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In a time when manufacturers are racing to electrify and automate their vehicles, it's almost refreshing when you step into a new vehicle that stays true to old-school values.
The Nissan 370Z is a classic example. Now nearing its 10th birthday – ancient by today's ever-shortening model life cycles – the 'Zed' has a big engine up the front, next to no modern driver technologies, and in the case of our tester, a manual transmission.
Here we have the 370Z N-Sport – a brightly coloured limited-run version of Nissan's sports car that recently touched down in Australia. Priced from $48,490 plus on-road costs, it's the most affordable 370Z ever to be offered in Australia, and also one of the most exclusive – just 50 units will be available locally.
Essentially a renamed version of the Heritage Edition revealed for the US early last year, the 370Z N-Sport receives some unique appointments compared to the wider range, namely the contrasting decals for the bonnet, roof and side skirts, along with special black 18-inch alloys.
Other model-specific features include black side mirrors, yellow interior highlights (you'll love or hate them), and cloth sports seat trim. Beyond the special-edition stuff, the 370Z comes as standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation system with 9.3GB hard drive, an eight-speaker Bose audio system, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, keyless entry with push-button start, cruise control, climate control, automatic xenon headlights, and LED daytime-running lights.
There are also LED tail-lights, partial electric seat adjustment for both the driver and passenger, leather trim for the steering wheel and gearknob, cruise control, power folding side mirrors, front and rear strut braces, and a rear-view camera with guidelines.
What you won't see here are new-age technologies like autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring or adaptive cruise control, though the Zed does come with must-haves like ABS brakes, six airbags, traction control, along with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
Our tester's eye-catching Chicane Yellow paint is a no-cost option, though Diamond Black or Shiro White add $550 to the sticker. Other than that, there are no extras that can be added to the N-Sport model other than the seven-speed automatic transmission, which bumps the price up to $50,990 before ORCs.
While the lack of active safety technologies may not be ideal for a brand-new car costing 50 grand on the road, it's worth considering that the Zed's rivals – namely the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5 – don't offer the majority of these features either, though the Mazda can be had with blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning.
But in the big scheme of things, that's not what the 370Z is about. The whole point of a sports car is performance and the way it makes you feel behind the wheel, not the ANCAP safety rating (which it doesn't have, mind you) or whether it'll stop you from rear-ending the car in front of you in traffic.
Under the bonnet is a 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6 making 245kW of power, made at a dizzying 7000rpm, and 363Nm of torque at 5200rpm. That's sent to the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential and a six-speed manual in the case of our tester, complete with a rev-matching function for amateur stick-shifters like myself.
The transmission feels very mechanical, if a touch notchy, during shifts, but it's far from 'difficult' to drive, even in stop-start traffic.
Continuing with the old-school theme, the Zed's powertrain demonstrates characteristics that are rarely replicated with the small-capacity turbocharged engines of today.
Power delivery is silky smooth and very linear, which makes it very usable around town and when you're wringing its neck on a country back road. It may not give you that shove in the back a turbocharged engine does when it hits peak torque, but the Zed still manages to feel seriously quick.
Nissan doesn't claim an official 0–100km/h time for the current model, though the low- to mid-5.0-second bracket quoted in the past sounds about right. If you plant your right foot, the 370Z makes rapid progress and you'll be doing the speed limit before you realise.
The brisk acceleration is accompanied by a singing exhaust note, though it doesn't really give you the aural symphony until at least 3000rpm. Even without an artificial synthesiser into the cabin, or active valves in the exhaust system, the Zed's soundtrack is quite intoxicating.
It's a thirsty bugger, though. Over 600km of mixed driving favouring urban conditions, we managed an indicated 12.8L/100km. That should still get you at least 500km per fill in real-world driving from its 72L tank, but it's a little up on Nissan's 10.6L/100km claim. It's also worth noting the 370Z requires at least 95RON unleaded, though you're best opting for 98RON in a performance car.
When you're not taking a punt on a winding back road, the Z is actually quite a comfortable cruiser. The ride is relatively supple and is able to soak up the various lumps and bumps associated with inner-city commutes without too much fuss.
