For several years, the 350Z was the high-powered sports car at Nissan. This was the case up until last year when they released the GT-R, which became Nissan’s new sport and performance icon. Will the arrival of this model cause the 350Z to fade into the background? Definitely not. To ensure this doesn’t happen, Nissan has released a totally new Z model for 2009; a new sports car that is more affordable and, above all, much more sophisticated.
The Z is inspired by a long line of sports cars ranging from the 240Z (originally launched 30 years ago) to the more recent 300ZX. Introduced in 2003, the 350Z was the most recent incarnation of the Z family. Now, six years later, Nissan is launching the second generation of their sport coupe and has renamed it the 370Z, no doubt because of its 3.7 litre engine. Remaining consistent with its predecessors, the 370Z only comes as a two-seater and boasts exceptional handling. On the flip side of the coin, the 370Z is not practical, nor does it provide a happy medium between sport and luxury – and it is certainly not a mobile office. Still, for those who are looking for a true sports car and don’t place too much importance on the logo – there are more prestigious ones out there – the 370Z is hands down the car for you.
A simplified selection
Although there were a number of versions of the 350Z available, Nissan chose to simplify things by offering only one version and two sets of options for the 370Z coupe. The recently unveiled, new-age convertible will be on the market as of next year, while the older version will remain available in the 2009 line up. The first thing you’ll notice about the new Z is the price: at $39,998, it’s significantly more affordable than back in 2003 when it cost anywhere between $45,000 and $47,000. Not bad for a more mature and certainly more powerful car. No doubt the arrival of the GT-R forced Nissan to readjust the price of the new Z. Under the hood, you’ve got a whole new fourth-generation six-cylinder VQ engine that produces 26 hp more. With continuous variable valve timing, it can churn out 332 hp at 7,000 rpm and 270 lbs.-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. This engine comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, though a seven-speed automatic is available for those who dislike having to handle a stick-shift.
Frankly, it would be hard to confuse the new Z with the old one. For starters, the 370Z has a much more mature appearance that suddenly makes the 350Z look dated. Sorry to all you 350Z owners, but I must say that the manufacturer really went all out on this new vehicle. The new Z looks much more compact, and it’s not simply an illusion produced by its new lines. The wheelbase is indeed smaller, and it’s now shorter overall.This in turn makes for a lighter and more rigid structure, which ultimately translates into superior performances. Rounder lines give the 370Z a Porsche-like allure, particularly thanks to wide rear fender. Also notable are the spoiler, the quadruple exhaust cannons and other little details like the red light centered in the bottom of the bumper, much like a Formula 1 car. Overall, the new Z features some dynamic lines, particularly with the sport package, which includes nice details, like 19-inch rims. It’s still got a long front end, a very low chassis overhang and a central driving position.
A more appealing interior
It’s fair to say that on the whole, Nissan has done some very good work, but it’s even more evident when it comes to the interior. I clearly remember the rather stark interior of the 350Z with its numerous unattractive plastic panels, specifically the ones on the doors. It appears that Nissan took great care in not repeating these same mistakes, as the 370Z is much more appealing. The car doors have shed the old plastic panels and now sport suede accents, while the dashboard boasts a much nicer fit and trim. That being said, the interior does leave something to be desired ergonomically. The dashboard layout allows you to clearly see the rev counter, but the same can’t be said of the speedometer, constantly making it difficult to see how fast you’re going (something you generally want to know when you’re behind the wheel of a high-powered car like this). They could solve this problem by installing a digital speedometer at the center.
Obviously, the 370Z was made mostly for drivers, and not so much for passengers. Forget practicalities, as they are few. The fact that it can only hold two passengers will surely cause some potential buyers to shy away and get an Infiniti Coupe. And while the G37 coupe is not that much more practical, its two rear seats allow it to squeeze in the kids from time to time – something you just can’t do with the Z. As far as cargo space goes, it’s acceptable, but the big brace that runs between the suspension towers detracts from its practicality.
On the road
To truly appreciate what the 370Z has to offer, you really have to get behind the steering wheel. Here’s a sports car that lives up to its potential and doesn’t cut corners (unless of course you want it to!). What it lacks in the luxury and comfort department, it makes up for in its power and speed. It all starts with a new engine with a better weight-to-power ratio, allowing for more vigorous performances. Put your foot down on the gas and you’ll be pushed back into your seat and impressed by the rich sound of the six-cylinder engine.
There’s no doubt that the six-speed manual transmission is the better choice, though I’ll admit that the seven-speed automatic does a decent job. It’s not as sophisticated as some sequential gearboxes offered by other manufacturers, but it’s got some interesting features nonetheless. With an effective manual mode, two paddle shifters behind the steering wheel allow you to select the gears. The Downshift Rev Matching system, however, is especially interesting. It automatically adjusts the engine speed to the next gear, imitating a professional driver. This ‘blip’ system is great not for its superior performances, but for the sound and effect it creates.
The Nissan 370Z isn’t the most practical car on the market and doesn’t have the same prestige as other rival marks have, but you have to admit that its new look suits it very well, as does its revamped interior. Here’s a car that places the most importance on performance and a pleasurable driving experience. Few competitors can boast performances like this for the same price. These are exactly the same points that the GT-R was built on.