In 1984, Nissan was changed forever when two prolific tuning companies, Omori and Oppama, merged to form Nissan Motorsports (also known as NISMO) and started a legacy of fast. Starting with their own breed of car, the Saurus, NISMO has been turning boring hatchbacks and not-so-boring R32s into track-slaying monsters.
In this article, we want to look at some of the most famous NISMO-tuned rides ever built and rank them, so you know which ones you should be talking about.
March NISMO S – Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing
Today, we’re starting with our last place entry, the totally anemic March NISMO S. While the S model bumps the power up from a mere 79 horses, the 114 horsepower from the S model just doesn’t seem like enough.
You can opt for a manual transmission, which is a must-have option if you ask me. But the whole package just won’t put it into hot-hatch territory. The March NISMO S is honestly a lukewarm-hatch. From a cheap car to an expensive one, the Patrol NISMO is made because people will buy it.
Patrol NISMO – Big and Expensive
You have probably never even heard of a Patrol because they aren’t sold in the USA, but I bet they look kind of familiar. They’re essentially the same thing as an Infiniti QX80 here in the States. Sure, the Patrol NISMO has a bit of suspension work and a bit more power,
But, it’s mostly a pig with lipstick, a big SUV with a fancy body kit and some bigger wheels. From a big SUV to a small little car, let’s talk about the Sentra NISMO.
Sentra NISMO – Tiny but Mighty
The Sentra is and always has been Nissan’s cheap small sedan that’s been around for generations. Sentra has been known for questionable build quality with reliability that will last generations. So, when they said that they were going to build an exciting NISMO model, it left us stunned. Would we have an exciting Sentra model?
The NISMO came in 2017 and it was the year that the Sentra received something very special: a turbo. And, of course, the top-of-the-line NISMO model received the turbo. Tiny but mighty! The Sentra NISMO comes with 188 buff horses and a spritely 177 foot-pounds of torque powering the front wheels.
The Sentra NISMO still seems to leave us wanting more. But, luckily for us gearheads, we can get it in the USA. It’s a different story, however, for the Nissan Note e-Power NISMO S.
Note e-Power NISMO S – e-NISMO
The Note is Nissan’s small efficient hatchback. Add in the e-Power trim and you’ve got a perfect little city dweller. Electric-powered, gas-fed, the e-Power is the best of both worlds. It uses gasoline to power the electric motors and the electric motors to drive the wheels. While the NISMO version didn’t receive any powertrain upgrades in 2016 at its release, it got suspension upgrades worthy of a competitive hot hatch.
Luckily, two years after launch, Nissan revised some of the powertrain, which yielded a 25% bump in power. And, sure, 136 horsepower might not sound like a lot, but the 236 foot-pounds of torque really make it peppy. The best part of the Note e-Power NISMO S is the weight. While it isn’t the lightest at 2,700 pounds, it’s damn close, weighing about as much as a Toyota 86. But, the e-Power adds electrification and, in terms of EVs, the e-Power NISMO S is still relatively light.
The Nissan Leaf tips the scales at 3,400 pounds, but the petiteness of the Note and the power of the electrification and suspension from the NISMO S really makes us jealous that we don’t get it here in the States. Luckily, we do get the Juke NISMO RS.
Juke NISMO RS – Exciting Little Puke
While you might just think that the Juke is downright ugly, we wouldn’t deny the bugeye styling. The engineers at NISMO really wanted to go all out on this cheeky bugger. The NISMO RS model came with just about every single option standard: grippy Recaro bucket seats, a responsive six-speed three-pedal transmission, and a handling kit made for a track car.
If you can get past the styling and the front-wheel drive dynamics, the NISMO RS might just be one of the best performance bargains! For right around $10,000 to $15,000, you can have an autocross animal and an asphalt aggressor, all wrapped up in a quirky, unassuming package.
The NISMO RS ups the boost to 215 horsepower and 210 foot-pounds of torque. This little pocket-rocket will hit 60 miles per hour in under 6.5 seconds and it’ll be sure to put a smile on your face the second you sit behind the wheel.
While the Juke NISMO RS is bonkers, it’s not the most berserk Juke out there. That would have to be the Juke R. While not a NISMO car, it had to be mentioned because they stuffed 545-horsepower GT-R motor under the hood.
