Question: How do you age a car ten years in seven? Answer: release the world beating GT-R. Sure, cars have advanced considerably since the 350Z debuted in 2002, but after riding around in one a couple of months back, the truth became self-evident: this dog no longer hunts. In fact, it felt like a 4th Gen Camaro — all engine and odd squeaks. No one saw the writing on the wall as clearly as Nissan. Hence the brand spanking nouveau 370Z. But is it any good?
It looks better. In my eyes the 350Z always looked like an Audi TT dressed up for gym class. Especially that roof. The new Z is better from all angles. It’s also more Japanese, too; checkout that catfish mouth. Nissan spent a good deal of time explaining to us that the rear quarter windows were influenced by the OG 240Z. I don’t see that as much as I see the squared off edges from the GT-R. Love the kink at the C-pillar and the slope of the roof/trunk. While the photos do it no justice, Jessica Biel’s got nothing on the 370Z’s rear end. Can you say badonka? I gladly can.
Inside is better, too. For instance, the Z now has a glove box! More importantly, the gauges are trimmed in a trick piece of brushed aluminum that would class up any car. Unlike the 370Z’s corporate G cousins, the interior vibe is much more sporting than entry-level lux. Even with the optional leather seats. To wit: there are now only two Z model: regular Z and Touring Z (Nissan refers to the latter as Leather Z). And there are only two options: Sport Pack (LSD, bigger brakes, bigger wheels, SynchroRev Match) and navigation. I’d advise against the nav as it’s the same also-ran system found inside Infinitis. Plus it uses up a valuable cubbyhole. As for the Sport Pack…
The SynchroRev Match (SRM) is the big buzz on the new six-speed Z. When you shift to a lower gear, SRM automatically revs the engine. Most people just use their right foot to perform said task, but that’s progress. And it’s a progressive system. If you’re going 10 mph and shifting from second to first, you only get a little blip. Running at 80 mph and going from sixth to fourth rewards you with a Big Old Blip. So yes, SRM works. In fact, it works well everywhere save for the track. Going Hell for leather on a closed course, the SRM “automatically” bangs-up against the 7,500 rpm rev limiter. With a two-second push of a button you can shut the whole system off. Verdict: good about 80 percent of the time.
A smaller buzz: the 370Z’s new engine. Nissan’s opted for the VQ 3.7-liter V6 from the Infiniti G. Due to shorter exhaust pipes, it’s slightly more powerful in Z form: 332 hp @ 7,000 rpm and 270 torques @ 5,200 rpm. Good stuff, but it doesn’t feel as maniac-fast in this application as it does in the G37 Sport 6MT. The G37 is fast for a four-door sedan. But when you’re talking sports cars, 0 – 60 mph in 5.1 seconds is mid-pack. Hell, the new WRX hits 60 in 4.7 seconds, shaming the Z (and the STI, EVO, Mustang GT, some Porsches, etc). My point: the 370Z could use more grunt.
The medium buzz: the 370Z is four inches shorter than its predecessor, wider and lower to the ground and 90 pounds lighter. From the way Nissan tells it, this was no little feat; they had to add roughly 200 pounds of regulatory crap. Aluminum in the hood, doors and rear hatch helped get the job done, allowing Nissan to maintain the Z’s 53/47 weight distribution. The boffins also changed the front suspension from multi-link to double wishbone (my fave) while leaving the rear 4-link.
This new Z is lighter, shorter and features better suspension, sharper brakes and bigger wheels. Nissan had us flog the Z around a private track (Spring Mountain) outside Vegas. Initially, I was surprised at how much speed the 370Z could carry though corners. Grip is essentially endless (thank the double wishbones and 19”x10” tires) and the steering feel is at least twice as good as the 350Z’s. Therefore…
I don’t know. I should be jumping up and down. On paper, the 370Z is a mean, corner-eating bastard. But something’s amiss. It’s too quiet inside, for one. And I really think the notorious FM platform is better suited to sedans (G) and sport-SUVs (FX) than pure sports cars. Put it like this: if it was my $30k (or so), I’d be shopping a (gulp) Mustang GT.
[Nissan provided a flight, hotel accommodations, meals, vehicles, gas and insurance. Note: Vehicles tested were pre-production models fitted with oil coolers, transmission coolers and differential coolers for repeated track use]