What if you took a car, but instead of wheels, you put tracks on it? And then in the front, you put skis? It sounds like the wild fever dream of a kid with an overactive imagination, but to Nissan, it sounded like a great idea. That's how the Nissan 370Zki was born.
The 370Z is getting a little long in the tooth, and a replacement model isn't on the horizon. So Nissan needs to breathe some life into the two-seat sports car. The best way to do that is with an idea that's a little crazy. Like this one.
Take one 2018 Nissan 370Z. Remove the wheels. Add a pair of tracks in the back and two big skis in the front. Why? Why not. Oh, and should you use the coupe version of the Z? Absolutely not. Take the convertible and ditch the top. Then call it a weekend and think about how awesome your job is. What about the now useless front brakes? Leave 'em on!
It's one thing to anchor some skis onto the car for just long enough to roll onto the stage at the Chicago Auto Show where this car was introduced earlier this year. It's another thing to turn the show car into something that functions. Nissan has taken the harder road and made the 370Zki – pronounce it "370 Ski" – into a real car that runs and drives.
And does it ever drive.
Nissan brought the car to la Circuit Mecaglisse, located about two hours north of Montreal. It's a paved track in the summer, and an ice track in the winter, with a massive network of winding rally stage roads to drive on. Then they set us loose in the car.
So what is the result when you take a sports car and turn it into a snowmobile? In a word: epic. Even at sub-zero temperatures, the decision to make this car topless was the right one.
The air is chilly, but Nissan's 3.7L V6 puts out plenty of warm air. The Z has some very effective heated seats too. But if you want to drive this car, bring rain pants. Because you will get wet.
The tracks stick out well past the edge of the stock Z's rear fenders. That means that when you get on the throttle or push the car sideways, all of the snow that used to be on the ground gets thrown into the cockpit. Ice, snow, hail – if it's on the trail, it will be joining you inside the car.
Will that slow you down? Absolutely not. Will it dampen your spirits? Just your trousers.
The Zki has more traction in the snow than all-wheel drive SUVs with snow tires can dream about. The massive tracks find grip in the snow and on ice. They'd probably work on just about any surface, mud included. The front skis, though, need some snow to get grip. That means that in the snow, the Zki corners harder than it has any right to. But if the front tracks find ice, you'll be understeering into the snowbank. So goose the gas and slide the rear out or get the shovels ready. I chose the former.
In this car, with an armful of opposite lock and the pedal down, the only thing more impressive than the amount of snow in the air is the size of the grin on my face.
This is a quick car in the snow. Yes, it's heavy, but the 350hp V6 makes far more power than any new snowmobile. While those machines drone like a swarm of ice bees, the Zki still sounds like a Z. One of the best V6 sounds on the market. If you can hear it over the sound of the tracks, that is. I recommend lots of throttle to make sure you can hear the exhaust.
This might be the best snowmobile ever made. If you've ever ridden a sled, you're already used to open air in the freezing cold. This car adds a full windshield, a heater, and heated seats. Things you won't find on snowmobiles.
Nissan recommended a helmet to keep the flying snow out of your hair, but I can say that one isn't necessary. One more point for Nissan against boring normal snowmobiles. Just ignore the snow that melts down the back of your neck.
The Zki also lets you sit side-by-side with your passenger and even talk to them on the move. Take that, Arctic Cat.
The biggest surprise about the 370Zki isn't the fact that it is a car-turned snowmobile. It's the fact that Nissan has done this before. 2016's Rogue Warrior concept dropped the Rogue's four wheels for four sets of tracks. And they let us drive that one too, on a deep snow track through the woods. The all-track drive traction means even more grip and deeper snow capability.
The 370Zki is absurd. Which is exactly why it's awesome. It's a sports car that is ready for the worst that winter could ever offer, And if you toss the wheels back on then you're ready for summer. The 370Zki is the kind of crossover that the world needs more of. One that needs an encore. Hey Nissan, how about making this a Nismo aftermarket offering. Call it the NiSnow 370Zki.