We’ve always thought of the Nissan 370Z as a way to get sports-car style and performance for a reasonable price. Sure, it’s getting on in years, but the current Z-car still offers enthusiasts a step up from the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ twins without spending BMW or Porsche money.

That explains why we were so shocked to see the price tag for this 2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo: $46,315. What do you get for that kind of money? The Nismo model is all about performance upgrades, including larger brakes, a limited-slip differential, a stiffer suspension, and 18 extra horsepower for a total of 350 hp. This refreshed 2015 model also has a sharp new body kit with cool details like a reflector integrated into the rear diffuser that’s meant to look like an F1 car’s rain light.

What else can you buy for this kind of money? A lot. Just look at our 2015 All-Stars winners. For $10,000 less than the Nismo, there’s the rally-bred, 305-hp, all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX STI. For $10,000 more, there’s the driver-focused, lightweight Alfa Romeo 4C. And for the same price as this Nismo 370Z, you can get into a loaded, V-8-powered, 435-hp 2015 Ford Mustang GT that’s faster, more comfortable, better equipped, and flat-out cooler.

So the 2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo isn’t the best value around, but we will admit that the car still handles with the best of them. The rear-drive chassis is balanced and communicative, and the steering is nicely weighted. Nissan even smoothed out the ride of this 2015 version compared to the rock-hard suspension tune of the previous Nismo Z.

Where the Nismo falls short of similarly priced rivals is refinement. Nissan’s VQ V-6 engine is a barroom brawler: It packs a punch, but has no finesse. Revving beyond 4,000 rpm brings out an unsavory mechanical thrash. The high-effort gearbox and heavy clutch feel like they belong in a Nissan Frontier pickup, not a sports car.

If you really want to buy a Nissan 370Z, skip the Nismo and buy the $34,395 Sport model. You still get sport brakes, a limited-slip differential, and upgraded wheels and tires, but without that nagging feeling that you could have had something a lot better for the money.

2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo Specifications

Price:$42,815/$46,315 (base/as tested)

Engine:3.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6/350 hp @ 7,400 rpm, 276 lb-ft @5,200 rpm

Transmission:6-speed manual

Layout:2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe

EPA Mileage:18/26/21 mpg (city/highway/combined)

L x W x H:170.5 x 73.6 x 51.8 in

Wheelbase:100.4 in

Weight:3,394 lb

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