When it comes to handling, the Z definitely feels comfortable in the bends. It turns in with accuracy and balance, and there's next to no body roll. However, the feedback through the steering wheel can feel a little numb and wooden, so you don't always feel like there's a direct connection between the driver and the front wheels.
In wet conditions, it's also very easy to set off the traction control if you give it a little too much welly, but that's to be expected of a high-powered rear-drive sports car, right?
On the open road, the silky-smooth V6 pulls beautifully to highway speeds, and sits in sixth gear humming away at such speeds. Tyre roar is fairly present, especially on coarse-chip surfaces, but is on par with rivals like the 86/BRZ and the MX-5.
Let's talk about the design. After all these years on sale, the Zed still looks pretty damn good. The long bonnet and short rear overhang give it a muscular and athletic look, while the sharp frontal design and wide rear haunches make it look fast even when it's standing still.
This tester is a big fan of the bright-yellow paint job accented by the black decals and wheels, though potential buyers with more sedate tastes can opt for the black or white options.
Inside, the overall layout looks alright, though closer inspection of the various displays and some of the materials indicates where the Nissan is really starting to show its age.
One of the first things you'll notice is the lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which can be frustrating and awkward when combined with the two-piece seat adjustment.
Whereas the seatback is electrically adjustable and the base slides forward and rearward using power adjustment, the height and lumbar movements are manual – and the seat base moves up and down separate to the backrest. The latter means every time you make a small adjustment to the seat base's height, you have to make another change to the seatback to compensate.
An abundance of yielding soft-touch materials adorn the dash and door trims, though the grainy finish of the upper sections of the cabin can look a little aged, and the leather-look finishes on the centre console feel like they're backed by polystyrene when you touch them. The switchgear feels pretty solid, though, and are nicely damped when you press them.
Sitting atop the centre stack is a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, which is running one of the older versions of Nissan's infotainment and navigation software. The graphics are clear and the system responds adequately to inputs, though it does look very dated and there's no smartphone mirroring software like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
However, the lack of new-age technologies will likely appeal to a 370Z buyer, who is looking for a more old-school and mechanical experience rather than the techy, damped feel of many modern vehicles.
Storage is surprisingly good for a vehicle of this type. There are two large cupholders in the centre console positioned ahead of a decent-sized centre bin, along with bag-sized cubbies behind both seats.
Behind that, the boot is a decent size – though Nissan doesn't actually quote a volume – and is accessed via a liftback tailgate that offers a wide opening. There are four tie-down points, a retractable cargo blind, and an aluminium "luggage partition beam", which looks more like a rear strut brace if you ask us, and under the boot floor is a space-saver spare wheel.
Like the wider Nissan range, the 370Z is covered by the company's three-year/100,000km warranty, with three years of roadside assistance. It's pretty average by today's standards, though the majority of its rivals offer similar, if not slightly better, cover in the case of the Mazda MX-5's newly introduced five-year/unlimited-kilometre program.
Scheduled maintenance is required every six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first, with the first five visits asking for $283, $354, $283, $585 and $283 – equating to $1788 for the first 30 months/60,000km of ownership.
All told, the Nissan 370Z N-Sport is probably the best value proposition the company's entry-level sports car has offered for some time. Now priced under the $50,000 mark, the limited-edition N-Sport is priced directly against high-spec versions of less powerful four-cylinder rivals, and offers far more performance and presence to boot.
Sure, it has a dated cabin and lacks most forms of modern technology and convenience features, though we need to remind ourselves that those things aren't what the 370Z or its wider segment are about.
It continues to provide class-leading performance at this pricepoint, while offering design and street cred that used to be reserved for a much higher price bracket. Additionally, the N-Sport is eye-catching thanks to its bright paint job and contrasting graphics, while also being exclusive given just 50 will head to Australia.
The Z will also appeal to those who don't care for today's mod-cons and prefer a more old-school feel. It's sort of like Mariah Carey: it was great when it was new, and still shows flashes of greatness today.
While the 370Z isn't a standout using our ratings system, it ticks all the boxes for the target buyer, and this reviewer is damn sad he had to hand the keys back.