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December 17, 2008 > Auto Review: The New Nissan 370Z

Auto Review: The New Nissan 370Z

Nissan unveiled their brand new 350Z as a 2003 model. That was 6 model years ago so it was about time for a new Z. The 370Z will be in dealer showrooms in January and they have hit another home run with the new car.

Redesigned, the 370Z does not share a single body panel with the 350Z but it is easy to see that there is a direct styling relationship between the two. The new Z has a 4-inch shorter wheelbase, is about 3-inches shorter overall, and is about 1-inch wider than the 350Z and about 95 pounds lighter. Due to the reengineering process, the front chassis structure is about 30% stronger and the rear is 22% stronger than the car it replaces.

Seats in the 370Z are much better than those in the 350Z. They support your body much better and provide great support in all directions. During hard cornering, the improvement is dramatic because you do not have to hold onto the steering wheel just to stay in the seat. The 370Z's steering wheel is not round like the one in the 350Z; it is oval shaped and lets you see the instrument cluster better.

All Zs are fun to drive and the new 370Z continues the legend. The new motor provides about 25 more horsepower (332 HP) than the current 350Z and about 45 more than the early 350Z. The extra horses (and lighter weight) mean a reduction in 0-60 times. The 270 foot pounds means the 370Z can pull smoothly from 2000 rpm up through the rev range without any complaints.

I think the most fascinating innovation on the 370Z is its new "downshift rev matching" option for the 6-speed manual transmission - it is the world's first. We all know that "heel & toe" is a required technique for a sports car driver during the downshifting process. It usually takes drivers a while to learn how to do it and then relearn when moving to a different car. Nissan has taught the 370Z how to do it so you don't have to learn.

Assume you are driving along in 4th gear at 4000 rpm. If you want to downshift into 3rd, you would need to rev the engine up about 800 to 1000 rpm for a smooth downshift. If you wanted to go from 4th to 2nd you would need to blip the throttle to rev the engine up about 3000 rpm or so. The new transmission knows the difference between these two choices and revs the engine enough to complete a smooth downshift without heeling & toeing. A 7-speed, paddle shifted automatic is also available.

The 370Z's ride is quite an improvement over the early 350Z. The early 350Z had a very stiff ride that was hard to endure on long trips. The 370Z's ride is much smoother and would make a great every day driver. From the way it handled in the short time I drove it, I don't think that the on-track handling will suffer at all.

The shape of the 370Z is new, aggressive and distinctive yet still very easy to tell at a glance that the car is a Nissan Z. The overall shape is similar to the 350's design but the first things to stand out are the headlamps and tail lights - both shaped like boomerangs. At first I didn't like them but after a short period I started to like them and now I think they look great.

I only have one complaint. The left segment of the instrument panel is just plain ugly. It is a rectangular box colored silver with the trip computer readout in the center. This is probably the only shape in the entire interior of the car that has right angles and it looks very out of place. How did that one sneak in?

There will only be two 370Z models and prices have not yet been posted. The base model will start at about $30,000 and the Touring model is estimated to start about $35,000. There will be only two option packages: the Sport Package will include a limited slip differential, bigger brakes, front and rear spoilers, 19" wheels, and performance tires; the Navigation Package will include a touch screen nav with Real Time Traffic Information, a 9.3 GB Music Box hard drive, and an interface system for an iPod. The 370Z Roadster will be a 2010 model.

We have had many Datsun/Nissan vehicles over the years. I think that Nissan provides one of the best performance values available in the automotive marketplace in the past and today. I define performance as the combination of horsepower/torque, braking, and handling.

You can always find sports cars with more horsepower, better braking, or higher cornering g-loads, but those sports cars cost much more than a similar Datsun/Nissan. So when you add cost into the performance equation, Datsun/Nissan sports cars always provide a very cost effective performance value. This is important to 98% of the potential buyers looking for a car that is fun to drive because most of us don't have bags of money to spend on automobiles.


By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists
RRYAN@FRK.COM

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