Nissan has a history of “Z” nomenclature sports cars originating from the much loved Fairlady/240Z of 1969 which one of the cars that helped place Japan on the Sports Car map. This was succeeded by the popular 280Z of the late 70’s, and two generations of 300ZX cars which were produced until 1996. A rising yen and a downturn in the market killed the Z car for a few years afterwards.
Each of the Z car models proved to be instant hits with both car enthusiasts and the buying public. Therefore, with Nissan coming under the purview of Renault in 1999, there was new impetus to bring back some good ol’ Z car glory to the line up. The 350Z was launched in 2002 and proved to be wildly popular. The car had a powerful 3.5L V6 motor powering the rear wheels and styling based on a modernised version of the original 1969 model. It had some distinctive design touches from its faired-in headlamps to a bold chrome vertical door handle. The car also brought back the beefy, lairy rear drive sports car handling of old to prove even more popular with enthusiasts. It was produced in Coupe and Convertible versions.
After proving to be a huge hit for Nissan, the 350Z’s successor, the 370Z was launched in 2008. The car enthusiasts at AMW have worked hard to bring the latest iteration of it to our shores, in 2014 guise, and is the car tested here.
The 370Z may look similar in profile and features to its forebear but look a bit closer and there’s a myriad number of styling changes. The 350Z shape was fantastic and will undoubtedly be a future classic. With the 370Z, Nissan has wisely decided against radical restyling and instead focused on honing the curvaceous, muscular shape further.
If the 350Z shape was the strong jawed muscular 60’s strong man, then the 370Z is the gym toned, 80’s muscleman.
The most immediately distinct feature to strike you is the new boomerang shaped iteration of the 350Z head and tail lamps. This sets the trend for the rest of the car where every little feature is refined, and made a little bit more taut, that much more muscular.
Interestingly, the wheelbase has been reduced by around 100mm (4 inches) and 7.6mm (0.3 inches) lower, to add to that crouched, waiting to pounce look. The front bumper and inlets are more defined with the vertical strip of driving lights now at the outer edges of the front bumper, looking like fangs. The rear is more pronounced and voluptuous as well, with the rear arches sticking out that much more along with wider section tires (285/35 rears vs 245/40 fronts) to add to the muscle of the look. The rear half is also more curved and coupe like than before, emphasising the rear-wheel drivetrain.
Overall it’s a fabulous profile and has muscular styling details that successfully build on the iconic 350Z shape to convey the fact that this is a focused and powerful sports car.
In terms of chassis, the biggest change is that shorter wheel base in light of a tighter turning circle and more alive and responsive handling. The car itself is 68mm (2.7 inches) shorter overall than its predecessor, while the rear track is 55mm (2.2 inches) wider. Overall, being shorter and wider improves the vehicles’s stance and can only bode well for its handling.
The rear suspension cross brace has now been moved further forward allowing for better utilisation of the boot space area. There’s also more use of aluminium in the body and chassis components.
Accordingly, the chassis is said to be 30% stiffer than the 350Z, and the car is about 45kg lighter than the equivalent 350Z, so some good tweaks all round.
The drive train is also upgraded to a 3.7 litre high revving V6 (redlining at a heady 7,500rpm). The revised lump now produces about 10% more power at 332 bhp. The car comes with an interesting new 6 speed manual gear box which has a “synchro-rev matching” feature which automatically blips the throttle when you down shift, the first of its kind manual gearbox to simulate the famed ‘toe and heel’ style of rally driving. The test car however came with a paddle shift 7 speed auto which while may not sound as manly still has rev matching during downshifts which is still a good laugh.
The lighter, more powerful 370Z now shifts from 0-100kmph in 4.6 seconds, almost a full second faster than its predecessor onto a limited top speed of 250 kmph (155mph). Thats a pretty impressive set of figures and that of a genuine sports car.
