Think back to 2009 and you'll realise, eight years is a while ago. At the preceding 2008 Los Angeles motor show, we saw the global debuts of the 2010 Ford Mustang, 2011 Chevrolet Volt, and (believe it or not) the 2009 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible Special Edition. Also unveiled was Nissan’s 350Z replacement, the Nissan 370Z.
Cut to today, and while plenty may have changed in the sports car segment, not a lot has changed with the current-generation Z car.
Still sitting proudly in Nissan showrooms as the marque's only 'accessible' sports car, the 2017 Nissan 370Z Coupe starts at $56,930 (before on-road costs). Above it, the 2017 Nissan GT-R range kicks off at $189,000 and goes all the way up to the $299,000 Nissan GT-R Nismo.
A strict two-seater, opt for the seven-speed automatic transmission fitted to our Shiro White test car, and you’re looking at $59,930 (before on-road costs). If a convertible 370Z is your flavour, you’re up for another $9000.
The 370Z is priced somewhere between the likes of the Toyota 86 (from $30,790) and Mazda MX-5 (from $33,340), and the BMW M240i (from $74,900). And, in manual guise, the rear-wheel-drive 370Z Coupe only undercuts a 5.0-litre V8-powered 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback by $560.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry and a push-button start, automatic LED daytime running lights, Xenon headlights and LED tail-lights, cruise control, a rear-view camera, heated and electrically-folding power mirrors, and two-stage heated four-way power-adjustable leather and cloth sports seats (with manual height and lumbar adjustment for drivers).
Aluminium sports pedals are also standard, along with a viscous limited-slip rear differential, red-painted four-piston front and two-piston rear brake calipers (paired respectively with 355mm and 350mm discs), and 19x9-inch front and 19x10-inch rear forged RAYS alloy wheels.
It does come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, an eight-speaker Bose stereo with Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, and a 9.3GB ‘music box’ hard drive, but there’s no disguising just how old-hat the technology and setup is.
Slow and clunky with a display and interface that are far from cutting-edge, it may have taken us mere seconds to pair a phone, but a song-and-a-half to sync a phone as a Bluetooth audio device. The car takes a while to automatically reconnect to a paired phone, too.
On sale locally since May 2009, the 370Z has never been crash tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), and thus is devoid of any ANCAP safety rating. It is, however, fitted with dual front, side, and curtain airbags, and features a sole passenger-side boot floor-mounted child seat top-tether anchor point.
With its classic coupe lines, muscular arches, and tidy rear spoiler, the Nissan 370Z Coupe still knows how to cut a pleasing form, further helped by its F1-style central rear fog light, dual exhausts, and aerial-free roof.
Inside, the Z presents occupants with a dark and drab cabin, dotted with plenty of early 2000s-era orange lighting.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, with a soft-touch dash joining padded cloth door inserts and armrests, leather-upholstered centre stack flanks, a metal-effect instrument surround, and lashings of brushed aluminium-look plastics.
Looking and feeling a touch Fast and Furious, there’s also a trio of dash-top-mounted ‘meters’, comprising a digital clock, a voltmeter, and an oil temperature gauge. Disappointingly, while hard plastic ‘Z’-stamped kick plates match ‘Z’-branded floor mats, the 370’s multi-function leather steering wheel is only rake- and not reach-adjustable.
Vision is another drawback.
The Z’s wing mirrors provide an adequate view of the car’s muscular rear guards and beyond, however, vision out back – either over the shoulder or via the rear-view mirror – is severely hampered by the Nissan’s sleek lines, ultra-thick C-pillars, and raked rear window. The Z’s rear-view camera is some help in low-speed situations, but its quality isn’t great and drivers aren’t assisted with any additional aids such as an around-view camera, parking sensors, a cross-traffic alert warning, or blind-spot monitoring.
Storage too is sorely lacking, with only slender door pockets, one cup holder, a small glovebox, and a shallow centre console bin on offer up front - the latter home to a USB input, a 12-volt outlet, and a tri-coloured RCA A/V jack.
