A real man (read chaaiirna) needs a real sports car. The SLK is too “sexy”, the BMW Z4 has lost the original Z3 character and the Audi TT is definitely not manly enough. In its first iteration, the 350Z had everything right, big V6 engine in the front, simple styling and of course, power to the right wheels (RWD).
The Z line of sports cars has sold over 1.8million units to date, making it one of the best selling performance vehicles of all time. That’s pretty impressive stuff, and understandable considering the simple recipe they get on point.
Up front sits a 3.7litre V6, which is a heavy lump putting out 245kW and 363NM of torque through the manual 6speed gearbox. There is also an automatic with paddle shift on offer. I was very happy to get the manual, as Nissan has coined a mechanical innovation called “SynchroRev”. It works as such; when gearing down to enter a bend it matches engine revs with road speed so that the reengagement of the clutch has no unsettling effect on the rear end, and was previously only achievable (and even then, sporadically on the road) by drivers with exceptional levels of experience. It works like a charm, especially when really banging it out in the twisties, braking hard for corners and getting the power back on. In layman’s terms when you gear down, the engine revs up to equally match road speed. Simple and smart, and I’m surprised no other manufacturer has employed this.
I very much enjoyed the 370Z for a number of reasons, all summed up into the fact that it’s a real drivers sports car. Starting with the engine. The 3.7litre V6 sounds good, it revs quite high up (with light on rev limit) to 7000RPM and gets the 370Z to 100km/h in 5.3seconds. No slouch. It’s feels tight when cold, but get it warmed up (you’d know by the 3 gauges on top of the dash) and it enjoys getting worked high up into the rev range.
Secondly, the steering is perfectly weighted. You sit low down, so you’re basically right up against the rear wheels, which means the nose of the car is quite far ahead. There’s no artificial feeling in the assistance but rather solid connection to the wheels up front. Just how it should be.
The gearbox is perfect in feel and action. This is where I really felt connected to the car, switching in between gears with the short gearlever shaking in your hand brought a physical connection that’s often lost in sports cars these days.
The gearlever vibrates in its place as you wait at the traffic light, a solid clunk as you shift into gears that requires a little bit of force, all tactile and engaging.
The breaks are sharp without being to grabby but interestingly started to fade a bit after some running in the mountains, which could just be due to it needing new brake pads.
Where the 370Z can also bite an inexperienced driver in the ass with its willing tail-happy nature. There’s quite a bit of torque going through the rear wheels, and get on the power too early in a corner and you’ll be punished with the rear fishtailing out. It’ll kill the boy racers but for those drivers that really know how to handle quite a bit of power snapping out the rear it could be the biggest asset the car has to offer.
What you have to get used to is riding the power delivery to the rear, feeding the power to the rear wheels can take some pedal modulation and get it wrong and you’ll be facing oncoming traffic. It’s not instantaneous like in a turbo-charged car but rather more work getting the power on just right. When you do you can power-slide into wide turns with a huge smile on your face. With the VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) on it lets a little bit of slide before reigning in the power quite heavily so don’t expect much fun that way. A track day with the 370Z would be heaps of fun, it wants to be tail happy the whole time, with heaps of power so you’ll never be back of the grid and solid grip.
Mashing through the corners and over hills the grip on the 370Z is superb. Thanks no doubt to fat 18 inchers, an all aluminum suspension working in conjunction with what is a near perfect weight distribution of 53/47. You can really feel the car pivots on its centre. Sports car nirvana.
Inside, the cabin has definitely been improved on the past 350Z. That said it’s still not on par with the likes of the Z4 / SLK / TT. It’s too plasticky and doesn’t have the same quality feel of the competitors. That said, there’s heaps of spec, reverse camera, BiXenon Headlamps, Rain sensing windshield wipers, Electric-heated seats, Bose sound system with integrated HDD and Bluetooth capability. The seats are firm but offer enough lumbar support for the personality of the car. You sit low but views out aren’t too restricted considering. My gripe here is the on-board computer (For fuel consumption etc), which has to be operated via buttons on the instrument binnacle, which means you really have to lean forward and figure that out. Not ideal. Also, there was quite a bit of road and suspension noise to the interior, which could detract on longer journeys if you’re not pumping some heavy tunes.
No hookers will be dumped in the back of the 370Z although a cover does pull over the available space in the rear. It’s flat and fairly wide, but not deep enough for say, a golf bag.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time with the 370Z. It’s a real drivers car, that makes you work, but rewards those that know how get the best out of it. Nearly 3 years on and it still turns heads too. It is available as a Roadster (convertible) too, which in my view looks even hotter! Model as tested was R538 525.
Considering the significant price increases of the Z4 and SLK, and slightly out of reach Boxster at this price, the 370Z is good value for those who enjoy an engaging sports car drive.