Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review

Published:01 December 2008

Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

Nissan's Zed car is back and that new 370Z moniker indicates a bigger 3.7-litre V6 – up from the old car's 3.5 and lifted from the Infiniti G37. Yet thanks to the extensive use of aluminium throughout, the new 370Z weighs exactly the same as the current 350Z. Time to find out if this make the new Nissan 370Z as good as a Porsche Cayman. Read on for CAR's first drive.

So the Nissan 370Z has been working out? More power, same weight and subtly different looks...

Nice of you to notice. Check out those swollen rear arches and pinched waist. The current 350Z never looked quite right – the rear end was a mess and the flanks lacked definition – but the 370Z answers almost every aesthetic criticism while still retaining the distinctive look of the Zed we’ve loved since 2003.

It’s not just cosmetic stuff either. The wheelbase is 100mm shorter than before to improve agility and the doors, bootlid and bonnet are fashioned from aluminium to peg the kerbweight at 1480kg, exactly what the old car weighed. Nissan reckoned this was needed to offset a 100kg increase resulting from meeting more stringent crash standards.

But it’s the same car underneath?

It’s the same in spirit, but the components are different. The platform is new – albeit one adapted from the old car’s – and also underpins the latest Infiniti saloons, coupes and convertibles.

The Nissan and Infinitis share the V6 engine too, which displaces 3.7 litres, up from 3.5 litres, hence the extra 20 in the name. It kicks out 331bhp, up from 309bhp and 269lb ft of torque, delivering said steeds to the limited slip-equipped rear axle via a six-speed manual gearbox or new seven-speed automatic. Other markets have had auto versions before, but this is the first time Brits have been offered a two-pedal version.

    

Limited slip diff, 331bhp, rear-wheel drive: the thing's probably never in a straight line, is it?

That’s not true. The 350Z had this same reputation but it’s as undeserved now as it was then. In fact it’s predominantly an understeerer with strong traction and you have to be really trying to get the tail to step out. At least that’s what it’s like in the dry. We didn’t drive it in the wet – but we’d imagine the standard-fit electronic stability control system more than earns its keep.

I heard Nissan’s benchmark for this project was the Porsche Cayman. Is the 370Z that good?

Nissan did indeed target the Porsche Cayman, though what they were trying to match was the sense of excitement rather than its steering feel or lap times in particular. They feel very different to drive and, predictably, the Porsche is substantially the better of the two. It’s significantly lighter and feels it, and it also steers more satisfyingly.

But the 370Z is still seriously good fun, and much more complete than its 350Z predecessor. Body control is much improved, something you particularly notice over mid-corner bumps, the meaty, communicative steering feels sharper and the turn-in more immediate. The engine feels subtly more athletic too, as it should given Nissan claims the 0-60mph figure has dropped by 0.3sec to 5.4sec.

We didn’t have the opportunity to drive the auto but the hefty, precise feel of the manual gearchange is so good we can’t imagine choosing anything else. Particularly now that Nissan has added Rev Synchro Control. This simple but brilliant feature automatically blips the throttle when you make a downchange, perfectly imitating a heel-and-toe shift. If you’d prefer to do it yourself you can, but it works very well and will help drivers who can’t heel-and-toe feel like heroes, as well as improving their smoothness around town.

No room for the kids in the new 370Z, I suppose?

Sorry, this is a proper sports car. But it’s not totally impractical. The new shell is much stiffer so the engineers were able to relocate the brace bar that crucified the old car’s luggage space to a less obtrusive spot behind the rear seats. There’s still no load cover though, so valuables remain in full view.

But the cabin quality is much improved. The dash plastics are of noticeably better quality, the hooded instruments are more handsome and you no longer slide out of the leather seats when you tick the cow box because the seat centres come covered in grippy suede. There’s still no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, unfortunately.

Verdict

It’s not a radical overhaul of the 350Z, but then it didn’t need one. Instead it’s a sympathetic update that’s resulted in a car that’s better to look at, better built and subtly better to drive. Only the more expensive but beautifully tactile Porsche Cayman could persuade us to spend our £30k coupe pot elsewhere.

>> So, Porsche Cayman or Nissan 370Z? Or would you wait for the new BMW Z4, the Infiniti G37 or the Hyundai Genesis Coupe? Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know what you'd spend your £30k on

Specs

Price when new: £28,000
On sale in the UK: March 2009
Engine: 3696cc 24v V6, 331bhp @ 7000rpm, 269lb ft @ 5200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.4sec 0-60mph, 155mph, est 28mpg, n/a g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1480kg/steel and aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4250/1848

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  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review
  • Nissan 370Z (2009) CAR review

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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