Not many people have heard of Masazumi Kawachi, let alone what he does. But sometime over the second quarter of last year, Kawachi-san was busy putting a Nissan Teana fitted with prototype parts – which would later become the NISMO Performance Package – through its paces up (and down) Genting Highlands. As a test driver for Nissan’s in-house motorsports and tuning division, Kawachi-san’s responsibility is to fine-tune and validate the performance of Nissan vehicles bearing the NISMO nameplate.
Unlike some motorsport companies that reap royalties without offering any form of technical substance, NISMO dictates that all of its products, whether full road cars (such as the GT-R and Juke NISMO) or official tuning packages, must meet the performance criteria it sets for on-road performance. In the case of the Teana, the development work went beyond the cosmetics.
Uncovering the right combo
The challenge then was to retain what’s inherently good in the Teana base car while elevating its driving performance. Kawachi-san and his team determined early on that the original dampers on the Teana were more than up to the task, so they focused instead on specifying a set of progressive-rate springs that would not only sharpen its handling, but also to give it a sportier stance without spoiling the ride. Of course, that exercise would also include picking the best tyre to go with the 18-inch lightweight NISMO alloys.
This meant that various sets of springs were trialled along with no less than three different tyres from different manufacturers (the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 was chosen) before Kawachi-san settled on a combination that exhibited NISMO ‘ride and handling characteristics’. In addition to the mileage logged over the testing period, Kawachi-san also clocked more than a thousand kilometres’ worth of endurance testing on Malaysian roads to ensure that the Teana NISMO Performance Package holds up to the warranty period of the regular base car (up to seven years!).
No compromises needed
In a segment teeming with variety and talent, it’s easy to overlook the anonymously-styled Teana. Against the new crop of turbocharged rivals, the Teana doesn’t win on paper either with its naturally-aspirated motor, even though real-world performance is entirely adequate (8.5 seconds in 0-100km/h for the 173hp/234Nm 2.5-litre XV variant) with the smooth, lag-free CVT ’box making good use of what’s available. It’s really in the areas of ride comfort and overall refinement where the Teana excels, it’s one of the rare breed of cars still with the ability to cushion and isolate occupants from all kinds of bad road surfaces, and cruise near silently on the highway. All of which is great for passengers but probably not quite as entertaining for the driver. This is where the NISMO Performance Package comes in.
You’d expect the fitment of sports springs that lowers ride height by 10mm coupled with thinner and wider tyres (from 215/55 R17 to 235/45 R18) to have some adverse impact on the Teana’s supple ride, but this is surprisingly not the case here. The chassis accommodates the upgrades as if it was meant to do so, with the upgraded Teana feeling much more buttoned down and surefooted as a result; whether in corners, under braking or on a high-speed cruise. The lowered centre of gravity helps to no end, but those rather good and grippy Michelin rubber certainly play their part as well. The steering, which is probably too light in the base car, also gains some much-needed weight and directional responsiveness when the Teana gets up to speed.
Looks and feels the part
Adding ‘go-fast’ elements to an otherwise large saloon can be a tricky exercise. While the distinctive NISMO red body extrusions looks at home in Nissan models available in other markets, turning the straight-laced Teana into something that spells ‘sporty’ certainly took some doing. But when that is applied with the dual-tone, diamond-cut 18-inch alloys (which fill up the wheel-arches ever so nicely), you’d have to say that the body-kit looks at home on the Teana. And just like how no one would’ve gotten behind the wheel of a regular Teana and expect to be enthused by how it drives, the NISMO-fied Teana now has that ability to entertain the driver while still coddling passengers at the same time, and it’s all thanks to the hard work put in by Kawachi-san.
Nissan Teana 2.5XV with NISMO Performance Package
Price: RM167,500 (base car); RM16,960 (NISMO package)
Engine: 2.5-litre inline-4, FWD
Output: 173hp @ 6,000rpm, 234Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Performance: 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds, top speed 215km/h (estimated)
Wheels/tyres: 18in alloys, 235/45 ZR18
Safety: 6-airbags, Electronic Stability Control
Warranty: 7-year / unlimited mileage
(NISMO Performance Package includes front bumper spoiler, side skirts, trunk lid spoiler, rear bumper spoiler, exhaust finisher, 18-inch alloys w/ Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres and sports springs set)