And with no backseats to speak of, the 370Z simply has two fabric-lined storage ‘tubs’ and a small fold-out ‘storage pocket’ tucked in behind the seats – seats that are also sans any sort of intelligent mechanism to make sliding the front seats forward quick and easy. That said, the Z’s front seats themselves are comfortable overall, even if (somewhat oddly) pressure applied to the headrests results in pressure being applied to between one’s shoulder blades.
The 4265mm-long Nissan also gets a small boot for larger items, with the space additionally shared by four tie-down points, a retractable cargo blind, an aluminium “luggage partition beam”, and a space-saver spare.
Fire up the 370Z’s naturally-aspirated 3.7-litre V6 and, while you aren’t able to play with any variable exhaust, suspension, or driving modes, you can still have fun with its 245kW of power, delivered at 7000rpm, and 363Nm of torque, accessible at 5200rpm.
Equipped with enough metric mumbo to hustle the 1478kg (tare) Z from 0-100km/h in a little over five seconds, Nissan claims the automatic 370Z will burn through 10.4 litres of 95-octane premium unleaded fuel per 100km (on the combined cycle). Over our week with the car though, which included a comparison against the 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback (watch for that this week), we saw a best of 10.7L/100km and an average of 15.4L/100km.
Delivering good low-end torque from around 2000rpm, putting around town in the 370Z is a cinch, with revs rarely needing to go beyond 3000rpm.
An impressive 10.0-metre turning circle makes inner-city life – as well as U-turns – easy too, but be warned: the Z’s slightly naff front under-spoiler can, and will, scrape on speed humps and driveways unless appropriate care is taken.
The seven-speed automatic transmission, while not our preference, is a good fit for the Z and for the VQ-series V6 under the bonnet. Harmless, mostly smooth, and rarely a point of frustration, the auto also gives drivers the option to take more control via the amply-sized steering column-mounted paddle shifters.
Hit the freeway, and although the engine will happily sit at bang on 2000rpm in seventh gear, occupants may be less happy with the amount of road noise that leaches into the 370Z’s quite noisy cabin – particularly over rougher surfaces.
Get out of town and into the hills and you’re presented with the opportunity to stretch the Z’s legs a little. Lift your rev-window to 3000rpm and beyond, and the eager Nissan feels even punchier, with good mid-range urge mixing well with a sharp and responsive throttle, communicative and progressive brakes, and speed-sensitive hydraulic power steering that, while on the heavier side compared with the likes of an MX-5 or 86, still delivers positive feedback and engagement.
Paired with a gruff yet smooth engine note, the 370Z doesn’t mind being revved out to its 7500rpm rev limit - it just seems to take forever to get there. It also never feels especially fast or overtly rapid either, the engine providing a steady surge of linear motivation rather than any big ‘kick’.
Firm within the city limits, but still more than acceptable, the Z’s sporty ride comes into its own when the roads get tighter and twistier.
Helped by its 245mm-wide, 40-aspect front and 275mm-wide, 35-aspect rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres, the 370Z’s levels of grip and competency remain noteworthy, despite the model’s age. It might lack some degree of body control compared with some other sports cars, but overall, the Z remains largely balanced, controlled, and controllable – enough so to inspire confidence and encourage pressing on.
Old or not, the 370Z is still a car that enjoys being driven, and driven with enthusiasm, and it’s still a car that can make you smile (even with the self-shifter on board). Equally though, essentially an eight-year-old car, the current-generation Nissan Z is hardly going to set the world on fire.
It is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty and it does come with three years roadside assist. However, it’s not cheap to service. Service intervals are recommended every six months or 10,000km, and scheduled services for the first three years are priced between $283 and $586. That means $2143 in service costs for the first three years of ownership (not including additional service items).
Realistically, what the 2017 Nissan 370Z does really, really well, is highlight just how big the divide is between something like a Mazda MX-5 or Toyota 86 and something like a Nissan GT-R. And furthermore, how potentially well Nissan would do with the introduction of a new sports car in the segment – one priced around the $40-45k mark perhaps.
For now though, sadly, the Nissan 370Z’s biggest challenge is its price. It’s simply not enough car for a tag just shy of $60,000, especially when there’s so much quality, value, and fun to be had for less.
And to think, eight years ago, the 370Z launched with a starting price of $67,990 (before on-road costs) - a mind-blowing $2000 less than the outgoing 350Z Track it replaced.