Review and road test of the Nissan 370Z (2009 - 2020)
ORIENTAL SUPER SPORTSCAR
By Jonathan Crouch
The sportscar you've always promised yourself doesn't have to cost you a lottery win. Here's one that doesn't. Even better, Nissan's 370Z is a seriously good looking coupe that's seriously good to drive.
2dr Coupe / 2dr Roadster convertible [GT Pack, GT Ultimate Black Edition, 50th, Nismo]
Forget MX-5s, Evo Xs, WRXs - even GT-Rs: the Nissan 370Z is arguably the definitive Japanese sportscar. Nissan's Z-car heritage goes all the way back to the legendary 240Z of 1969, a car intended to offer the style and performance of European sportscars at a fraction of their price. More than 1.7 million sales later, this 370Z model was launched in 2009 continuing that tradition in fine style. It builds on a firm foundation laid by the 350Z model, launched in 2002 and sold here from 2005, a sportscar than typifies everything that this Z series should be about, with good looks, muscular performance and a fantastic fun factor, a car you could really take by the scruff of the neck.
Not much else in its era could match a 350Z for the money and even the Porsches that could keep up lacked its endearing mild hooligan streak. In developing its replacement a quarter of a million worldwide sales later, Nissan needed to keep the things we liked - the charismatic V6 engine, the balanced rear-wheel drive chassis and the perfect weight distribution - and sort the few things we didn't - high running costs, cheap-feeling interior and restricted luggage space. The result? This 370Z. It was launched in 2009 in Coupe form, with a Roadster version following shortly after. The Roadster was deleted in 2014 but the Coupe continued on, facelifted in 2012, at which point a top Nismo model was added to the range. The coupe sold until 2020.
What You Get
This car might appear similar to the old 350Z but it isn't - honest - as a close inspection of the shorter, lower and slightly wider shape with its silky-smooth scratchproof paint quickly reveals. It's gorgeous. From the arrow-shaped headlamps to the boomerang-shaped tail lamps, there's a handsome aggression that marks this car out from its overtly style-conscious contemporaries. The front air-intake borrows its look from Nissan's GT-R supercar, giving this 370 greater malevolency as it looms in your mirrors with twin aerodynamic fins rising like fangs from its lower lip.
Inside, it's a big improvement on the plasticky feel of this car's predecessor. The dash is upholstered in a leather-like surface called Sofilez that's more tasteful in both look and feel and the leather seats fitted to most models have lovely suede-like inserts that not only look nice but stop you sliding around under hard cornering - though the seatbase is a little short. A number of the old car's trademark features are still intact though, such as the instrument cluster attached to the steering column that moves as you adjust the driving position to guarantee an unhindered view of the dials. You'd expect the wheel to adjust for reach as well though on a car of this price.
It's still a two-seater-only cabin and unlike, say, a Porsche Cayman, there's a useful shelf behind the front seats where you can quickly sling a coat or jacket with a glovebox now at last added for smaller items. As for proper luggage space, the hefty strut brace across the old 350Z's parcel shelf that stopped you carrying a proper weekend's luggage for two has now been banished, freeing up a more usable 235-litres of space.
What to Look For
Best to look at the www.the370z.com online owners forum here. And buy carefully. We came across various issues in our survey: CCS failure; clutch judder; hatch release problems; fuel starvation; fuel gauge issues. Check for all of these on your test drive. It's known that 2009-era models had higher fuel consumption. And if you turn too fast on low fuel, you could get stranded due to fuel starvation.
[based around a 2016 370Z Coupe - ex VAT] An air filter costs around £26. An oil filter is around £10. A set of front brake pads costs between £41-£91 (the latter figure for Brembos). A pair of front brake discs is around £176. Wiper blades cost between £16-£18. A headlight bulb is around £113.
On the Road
So, is it as much fun as the original 350Z, once called the Godfather of sports coupes? Punch the starter button and let's find out. Great: still the same glorious V6 roar, except that this time it's a larger 3.7-litre unit developing 326bhp, up from 309bhp with the old 350Z, along with a muscular 366Nm of torque. That's good enough to see 62mph from rest dispatched in just 5.7s on the way to an artificially limited maximum of 155mph. But more power you might have expected. More technology however, was something you might welcome a little less if the end result was the take away from the hands-on driving experience that Z-car motoring should really be all about.
But there's no need to worry: the people who developed this car were petrolheads. Why else would they have spent five years in developing a Synchro Rev Control system that blips the throttle when you make a downchange to make you feel like Fernando Alonso? Or an optional seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox with gorgeous magnesium-crafted F1-style paddle shifters that on a clear day, makes a circuit of your local town centre one-way system feel like a lap of Monte Carlo. So yes, this is a hi-tech stepping stone to Nissan GT-R supercar ownership. But no, its essential character hasn't been diluted: it's still a driver's car, pure and simple.
Like most serious driver's cars, it's not at its best when you're pottering about around town. Huge rear C-pillars mar the rear three-quarter view, while equally chunky A-pillars can slightly hamper visibility at junctions, but it's nothing you couldn't live with. Slightly more of an issue is the motorway tyre roar that can hamper refinement on longer journeys. All of these issues melt away however, when you're in the right mood on the right backroad on the right day. A chassis that's 50% stiffer than the old 350Z, revised suspension and dampers plus a proper limited slip differential at the rear all contribute to cornering that's wonderfully sharp and flat. There's clever variable braking that's not too sharp at lower speeds but powerful at higher ones. Plus, if you're on track and feeling brave, the standard traction control and VDC stability control systems can be fully disabled, so with a bit of instruction, you can get the car tail-out or even drifting. Brilliant.
In an age when many sports coupes seem to prioritise style as much as speed, something like this 370Z is refreshing change. Fans of its 350Z predecessor will be looking for a car to replicate the raw, muscular feel they've become used to. For the money, they'll struggle to find it anywhere but at the wheel of this one.
In a race, someone who'd spent a lot more on a Porsche or very powerful BMW or Audi might shade this Nissan but at the end of it, it's the 370Z driver who'd probably have the biggest grin. This, after all, is one of those rare but very special things: a proper sportscar.
Nissan 370Z (2009 - 2020) review by Jonathan Crouch