If you want to buy a powerful rear-wheel-drive Japanese sports coupe right now in Australia for less than $72,000, you have a simple choice: this, the Nissan 370Z.
The Nissan 370Z continues a lineage that dates back to the Datsun 240Z of 1969.
More than two years after the 370Z replaced the 350Z, the evolution of the muscular shape and aggressive stance continues to capture glances despite losing the biggest Nissan sports car headlines to its bigger brother, the Nissan GT-R.
The updated Nissan 370Z remains unchanged on the outside, but gains Nissan’s new audio and navigation system that incorporates a much-needed reversing camera and bigger mirrors. Coupe variants gain a cargo blind while the soft-top Roadster has new climate-controlled (ventilated) seats.
For those that dream of a GT-R but can’t afford the extra $90-100,000 asking price -- the 370Z coupe starts from $68,640 -- you can at least now get a Z in the same Gun Metallic paint.
The all-important party piece remains the 3.7-litre V6 engine that is capable of a very healthy 245kW and 363Nm of torque. Officially there are no 0-100km/h times but our tests show it can do the sprint in the low to mid 5s (automatic).
Our test car was equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters.
Even though it’s not a dual-clutch gearbox, the seven-speed auto provides rapid shifts when needed but can also become rather placid if driven as such.
The six-speed manual gearbox is still the pick for keen drivers, especially given it has a so-called Rev-match feature that helps to flatter driving skills by automatically blipping the throttle on downchanges to sync engine revs with road speed.
Even paired with the auto, though, the 370Z still delivers a great combination of robust power delivery and brisk acceleration.
The 370Z is the only car in its class of price contenders that is naturally aspirated, which is a good thing if you like linear and consistent power delivery. However there’s none of that sudden turbo-rush sensation that you can get in many of the Z’s competitors, such as the Audi TT 2.0 TFSI, BMW 135i, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X.
It also means fuel efficiency isn't that great, with an official 10.4L/100km for the auto and 10.5L/100km for the manual, though during our week-long test drive we managed to get a more respectable 8.8L/100km, which was mainly due to long stints on the highway but mixed in a fair share of spirited driving.
Close in on the 7500rpm redline, however, and you'll discover one of the 370Z's biggest disappointments: it sounds more like an enthusiastic lawn mower than a steroidal sports car, with the engine producing a rather tinny and unnecessarily loud note.
It's a pity a sports car that looks and goes so well can sound so underwhelming - and subsequently begging for an aftermarket exhaust system - because otherwise the driver will revel in the way the 370Z steers, grips and handles.
The 370Z is better over smoother roads, with patches of neglected bitumen capable of upsetting the Nissan's balance despite it being arguably one of the best road-hugging cars in its price bracket.
Of course having a lot of power going through the rear wheels on a car as short as the Z does tend to make the rear end a tad twitchy in the wet, but the stability control system does a good job of ensuring there are no nasty consequences.
The traction control system can be more intrusive, though, tending to jump in long before the Z has come anywhere near close to losing full traction. It’s always safer to be early than too late, of course, but a two-stage traction control system wouldn’t go astray.
Behind the wheel there is a sense of Japanese authenticity to the Z, which is a nicer way of saying there are far too many buttons to play with.
There’s actually a lot more stowage inside than one would imagine, though. We’ve even used the Z to bring home flat-pack Ikea furniture (long and skinny) on the odd occasion, so it’s not as impractical as it may seem.
The sports seats are supportive without being uncomfortable and the steering wheel moves up and down with the entire instrument cluster in tow. The centre-mounted dials show the time, battery health and engine temperature.
The low central position of the satellite navigation screen can be a little off-putting given you have to glance away from the road to follow visual directions, it would be beneficial if the sat-nav’s next direction was also displayed in the centre instrument cluster, as is the case in many other cars.
Overall, it’s hard to fault Nissan’s 370Z for the purpose that it was designed for. It looks the part, it has performance to match its looks, and, being a Japanese car, it’s unlikely to give you too much grief. If Nissan could just improve the engine sound, it would become an instant classic.