By David Undercoffler
2:42 PM EST, February 26, 2013
Nissan is getting in touch with its inner racer.
The automaker announced Tuesday that it would be expanding its performance-oriented sub-brand, dubbed Nismo (for Nissan Motorsports). Similar to the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz, Nismo vehicles will be the spicier versions of their mainstream Nissan counterparts.
Demonstrating just how seriously Nissan is taking Nismo's expanded global role, the automaker opened a separate Nismo headquarters and R&D center in Yokohama, Japan.
"Nismo will democratize performance and bring new excitement to the Nissan portfolio with a broader range of affordable and innovative performance models," Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said at the opening of the Nismo facility.
The first two products to bear the Nismo badge will be the Juke Nismo and the 370Z Nismo, both of which were announced at the Chicago Auto Show in early February. These vehicles will soon be joined by a Nismo version of Nissan's 545-horsepower, all-wheel-drive GT-R.
"It would be unthinkable for us to develop a range of NISMO road cars without including the GT-R," said Ghosn. The company didn't release specifics on the GT-R Nismo's power, but said it will go on sale next year.
In the meantime, Nismo fans have the Juke and 370Z to look forward to, both of which will go on sale this summer.
The 370Z Nismo has the same 350-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine and six-speed manual transmission as its mainstream counterpart. But it adds to this an upgraded exhaust system, a sport-tuned suspension, modified bumpers, unique alloy wheels, a large rear spoiler and minor interior upgrades.
The Juke Nismo gets more substantial upgrades over its stock brethren. It has 197 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, a modest increase over the base Juke's 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. This power is generated by a 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The front-wheel-drive models have a six-speed manual transmission, while all-wheel-drive models get a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Nismo version also gets a lowered, sport-tuned suspension and a revised steering system.
Interior and exterior changes include more aggressive front and rear bumpers, a rear spoiler, unique alloy wheels, LED accent lights, redesigned suede-trimmed seats, and updated instrumentation.
In addition to the three announced Nismo vehicles, Nissan said it has plans to further broaden the performance line to other models over the next several years. A company spokesman declined to elaborate on which vehicles Nismo would upgrade next.
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