Icon buyer: new Nissan 370Z Nismo vs used Jaguar XKR

Published: 06 October 2016

► New Nissan 370Z Nismo vs used Jaguar XKR
► It’s Japan vs Britain, V6 vs V8, 344bhp vs 503bhp
► Which of these two sports cars gets your vote?

No new rear-drive V6 sports car comes cheaper than Nissan’s 370Z. At £27,860, it’s almost half the price of a BMW M4, while the four-cylinder Toyota GT86 is barely any cheaper.

Go secondhand, though, and you’re spoilt for choice. Take, for instance, the Jaguar XK. It’s now 20 years since the first steel-bodied XKs debuted, but we’re focusing on the 2006-2014 all-aluminium models.

Bottom-of-the-barrel 2006 XKs start from £11k, while entry level 370Z cash bags a 2010 facelift XK with just 30,000 miles. Step up to Nismo 370Z money (£38,050 and over 50% of Z coupe sales) and you’re in the big league: we found a sub-13k-mile 2011 5.0-litre supercharged XKR with two years’ manufacturer warranty at Guy Salmon for £35,500. There are plenty of them.

The XK still looks sensational, its 2+2 leather interior oozes sense-of-occasion with its double-stitched leather and understated, elegant architecture. Only the infotainment and instruments give away the laughter lines. 

There’s a bit of Bullingdon Club to the Brit: all sharp tux and fine breeding, then it glugs a few litres of superplus and it’s sliding down the stairs on a silver tray shouting at kitchen staff. But it’s very likeable for that.

The 503bhp V8 lazily wobs at idle, and lunges down the road with a muscle-car soundtrack, slipping quickly and effortlessly between six auto ratios. It’ll warp from 50-70mph in – wait for it – 1.9sec. The steering is deliciously light and wieldy, and the dampers waft you along with serene composure and control.

It does at times feel a little floaty, but Dynamic mode quickly checks that slop. Naturally, there’s a stability-control safety net, and a fairly conservative mid-way setting if you want more slip. But if you want it all off, Jag insists you hold the button for a week. The reticence is understandable: if this car had no DSC, they’d all be destroyed.

The Nissan is a very different proposition. This is the second iteration of the range-topping 370Z Nismo, with more grown up styling and a more polished drive. Clearly, it doesn’t have the Jag’s upper-class sensibilities, but it does look purposefully aggressive, and the Nismo bucket seats’ blend of comfort and support is spot on; shame you don’t sit lower, and the steering isn’t reach-adjustable.

The Nismo remains a physical experience, with meaty steering and a Gold’s Gym gearshift, but Synchro Rev does a good job of smoothing the changes and making us all sound like heel-and-toe experts, and the suspension feels much more polished than I remember; great control, excellent composure.

Nissan 370Z Nismo vs Jaguar XKR

Owner Alexander Ahari tells us his first-gen Nismo is coarse over 5000rpm, and I remember thinking the same. This later car doesn’t though, warbling past 7000rpm like an operatic Chewbacca. 

If anything, the V6 seems more than 159bhp down on the Jag, but it’s still swift enough, and it means the rear tyres don’t spin like cartoon legs trying to run back onto a cliff. Instead, you can storm into damp corners in confidence, knowing the front will bite, and that you can play with the back end if you’re willing to put in the commitment; if it slides, it’s because you’ve told it to.

Good car, the Zed, but that Jag is mighty tempting…

Servicing/running costs 

Nissan’s set service plans are the best option when buying new, with two- (£350), three- (£485), four- (£705) or five-year (£840) plans available.

The XK requires servicing on a 10k miles/annual basis, with alternating A and B services. Performance specialists Vizu (01789 774444) quote £229 for a basic A oil service, or £379 for a B service, which includes fuel filter, air filter, brake fluid, plus suspension alignment and a wheel balance. Prices are applicable to both 4.2 and 5.0 models. Vizu also recommend replacing the anti-freeze every five years, the spark plugs and supercharger belt at 100k miles, the accessory drive belt at 150k.

Adrian Flux Insurance quotes £350 for the Nissan, £300 for the Jag, based on a 40-year-old male with a clean licence.

Reliability

Nissan offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. Extended warranties are offered, up to an additional three years/125k miles for £2678.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that many XKs at this price are still on sale with healthy warranties. If your car is out of warranty, Jaguar supports parts via jaguarheritageparts.com.

