch RAYS forged light alloy Nismo-branded wheels capped by Bridgestone Potenza tires -- front 245/40R19 and rear 285/35R19.
Z's cockpit sets two seats in a cozy space divided by the center console. Nismo cabin enhancements include a steering wheel with Alcantara wrap and red stitching, aluminum-trimmed pedals, Nismo red tachometer, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, power windows and door locks, automatic climate controls and a Bose 6-speaker audio system with AM/FM/CD/AUX. The optional Nismo Tech edition adds a hard drive-based Nissan Navigation System, streaming audio via Bluetooth and a new Bose audio system with Active Noise Cancellation and Active Sound Enhancement.
Nissan sets MSRP figures for the 2016 370Z Nismo 6MT Coupe at $41,990, or $43,290 370Z Nismo 7AT Coupe.