When Kanye West sampled Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger" for last year's big hit, "Stronger," Yeezy didn't have to stray far from the original. His spin on the old dance classic was so good, the French robots gave major credit to the hip hop extraordinaire for re-imagining a jam that basically received a drum addition that Timbaland suggested to give the backbeat some extra punch. Platinum status and a Grammy later, this track still rocks iPods aplenty to this day, including mine. The Z, like the massive remake of Kanye's standard, is a car produced time and time again by Nissan and serves as constant reinterpretations of the original sports coupe released back in `69. And every time one comes out, you get a harder, better, faster and stronger car than the one prior. The 370Z is no exception.
Starting right where the 350Z left off, the 370Z is the next great evolutionary step for Nissan's sports car legacy. Sure, the GT-R is here, but who of us can afford one? Next logical choice? Duh. Served in a package that looks strikingly similar to the 350, it's not. From head to toe, this car is actually shorter at 167.1" with a wheelbase of 100.4" but the sharply angled roof takes its styling inspiration directly from the GT-R. It's lighter, too, about 88 lbs less than the previous generation but retains a near perfect front/rear weight balance at 54/46. Design-wise, it's brought back that nostalgic Z look with a shorter back end and all around you can see the Z influence if you look close enough: taillights, headlights, even the wheel spokes - all utilizing the Z shape and are pretty cool once you get used to them. The front and rear ends are now more aggressive looking than ever; the front very reminiscent of the GT-R and is made for zero lift while the back flexes its muscles with the twin tip exhaust outlets. Another highlight are the side markers, which light a Z in all its glory when the signals are activated or the alarm turned on/off. Nissan just keeps adding to its stable of great looking sports cars and I love the way the 370Z looks and turns heads. You will, too.
But my favorite part is driving it. Cradled in the Z's new seats, the damn thing comes to life via a keyless ignition at the press of a button, a feature that comes standard on most cars these days. The space-age instrument panel is a firm reminder of performance as is the Z on the steering wheel horn plate. The 3.7L VQ37VHR V6's roar is a bit more subdued than the 350, but with the additional 26hp, your total output of 332 horses at 7K rpm more than makes up for it and is wicked fast. You can literally creep up on someone and dust them if you'd like; it's a silent killer unlike the previous gen. You're offered two types of transmission, one being a 6-speed manual gearbox with SynchroRev Match, an electronically controlled system that blips the throttle for you to smooth out shifts and downshift flawlessly as if you didn't need to master the art of heel-toe at all; alternatively the 7-speed auto is a smooth engaging system (our test vehicle for this story) and was easy to shift through like a GT-R using the Adaptive Shift Control, allowing gears to switch quickly via the steering wheel paddle shifters or the shift lever.
I used a local canyon road as an evaluation course and found the differences between a manual 350Z and the auto 370Z to be substantial. On one side, there's a good couple miles of uphill with longer straights and multiple corners as you descend. Acceleration was more linear as I sped up to the top of the drive, but cutting through the turns was very balanced using the paddle shifters, which allowed me to concentrate more on the actual drive instead of fidgeting with a clutch pedal and shifter. Of course, a little seat time in a traditional 6-speed manual would give me a fair comparison to lean on, but I was more than impressed with the auto. On standard surface streets, the 370 can bounce through traffic with ease and is very nimble, just a real thrill to control. It's a perfect daily driver although the ride quality can be stiff at times, but if you're a likeminded performance enthusiast, you won't mind it at all. And a little birdy has also confirmed with us that 20-inch wheels can be fitted without clearance problems in the way of offset or brake clearance - and yes, those front brakes are monstrous at 14-inches of pain and pleasure. But even the 19-inch factory wheel upgrade isn't bad and it's produced by RAYS Engineering, the same birdy who tells us their wheels fit, no problem, though maybe not as aggressively as its 350 counterpart...yet.
Inside, the 370Z boasts a much needed and welcomed redesign with a much more grown-up look over the 350. The top mounted gauges now sit receded into the dashboard instead of plopped up on top, a center navigation easy-to-use with Bluetooth connectivity (although it's still lacking a 6-disc CD changer) and a glove compartment (finally!) in addition to the other small compartments located behind the seats. The trunk is much more usable now that the rear strut brace has been inverted to go underneath instead of the 350's space inhibiting beam.
Our only gripe with the new Z is that it's definitely not priced for those of us who live on a tight budget, me included. The standard model is your cheapest bet and opens up at $29,930 while a fully loaded Touring edition hits close to $40K range. But at a fraction of the cost with a legacy that tops the GT-R, the 370Z, we predict, in just a few short years will come out on top as one of those sports cars that one must own in their lifetime.
That New Car Smell
2009 Nissan 370z
The Sticker Starting at $29,930
Under The Hood 3.7L DOHC 24-valve VQ37VHR V6 engine with Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL)
The Power 332 hp at 7,000 rpm; 270 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm
Scale Tipping 3,314 lbs
Layout Front engine, RWD
Gearbox 6-speed manual with SynchroRev Match or 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control, manual mode and paddle shifters
Stiff Stuff Double-wishbone front suspension design and 4-link rear
Rollers Standard 18x8/18x9 alloys with 225/50R18 and 245/45R18 Yokohama Advan Sport tires; optional 19-inch RAYS lightweight forged alloys with Bridgetstone Potenza RE050A tires
Stoppers 14" front/13.8" rear sport brakes
At The Pump N/A
The Pack Infiniti G37, Nissan 350Z, Lexus IS 350
Deep Thoughts The next generation Z is just what the enthusiast called for. Completely redesigned and refined. And 20s fit, no problem - holler!