Jaguar expert Steve Weightman at Cotswolds Auto Parts reports no major problems with the six-speed auto gearbox, or the 4.2- or 5.0-litre engines. The trick adaptive dampers have also proved trouble-free. However, catalytic converter failure can occur at anything from 15,000 miles to well over 100,000 miles, low-speed city use thought to cause premature wear.

Suspension bushes can wear. Bushes are available separately, but the labour involved in extracting the bush from the wishbone means it’s easier and cheaper to replace the unit. Alternatively, Vizu will upgrade to polyurethane bushes, the front axle costing £230.

The XK’s biggest problem, according to our experts, is a discharging battery. Modules stay active in the car for up to 40 minutes after use, draining the battery. If you use the car infrequently, get a conditioning battery charger. Aluminium is corrosion-resistant, but check for stone chips and repair them quickly, and look for any bubbling around the windscreen rubber. Once water gets under the paint, it can bubble quickly.

Key options

Nissan offers three trim levels, not endless options. The manual 370Z is available in regular (£27,605) and GT (£32,685) spec, the auto only as a GT at £1450 extra. Standard spec includes 18-inch alloys, black cloth seats, climate control, Bluetooth, keyless go, rain-sensing wipers, electric heated/folding mirrors. GT adds eight-speaker Bose audio, heated black leather/suede seats with lumbar support, 19-inch alloys, sat-nav and cruise control.

The Nismo is available only as a manual for £37,745. It brings a Nismo bodykit and exhaust, Rays 19-inch alloys, cloth sports seats, a leather/alcantara steering wheel, plus chassis/performance upgrades. There are accessories and Nismo nick-knacks, but beyond that you’re looking at illuminated aluminium sill finishers (£292), tracking system (£715-£999) and rear-parking system (£365).

Key XK options for 2010/11 included 20-inch alloys (£500), adaptive cruise (£995), heated windscreen (£260), active front lighting (£430), tyre pressure monitor (£400), ventilated seats (£570), heated leather steering wheel (£235), Speed Pack (£3500) or Speed and Black Pack (£4000).

Verdict

Much of the decision process will be dictated by the statement you want to make: to some, the Nissan is too yobby, the Jaguar too old man. If you want a car for late night drives and track days, it has to be the Nissan. It’s the most focused machine, plus you get the reassurance of a warranty, known servicing costs and – according to owners – bulletproof reliability.

But the Jaguar XKR is a hell of a lot of car for the cash, and its spread of abilities is greater. It’d impress at a business meeting, cosset on the motorway home, then smoke its tyres all the way down your favourite B-road. It’s also significantly faster than the Nissan, offers +2 rear seats, and if you spend Nismo money, you can find examples with two years’ manufacturer warranty.

I’d like to take both, but the big cat gets it by a whisker. 

Nissan vs Jaguar: the numbers

Nissan 370Z Nismo


Price: £37,745
Engine: 3696cc 24v V6, 344bhp @ 7000rpm, 371lb ft @ 5200rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rwd
Performance: 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 26.6mpg, 248g/km
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Weight/made from: 1496kg/steel
Length/width/height: 4330/1870/1315mm
On sale: Now

Jaguar XKR


Price: £36k (2011, 13,000 miles)
Engine: 5000cc 32v V8, 503bhp @ 6000rpm, 461lb ft @ 2500-5500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, rwd
Performance: 4.8sec 0-62mph, 174mph, 23mpg, 292g/km CO2
Suspension: Double wishbone front, multi-link rear
Weight/made from: 1753kg/aluminium
Length/width/height: 4794/1892/1322mm
On sale: 2006-2014

Owners comments

370Z Nismo: Alexander Ahari

‘I replaced my 350Z with a Mk1 370Z Nismo showing 7k miles. I miss the 350Z’s induction and exhaust noise – the V6 is harsh over 5000rpm and I replaced the stock exhaust. The chassis tuning is the stand-out feature. The dampers are good, but oversteery slides are easy. It has been flawless over 9k miles.’

Jaguar XKR: Steve Weightman

‘I bought my ’08 4.2 XKR from auction with 81k miles. It had stone chips and kerbed wheels, but I got it for £6k below list. I’ve done 8k miles in five years, trouble-free. I’ve gradually modified it to look like a Mk2 XKR-S. Members of the XK Enthusiasts’ Club have asked me to do similar conversions.’

Read more CAR comparisons

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator