2009 Nissan 370Z Review

Rating: 8.0
$69,500 Mrlp
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In these days when even a Mini is bigger than its predecessor it's certainly unusual for a manufacturer to be boasting that its car is smaller, and better for it, but that's certainly the case with Nissan's new 370Z.

While the 370Z may be a little bit smaller than its predecessor, the 350Z, it is bigger and better in almost all other respects, boasting a bigger engine, more power, better safety and improved handling.

CarAdvice has just spent a day driving the 370Z over some challenging sections of road used for Adelaide’s iconic Classic Adelaide Rally, and we’ve got to say right from the get-go this is one fine sports car.

Nissan was making no secret of the fact that it was benchmarked against the Porsche Cayman, and we’d have to say that in most respects its delivered an automotive body-blow to its benchmark, plus it costs nearly $50,000 less.

It’s also instantly recognisable as something different from the 350Z, something that befits a car that will be 40-years-old later this year.

While the history of the Nissan Z-car may have been a bit of a case of the good, the bad and the downright ugly, there’s none of that in this latest iteration.

In it’s benchmarking against the Porsche the 370Z has eschewed bulking up by going lighter, slicing 100mm out of the wheelbase behind the driver, while the front and rear tracks are 15mm and 55mm wider.

At the same time the 370Z retains styling cues that link it directly to its heritage, the signature quarter window behind the doors echoing the original 240Z, the sharply raked roofline and hatch and the trio of gauges across the top of the dashboard.

It’s only a little over two months since Nissan launched the latest version of its iconic sports car the GT-R supercar, and now it has further stimulated the sports car market, which the company says is holding up surprisingly well in the current automotive market, with the more affordable 370Z.

“The 370Z’s pricing is more Mazda RX-8 but in terms of performance and other attributes it’s closer to the likes of the Porsche Cayman, Audi TT and BMW Z4,” said Nissan Australia’s brand manager for passenger cars, Darren Holland, in Adelaide.

He went on to add that Nissan considered that the 370Z sat in its own space in the sports car market.

Nissan is certainly going all out to lure buyers with the lavish equipment level on the 370Z.

Standard features include xenon headlights, electrically adjustable heated sports seats, Bluetooth, climate control, Bose audio, DVD satellite navigation, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels. Six airbags and stability control, called VDC in Nissan parlance, are both part of the safety package.

The 370Z utilises Nissan’s FM platform, which underpins the US-market Infiniti G37 coupe, and also gains that car’s pop-up bonnet to give more protection to pedestrians in the event of an accident.

At the same time the pricing has been sharpened and the single model is now $2000 cheaper than the previous 350Z Track, with buyers paying $67,990 for the six-speed manual and $70,990 for the seven-speed automatic.

No exterior panels are shared with the 350Z and the 370Z features a slightly larger engine, 3.7-litres as opposed to 3.5-litres, developing more power and torque, 245kW at 7000rpm, compared with 230kW, and 363Nm at 5200rpm, compared with 358Nm.

Peak power and torque figures occur at slightly higher engine speeds, but fuel consumption has been reduced significantly in ADR combined-cycle testing.

The new VQ37VHR engine, a DOHC power plant, has variable valve timing, which has been reworked to adjust valve lift as well. Nissan calls this new system Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) and says that it raises torque and drivability at both ends of the rev range.

The manual transmission 370Z uses 10.5L/100km and the automatic is even more economical, at 10.4L/100km. Both figures are a significant improvement on the 11.7L/100km and 11.8L/100km numbers for the manual and auto variants of the 350Z.

While the six-speed manual transmission is a revised version of the manual ‘box in the 350Z, the seven-speed automatic is entirely new and comes with paddle-shift and Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) to blip the throttle when selecting a lower gear.

Both gearboxes also use the SynchroRev Match system developed by Nissan to ensure gearshifts are smoother and faster than previously.

Nissan says the new system, which uses clutch and gearshift sensors to monitor the driver's input, can change gear in half a second. On the manual version of the 370Z, this system can be switched off, so drivers can do their own throttle blipping!

Using aluminium bonnet, doors and hatch Nissan shaved 100kg from the car but added equipment, much of it safety related, put about 85kg back into the car, which ended up being 15kg lighter than the 350Z at 1517kg.

The 370Z gets a new double wishbone front suspension and an improved version of the 350Z’s multi-link rear suspension, while both are stronger and lighter as a result of the use of forged aluminium components.

Power-assisted rack and pinion steering is a modified version of the 350Z's and the level of assistance is varied according to the car’s speed, and the 18-inch alloy wheels carry Yokohama Advan Sport tyres, 225/50R18 at the front and 245/45R18 at the rear, while the spare is a space saver.

Brakes comprise ventilated rotors on all wheels, with 355x32mm rotors at the front, utilising four-piston callipers, and 350x20mm rotors at the rear, with twin-piston callipers.

As we’ve already said the 370Z is shorter, but wider than the 350Z, and overall length is reduced by 65mm but the wheelbase is 100mm shorter, achieved by bring the rear axle closer to the driver.

Despite the shortening luggage space is increased and boosted by the removal of the strut brace that was located in the boot of the 350Z.

Nissan, which calls the 370Z a ‘super-evolution’ of the 350Z, has sold 5000 of the previous model in Australia and is confident in predicting 370Z sales of at least 100 a month.

On the road the 370Z, despite being a smaller car overall, looks more muscular than the 350Z, helped in part by the wide-track stance and the purposeful twin-exhaust pipes protruding from the rear bodywork.

We also have to say that the arrowhead headlights and boomerang taillights that can look awkward in photographs manage to look purposeful and well resolved when you see the car in front of you.

Sliding behind the wheel into the very well designed and comfortable sports seats means you are presented with a large central tachometer flanked by two smaller dials, one the speedo, while perched above the centre console are three additional dials, including a temperature gauge and digital clock.

We do have to mention that the steering wheel isn't reach-adjustable, and while there's considerable adjustability in the seat to get a good driving position, tall drivers will find their legs are still a little too bent for a really comfortable position.

Fire up the engine with the obligatory start-stop button and there is a satisfying rumble from the V6 that makes you want to prod the throttle pedal immediately.

We started out in a seven-speed auto, which proved an excellent choice for the run out of Adelaide city environs in heavy traffic, and was equally up to the challenges of a very spirited drive along a particularly tricky and twisty piece of Classic Adelaide tarmac.

The road was wet to damp in patches and while the VDC was working hard on occasions, and the car did show a tendency to step out at the rear when power was brought on early coming out of tight corners, the overall effect was one of controllability.

Switching later to a six-speed manual car we found it to just as much fun, with a high level of control.

The ride in both cars was firm and taut, but never so hard as to be uncomfortable, except perhaps on the occasional extremely bumpy section of road.

Pushed through corners, and we found plenty of them on our 300+ kilometres, the rear-drive 370Z knuckles down and pours on the grip.

It feels sharper and more precise than the 350Z, itself no slouch in the handling department, and the steering is precise and delivers plenty of feedback and feel.

We must mention the manual gearbox's SynchroRev system, which works really well, effortlessly matching engine revs with road speed on gearshifts.

Just as impressive is the seven-speed auto, which is smooth, quick shifting and highly responsive when controlled by the up-down paddles behind the steering wheel.

The overall verdict, a great step forward in the long story of the Nissan Z-car, with the 370Z providing a true sports car, that’s also a doddle to drive around town.

CarAdvice will be putting the new 370Z through its paces in a full road test in the coming weeks, so watch out for that.