While you can pick up a NISMO RS for around $15,000, you’ll need a lot more to pick up one of the Juke Rs; the six that have been built cost nearly $600,000 brand new. And finding one in the USA would be even harder since none were delivered here. The same thing goes with our next car: the S14 Silvia 270R.
S14 Silvia 270R – Hidden Track Weapon
The year was 1994 and Nissan wanted to go all-out with one of their street cars, the S14-generation Nissan Silvia. J’s, K’s, Q’s, and S’s scattered the Silvia’s lineup, and horsepower ranged from the mid-100s to the low-200 range. While they weren’t all that exciting, they were able to get the job done. But, it wasn’t until the motorsports division of Nissan got a hold of the S14 that they bumped up the power, giving the S14 a much-needed 270 horsepower.
Unfortunately, the motorsports division of Nissan had their hands full, winning Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, and more. So, a special project really limited production of the 270R and only 50 made it out of factory doors. All 270Rs were painted black with NISMO 270R badging above the rear wheels, giving it a sinister under-the-radar look.
The exclusivity mixed with the all-out performance in a chassis that the motorsports world loved was a recipe for success. While the S14 Silvia is definitely amazing, Nissan makes another chassis known for the same things. And, of course, NISMO has gotten their hands on a 350Z too!
350Z R-Tune/NISMO 350Z – Performance Benchmark
At the turn of the century, when most people were worrying about Y2K, Nissan was behind closed doors creating something legendary! And, in 2002, the world got something amazing: the 350Z! It was a whole new take on the cheap sports car using a lightweight V6 and a chassis made with motorsports in mind. The 350Z was ready for anything! Once it was released, Nissan knew it had a winner on its hands.
But, it wasn’t until NISMO gave the Z some special sauce that it really started to come alive! It took two years after the initial release for NISMO to put out a special version of the 350Z, the NISMO R-Tune. It was a package that was sold directly to customers with a need for speed. The R-Tune package included new headers, cams, pulleys, and, of course, a whole boatload of other special parts to give it the full NISMO experience.
The one downside to the R-Tune was that it voided the factory warranty. But, honestly, who cares when you’re the coolest kid on the block? While these are all really cool options offered by NISMO, it wasn’t until 2007 when you could walk into a normal dealership and get yourself a NISMO 350Z.
The NISMO 350Z was a hardcore version of the normal 350Z. It shared the same engine in the standard 350Z, but was only offered in a six-speed manual transmission with trick Brembo brakes, beefy suspension designed for the track, and long-nose bodywork to commemorate the Super GT series cars. The whole package all cost less than $40,000! And you could walk into any Nissan dealership in the world and pick up one of these lethal weapons!
But, NISMO wouldn’t even be around if it wasn’t for this car, the R31 Skyline GTS-R Group A, as it was NISMO’s first-ever street car.
R31 GTS-R Group A – The Grandfather of NISMO
It was 1987 and the auto industry was still recovering from the effects of the oil crisis. Cars were small, slow, and safe. But, Nissan just wanted to go racing and without a homologation car they wouldn’t be able to compete. Nissan chose to compete in the Group A Touring Car Championship, racing against the likes of Ford with the Sierra RS500 and Holden with the V8 Commodore. The GTS-R used the RB20DET with a ton of go-fast bits, giving the street car over 200 horsepower and the racecar, fully tuned, had over 400 horsepower!
The GTS-R placed in many races across the world, but its time in the limelight was short-lived thanks to its younger sibling the R32. Without the R31 GTS-R Group A, we wouldn’t have gotten this next car, the Nissan NISMO Type 380RS.
NISMO Type 380RS – NISMO 350Z With More Awesomeness!
Based on an already great 350Z platform, the NISMO Type 380RS takes it to the next level. Sadly, it was only offered in Japan, but it did hit dealers as the most powerful road-going 350Z produced by NISMO with 348 horsepower and 293 foot-pounds of torque. The 380RS is an absolute rocketship! It should be too, as it’s based on one of Nissan’s best racecars, the NISMO Type 380RS Competition!
Of course, the car was fitted with some of the best suspension, brakes, and reinforcements fitted to any 350z, but only 300 units ever snuck out of factory doors. Luckily, more NISMO 370Zs made it to customers.
