NISMO—derived from Nissan Motorsports—has been the racing group within Nissan since the 1980s, and to contribute some bill-paying revenue, also became the OE-labeled source for manifolds, turbos, strut braces, aero bolt-ons, suspension, and related performance parts. Now its role is expanding, as NISMO is being turned into a performance trim level, the equivalent of Ford's SVT and Chrysler's SRT.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan introduced three models in the NISMO lineup—a 2015 GT-R, 2014 Juke, and a 2014 Sentra “concept.” Not that the 2015 GT-R sports car needs any enhancement to its performance image, but it got one: the GT-R NISMO's twin-turbocharged 3.8-L V6 is rated at 600 hp (447 kW), a boost from the 545 hp (406 kW) of the "base" model.
Second NISMO Juke
The first NISMO edition of the Juke, which came in during the 2013 model year, is a slightly lowered version and has a reworked front fascia and grille, which provide improved intake airflow control. Performance of the 1.6-L turbocharged/intercooled direct injection four was raised modestly, from 188 to 197 hp (140 to 147 kW) and from 177 to 184 lb·ft (240 to 249 N·m).
For 2014, the Juke lineup adds the NISMO RS, a major variant. New computer calibrations and a performance exhaust system take the 1.6-L four up to 215 hp (160 kW) and 210 lb·ft (285 N·m). In addition, the engine gets stronger connecting rods, a stiffened clutch cover, and dual mass flywheel. It mates with a six-speed manual, a new higher-capacity box, with revised gear ratios for faster acceleration—different from the one in the non-RS NISMO. A helical-gear limited slip differential also is available, to minimize torque steer.
Nissan's long-established affinity for the CVT (continuously variable transmission) is reinforced with the use of an "eight-speed" manual mode version for the one with the AWD NISMO RS engine, which is rated slightly lower—211 hp (157 kW) and 184 lb·ft (249 N·m). The "standard" NISMO'S CVT manual mode has just seven steps. The base Juke's CVT has six.
The RS body and chassis were reinforced to handle the higher torque, and the suspension and steering were retuned (vs. the standard NISMO Juke) to improve handling and steering feel.
The 2014 Sentra NISMO is officially a concept, but unofficially it's the real thing. Nissan calls it "revisiting the small car performance genre." It's not quite "boy racer," but gets a number of exterior changes to improve aerodynamics, including a lower front spoiler and custom rear spoiler, plus side treatments that include larger fender flares.
The engine is a 1.8-L four, but unlike the naturally aspirated, sequential port fuel injection version rated at 130 hp (97 kW) and 128 lb·ft (174 N·m) in the econobox version of the Sentra, this NISMO one really is an enlarged version of the 1.6-L direct-injection, intercooled turbo used in the Juke NISMO RS. It's boosted to over 240 hp (179 kW) and 240 lb·ft (325 N·m) and is mated to a six-speed manual. Naturally, it also has a NISMO performance suspension package (shocks and springs) to go with the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension.
There have been NISMO trim levels before, such as on the 2005 Frontier; 2007 350Z; and the 2009, 2011-14 370Z. However, the previous intermittent approach is now becoming more filled-in, and a NISMO Maxima reportedly is in the works. The Maxima is a sporty model in base form, and its CVT already has an eight-speed manual mode. So it's halfway there, and from an image standpoint, it's a perfect fit.