Interestingly though, when pressing pedal to the firewall, the pace doesn’t feel as manic as it actually is. Perhaps its a sign of how much more refined the car is and it feels rock steady in a straight line. The car is also no lightweight at 1,466 kg, so the heft does steal some thunder from the acceleration, albeit only slightly.
Ride and Handling
The 370Z can be described as a meaty handler. It’s a bit less heavy feeling than the 350Z, but its still something that feels substantial to hustle, in a good way. The steering is refreshingly old school hefty, and offers good feel. The shorter wheelbase adds to the urgency of direction changes now and it’s rear bias is fun and excellently controllable.
We did drive it around city roads rather than a track but in the few faster bends we found the tail didn’t unstick at all and the car proved to have reassuring amounts of grip. Tail happy manoeuvres are surely easy to come by at higher velocities, but the new, tauter reserves of the chassis are impressively deep.
It’s certainly a fun car to drive and feels urgent, though the handling involvement and finesse is still a far cry from the class leader Cayman. This is a car you have to take by the scruff of its neck and chuck hard into a corner and hold on while being ready to dab in some oppo lock when required. It’s a different kettle of fish than the Cayman, and more classic sports car in its handling outlook.
The ride is very impressive, even on the 19” alloy wheels the test car rode on. Ripples and bumps were very well absorbed for a sports car setup and no doubt the lighter, stiffer chassis helps the suspension do its job much better.
The design of the interior very much follows the take of the exterior in the sense that it is a tweaking and refining of that of the 350Z. Accordingly the retro 60’s look has been modernised with the driver oriented instrument cowling and centre dash top gauges all present and more alert and sophisticated looking. The downside is that while it looks cooler, the material quality is still a bit plasticky and though mostly soft touch, looks hard and the design sophistication of the buttons and controls is still a generation behind the best European efforts. The gear surround in particular with it’s open gate looks out of place in a sports car and more so an item from a family sedan. The overall design is of simplicity and works well in character with the car.
There’s better news elsewhere though with superb orange leather sports seats which look great and cosset you well with good side bolster support. The orange seats help lift the interior and make it that much more special a place to be.
The boot though isn’t huge and is surprisingly high set, making you double check if the car is actually mid engined, which it isn’t.
Tough one here. In a level playing field, the 370Z is known as an outstanding performance bargain in most markets it’s sold in. Over here, the car market pricing is subject to the steadiness of a man who’s had an electric eel stuffed in his underpants.
So how do you compare a Rs 18.25mn muscle car to the competition locally? Well, against a Porsche Cayman, its a quite a bit cheaper, but when compared to an Audi TT, it’s a bit more expensive. For the price point though, nothing can come close!
Sri Lanka has a healthy market for enthusiast sports cars and we have a small but rich history in Z cars with some pristine, lovingly restored original 240Z’s and a handful of 300ZXs. There are also a number of 350Zs in the market.
The 370Z, all bouquets and brickbats considered, is a car this market needed. It’s arresting to look at, and is a sports car from the good-old-boy muscle car school. It’s got more than impressive straight line performance and handles decently and with character through the bends. It’s a car with real character and doesn’t really have any direct competitors in most markets.
We know AMW is run by like-minded petrol heads and doff our hats to the Nissan agents for being brave enough to officially import an out and out sports car like the 370Z. We were told that the test car was already close to being lapped up by a select bunch of enthusiasts and we hope this bodes well to see more of its ilk on the road soon!
Model Tested:Nissan 370Z
Performance: Maximum speed – 250 km/h*
Acceleration 0-100kmph – 4.6secs*
Engine: 3,696 cc, DOHC V6 with Variable Valve and Lift Control
Transmission : Tiptronic Automatic, seven-speed gearbox.
Drive : Rear wheel drive
Power: 332bhp at 7,000 rpm
Torque: 365 Nm at 5200
Kerb Weight: 1,466 kg
Dimensions: 4,240 mm (L) x 1,850 mm(W) x 1,320 mm(H)
Price: Rs 18.25mn as tested (For tax payers permit holders)