NISMO 370Z – Baby R35 GT-R
With the new Z around the corner, it’s worth looking back on the previous generation of Z. With a punchy V6 and 350 horsepower, the NISMO 370Z has plenty of pep. For over 10 years, the 370Z has been available to the public with little to no change, so you know that Nissan has a winner on its hands. Hand it off to NISMO and you know that they’ll knock it out of the park.
Between the looks, the handling, and the driving experience, the NISMO 370Z has proven itself against competitors both on and off the track, setting a Nurburgring lap time of 8 minutes and 11 seconds. That’s faster than a Ferrari F355 or a Lotus Exige S! But, the NISMO 370Z is able to balance track performance without compromising on-road composure.
All the NISMO upgrades make the 370Z one of the best cars for the money, with new ones costing right around $40,000 and used ones going for $25,000! That’s a bargain for a baby GT-R! Speaking of GT-Rs, next on the list is the R35 GT-R NISMO.
R35 GT-R NISMO – Godzilla
Godzilla! The baddest, most hardcore Nissan ever! 2008 was a year for the history books: a massive recession, the Beijing Summer Olympics, and, of course, the R35 GT-R being released in the USA. If a computer could be a car, that would be the GT-R. Turning anyone into a track master, calculating and computing the fastest way around the tarmac, the GT-R takes you along for the ride!
While the R35 draws off the lineage of previous Skylines, the R35 is different from all the rest. And while it still keeps the six-cylinders like its siblings, it ditches the inline formation for a more traditional V-formation.
The standard GT-R is nothing short of amazing, but the NISMO version is just that much better. Giving it 600 horsepower and an aerokit fit for LeMans, the NISMO version of the GT-R is just bonkers! It set a lap time of 7 minutes and 8 seconds on the Nurburgring, which is the fastest recorded lap by a volume production car!
This next car might not be as fast, but it’s even more badass! Let’s talk about the R32 Skyline GT-R NISMO.
R32 Skyline GT-R NISMO – Homologation Special
Yeah, you heard me right, there is a R32 GT-R NISMO. Obviously more badass than a typical R32 GT-R, the NISMO was a homologation special for the Group A Touring Car Championship. Limited to just 500 roadgoing units the NISMO was the best performance you could get from the R32 Skyline. With the NISMO, you could get any color that you wanted as long as it was grey.
The five-speed manual transmission was a must. And, paired with the legendary RB26, it was a match made in heaven. NISMO fitted larger turbochargers and special aerodynamics paired with a lighter body that really aided in a special driving experience.
The very first season that the R32 GT-R Group A car raced, it won every single race! Every single race! It was so lethal that it received a nickname, one that will go down in history: Godzilla! But, all good things must come to an end. The R32 was dead. And soon, the younger brother, the R33, was born and best of the 33s came out of NISMO’s doors. The R33 Skyline GT-R NISMO 400R!
R33 Skyline GT-R NISMO 400R – Racecar Built for the Road
The R33 GT-R, like its older brother, was absolutely insane! But what happens if insane just won’t cut it? You get a 400R! Nissan planned to make 100 400Rs, but less than half of that were ever sold. The typical GT-R was powered by an RB26, but the 400R received a much bigger 2.8-liter RB28 motor pushing out 400 brake horsepower!
That RB28 engine had only been used in GT1 class Skylines that raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. So, it was not only fast, but also proven at speed. Sadly, only 44 of these most legendary R33s were ever sold. But, if you’ve got one, I’m sure jealous!
While it is the best of the R33s, it’s not quite the best of the Skylines. That will have to go to the R34 Skyline GT-R Z-Tune!
R34 Skyline GT-R Z-Tune – NISMO’s Best
$500,000. That’s a price that you would expect to pay for an ultra-rare Ferrari or Lamborghini. But a Nissan? R34 Skyline Z-Tunes don’t come for sale often but, when they do, they fetch a pretty penny. So, why would someone pay that much for a Nissan? Because the Z-Tune is the best of the best. NISMO takes an already fully-spec’d R34 Skyline GT-R V Spec II Nur and spices it up a bit.
But, unfortunately, NISMO only produced 20 Z-Tunes. The Z-Tune marks 20 years of NISMO tuning, so they were sure to make it one to never forget. They packed a fully tuned RB28 out of NISMOs GT500 racecar, pumping out over 500 horsepower! That made it nearly twice as powerful as the standard R34 GT-R!