'09 Nissan 370Z
When it comes to downshifting, I've come to the stark realization that I am genetically pre-disposed to lack heel-toe shifting ability. I wasn't born with it. A harsh reality, considering that I already had to accept the bitter fact that I lacked palms large enough to play center in the NBA, the sinewy legs of a marathon runner, or the hulking mass of NFL defensive lineman... I mean, come on; I'm Asian. Physically, we're built to win the Spelling Bee, not the MVP.
Driving, on the other hand, was supposed to be different. In the four-wheeled arena, skill, determination and dedication were supposed to be the great equalizer-not physical disposition. With practice, I would become one of the world's greatest... okay, B-list for sure. But all of those dreams were dashed when I tried my luck at performance downshifting and learned that, once again, I lack the necessary genes.
One never thinks about their gait. Unless they have really bad posture and look like they ought to be ringing the bells of Notre Dame, physical stance isn't much of a concern. Or so I thought. When I tried learning the dark art of the heel-toe-planting the inner edge of the ball/big toe of your right foot on the brake, while simultaneously attempting to tap the gas pedal with the same right foot along the opposite region that is the heel, all before releasing your left foot from the clutch-I noticed how contorted my leg would feel. It was like doing the splits. And no matter how much I stretched or tried my darnedest, the physical act of braking and angling my feet to throttle didn't feel natural... so much so, that I turned to Options videos to witness the activity. And that's where I had the epiphany; you had to be pigeon-toed.
Here I am, suffering an out-toe gait, a Charlie Chaplin-esque stance, trying to master what is essentially impossible for someone with my condition. Vaudeville, maybe. Heel-toe, hell no. Like dreams of a backboard-breaking slam dunk, finishing a 26.22 mile marathon or a bone-crushing QB sack, I would never be able to execute the flawless heel-toe. That is, until I drove the 370Z.
Available with the $3,000 Sports Package for the '09 370Z is a checklist typical of a sports car: Viscous LSD, forged wheels (Rays Engineering), Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires, front and rear spoilers, larger brakes (Nissan) and SynchroRev Match. What Nissan forgot to do, was to italicize, bold, highlight and asterisk the last item. The understated SynchroRev is a feature that automatically rev-matches the engine speed to gear speed on a downshift. That awkward leg/foot gesture of blipping the throttle while braking? Nissan solved it.
Now when plowing into a corner, late with the brakes, all the out-toe population has to do is simply brake, downshift and drop the clutch, and the computer wizardry in the new Z calculates at exactly what rpm the engine should be, and revs to it. It's like magic... if magic were life-changing, awe-inspiring and 100% repeatable. The days of half-assed, heel-toe and over- or under-reving the motor, throwing off the delicate balance of a car during a downshift, is a thing of the past. What cell phones did to land lines, SynchroRev does to the heel-toe. Even commuting in thick traffic, the SynchroRev Match makes shuffling through gears a smoother, more livable experience. 405 freeway, do your worst.
The innovations in the 370Z don't end with the rev-match; the 3.7L VQ37VHR V-6 (of the G37) is 35% newer than the VQ35 it replaces. The new engine boasts Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) that redlines at 7,500 rpm and puts out 332 hp at 7,000 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque; an improvement of 26 hp and 2 lb-ft of torque over the latest VQ35. In 2NR fashion, we took the 370Z to the roller of MD Automotive's chassis dynamometer, and saw 287.3 whp and 236.5 lb-ft of torque-which, factoring in an approximate 17% drivetrain loss, verifies its claimed flywheel numbers.
The newly minted, wait for it, Z34 chassis retains the Z33's ideal 54/46 front/rear weight balance, but is 95 lbs lighter than its older brother; much due to its aluminum hood, doors and hatch. Paradoxically to the lighter weight, the Z34 is much stiffer, too. Thanks to the use of improved materials and engineering, such as the stiffer aluminum front suspension cradle and improved four-link rear, body torsion is up by 30% in the front and 22% in the rear, and rear vertical bending is down 30%. With all the upgrades, the 370Z is iron-beam stiff.
The new double-wishbone front suspension design and "high response" shocks are taut, but not too tight. On turns and in twisties, the Z feels super solid; none of the ball-shriveling oversteer found in many FR configurations. Commuting through the bumpy roads of LA-the Beirut of American asphalt-the 370Z rides snug, even with the Sports Package-equipped Z's low-profile Bridgestone RE050As.
The cabin of the 370 is also very cozy. Like the Zs before it, the Z34 retains the cockpit feel in the driver's seat. Heftier bolsters and a cushioned knee pad along the center console keep the driver firmly in place, and the design and choice of interior materials is much more refined that the previous iteration. A glove compartment makes its debut, as does a rear support bar relocated forward of the rear struts, freeing up trunk space. The shifter is crisp and the floor-mounted accelerator pedal helps the heel-toe capable (read: pigeon toed). For purists who scoff at the heel-toe-inept (read: me), there's the S-Mode button, positioned to the top right of the shifter, to disable the SynchroRev. I'll leave mine on, thank you.
For those who aren't completely sold on the exterior, see it in person before you pass your verdict. Admittedly, when I first saw the spy shots of the 370Z, I wasn't completely feelin' it-the notched head- and taillights looked as if they were smeared during the design phase. But seeing it in person, you quickly realize that photos don't do it justice. The shorter (0.3 inches less in overall height), smaller (wheelbase is 3.9 inches shorter; overall length by 2.7 inches), wider (track is 0.5 inches wider in the front; a J. Lo-like 2.2 inches in the rear) gives the Z34 an aggressive, sporty look, and the notched lights accent the curvaceous body perfectly. The profile, longer hood and sloped back, is a throwback to the 240Z, while the cantilevered roof and aggressive headlights take cues from the new R35.
Lighter, smaller, wider, stiffer, nicer interior and with more power, the 370Z takes the term "new and improved" to a whole new level. More amazing, is the starting price of $29,930, which is comparable to the price of a similarly equipped 350Z-perfect for these harsh economic times. Throw in the requisite Sports Package for us out-toed with big dreams, and the 370Z is damn near priceless. B-list, here I come.
For the expanded review and images, check out www.taketwomedia.com
'09 Nissan 370Z
MSRP: $29,930 (base)
Engine: 3.7L, 24-valve DOHC V-6 (VQ37VHR)
Power Rating: 287.3 whp, 236.5 lb-ft of torque (tested); 332 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 270 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Configuration: front engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed manual with SynchroRev Match (available on Sport package); available seven-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 3,232 lbs
Suspension: double wishbone (front), four-link (rear)
Wheels: rays forged wheels (19x9 front, 19x10 rear) on Sport package; Alloy wheels (18x8 front, 18x9 rear) stock
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza RE050A (245/40R19 front, 275/35R19 rear) on Sport package; Yokohama Advan Sport (225/50R18 front; 245/45R18 rear) stock
Brakes: four-piston with 14-inch ventilated disc (front); two-piston with 13.8-inch ventilated disc (rear)
EPA Fuel Economy (mpg): 18 city, 26 highway
Drive Impression: The 370Z is super solid, well balanced and has the power/torque to make anyone, out-toed or not, feel like a track star. And don't even get me started on how cool the SynchroRev is. If you can't tell, I heart the 370Z.
Tunability: Given the popularity of the 350Z and the parts already trickling out for the G37, it's only a matter of time before your budget will be the only limit on tuning the new 370Z.