Nissan 370Z King Of The Mountain.
Does the turbo AWD fraternity have to worry about the new 370Z? How about Boxsters, AMG Benzes, M-series BMWs and S-badged Audis? In Brisbane, there's only one way to find out.
- by Alborz Fallah - photos - Tristan Schoonens.
Earlier this year I took a Mitsubishi Evolution X up Mount Glorious/Nebo here in my little country town called Brisbane. There are not too many roads that we can be proud of in QLD but Mt Nebo/Glorious are quite possibly some of the best driving roads I've ever come across.
There is one absolute mandatory prerequisite for any serious mountain run; you must have a capable car. For some this can be an old Skyline or WRX, for others its a Lotus Exige and once in a while you'll see the occasional Ferrari along side the array of M3s and other European performance cars.
Of course the Nissan 350Zs have long ago made their name around the Brisbane mountain ranges. Hordes of Zs pile up on Thursdays for cruise nights and most often than not they find themselves driving up either Mt Cootha or Glorious.
So what about the 370Z? The latest incarnation in the Z lineup? Better looking, more power, better handling, better steering feel, pretty much better everything.
The first thing you'll notice about the new Z is the uprated interior. What Mitsubishi and Subaru have both continuously failed to achieve with the EVO and STI, Nissan has done with the 370Z. No longer does the interior feel cheap with tons of hard plastics. Unlike its Japanese rivals, the Z is no longer just a great powerplant and handling package with a Spartan interior, it's a proper luxury sportscar.
Minor details aside, the aim of this exercise with the 370Z was to take it up Mount Glorious and see if it could really keep up with the AWD turbos. Of course you can argue that this is a moot comparison and that they are totally different cars with the Z being more about looks than going around tight corners at speed.
Nevertheless, having spent four days with the Z, I had already fallen in love. I drove the R35 Nissan GT-R briefly some time ago and the first thing you'll notice about the Z is how Nissan has managed to create the ultimate supercar killer with the GT-R and then water it down to create the Z.
It's good to point out that the Z is not the absolute in Nissan's sporting ability. It's simply a compromise for the masses. If we could all have a GT-R, we would, but at half the price for the Z, it's a compromise that's well and truly worth it.
Porsche needs to be worried. Porsche needs to be really worried. Sure it has brand cachet over Nissan, but would I honestly pick a base model Boxster over a 370z? I don't think so. So let me tell you why.
The car which most closely represents how the 370Z feels for me is the BMW M3 Coupe. Any car which is driven via the rear wheels sits between these two characteristics, it's either rather soft and floaty in the rear with little predictability and control or its absolute perfection with extreme finesse and very predictable. The M3 sits in the right side of the scale and the Z is right on its tail.
Get the back out slightly and it feels like you can hold it there forever. Anytime you want to put the rear back in its place you simply turn the wheel and it all falls instantly into place. The smoothness in which the Z delivers power to the rear wheels can give you goose bumps. There is no sudden rush of power from the turbo like in the EVO and STI, it's just pure harmony of you and the car all in the moment.
There is one problem with the Z which, ok I suppose it's not really a problem but rather a hard choice. It's clearly going to be difficult to pick between the seven-speed automatic or the brilliant rev-matching six-speed manual gearbox.
Having driven both I am still not sure which I'd pick. Both are a joy to drive, naturally you'd expect me to say go for the manual as its more of a man's car, however the automatic is so inspiring that I'd almost have to consider it as not only will it change gears faster most of the time but it even has one more gear!
Then again the rev-matching system in the manual box can make you look like Lewis Hamilton. Every time you drop down a gear the Z will automatically rev match before you let the clutch out, essentially there is no longer a need to heal-toe or double-clutch for the perfect shift. It's all done for you.
I turned the system off for a while as I was positive that despite all the technology, I can still down shift quicker, I can't, you can't either, nor can Lewis Hamilton. It's pure perfection, it matches revs so smoothly that you'll spend the first week just driving it around and going from third to second for no reason.
My first thought, of course, was how great the 370Z will be once the tuners get their hands on it and give it a bit more noise. How brilliant it would sound at lights as it comes in for a stop, gears shifting down in perfect harmony with the car automatically rev matching on each down shift. It would make even the most incapable manual driver feel godly in his ability to shift.
So it was time. Mt Glorious/Nebo has long been the home ground of all sportscars that get tested in Brisbane and I'd been looking forward to taking the Z up there for weeks.
The more you get to know the 370Z the more you start to understand just how much potential the car has. Whatever Nissan has done to the chassis has resulted in a brilliant feel through the steering wheel and cornering ability nearing that of its all-wheel drive rally inspired rivals.
After two solid runs up and down the mountain I am positive that the 370Z was capable of keeping up with almost anything.
You can jump on the accelerator, brake hard before a corner, turn it and power out, it won't step out on you if you don't want it to and the level of grip is extraordinary for a Japanese rear-wheel drive coupe.
The reason for that is Nissan's determination to make a better all around car. This isn't a 350Z with a new front and rear, it's a whole new redesigned, reworked and highly improved machine and the work has paid off. It has more power, better handling thanks to a lower centre of gravity, lower weight thanks to lighter components, wider track and a tighter turning circle than the outgoing 350Z.
In simple terms, you just feel very confident driving the new Z, the seats are 10mm closer to the ground, it's 15mm/55mm wider front and rear compared to the 350Z and it really does go a lot harder too.
Powering the beast is Nissan's VQ37VHR 3.7-litre (hence 370Z) V6 engine that produces 245kW (at 7000rpm) and a very respectable 363Nm of torque (at 5200rpm). This means a 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds (quarter mile in 13.9 seconds).
What was very noticeable around the mountain was not feeling the Z constantly changing gears as it now revs out to 7000rpm (800rpm more than the 206kW 350Z) allowing for that extra bit of power delivery when you need it the most.
The steering response is EVO like, just turn, point and accelerate. There is a whole lot of feedback that will let you know if you're doing something wrong, you can drive the Z into corners at high speed so smoothly it will scare you.
It's rather hard to fault the Z. If you're waiting for a track edition to come out, don't waste your time, the brake system on the 370Z is essentially the same as the Brembos found on the 350Z track edition minus the Brembo badge. Two solid runs and there was very little brake fade.
The car's nanny controls are also easily switched off so if you're out in a skidpan or a track day you can really get to enjoy the car. When they're left on (as they should be on the road) the Z will let you have a little bit of fun before it cuts in.
Overall I am willing to admit it's not as quick as the Mitsubishi Evolution X or Subaru's STI around a mountain range, but its a lot more engaging and a hell of lot more fun!
More importantly, it looks better, it sounds better and it has a significantly better interior than both its Japanese rivals. As for comparing it to the Porsche Boxster, for the money the Z represents a much better overall car, unless you're willing to spend $140k+ on a Boxster S, performance wise the Z will leave the standard Boxter for dead.
You can find yourself in a brand new 370Z manual from $67,990* and $70,990* for the 7-speed automatic.
It was really hard having to give the Z back. If there was ever a car for under 100g that just felt right in every way, it's the Nissan 370Z.
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2009 Nissan 370Z Photo Gallery
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