Nissan 370Z

Debut: 2008
Maker: Nissan
Predecessor: 350Z

After changes and changes, the Fairlady starts playing consistently now...

Although I have been following the Fairlady for more than 20 years, I still can't say myself fully understand her. You can't figure out what she is because in different time she appeared in different form and character. The earliest Fairlady was a little roadster in the mold of MG or Triumph. It suddenly became a Ferrari-style sports car in 1969 (240Z), then softened into a grand tourer (280ZX and the first generation 300ZX). In 1989 it was revitalized as a high-tech, high-performance Porsche-beater (2nd generation 300ZX). 13 years later, it dumped all fancy technologies and luxury and simplified itself into a brutal 2-seater sports car (350Z). For sure, Fairlady can play magic and convert herself into different figures as wish. However, an inconsistent image does not help building a nameplate. Without a prestige nameplate, you can't charge more money than the competition. This is why 350Z could charge only half the price of a Porsche Cayman.

Anyway, Nissan starts playing more consistently now. The new 370Z follows the same simple format of the old car. It is built on the second generation FM platform sharing with various Infinitis, with a big naturally aspirated V6 mounted longitudinally up front and drives the rear wheels. Suspensions are double-wishbone type up front (replacing the outgoing multi-link) and the rear remains to be 4-link. To keep it affordable, 370Z resisted to employ most sophisticated technologies widely available to its rivals, such as adaptive damping, twin-clutch gearbox and active differential. It also does without the increasingly popular multi-mode integrated control system. No wonder its base price is just over US$30,000 in the United States. Even the car equipped with Sport Pack (which includes 19-inch wheels, sportier tires, larger brakes, LSD, Synchro Rev gearbox and additional spoilers that eliminates aerodynamic lift and reduces Cd to 0.29) will cost no more than US$35,000.

The roof line now drops gradually and merge with the tail - an attempt to look like 911 ?

Its exterior design is also an evolution of 350Z. The muscular, brutal profile is kept, but there are lots of subtle refinement. There is now far more surface tension throughout the body. The flanks are more pronounced to cover the wider tracks. The roof line now drops gradually from the A-pillar towards the tail and merge with the latter - an attempt to look like 911 ? However, not everything is positive to me. I am not pleased with the gimmicky L-shape headlamps and taillights because they are rather unnecessary. Same reason for the sharp angle between A-pillar and roof, which was taken from GT-R. The tiny quarter windows won't help rear-quarter visibility. But most disgusting is the front intake, because it looks like a bloody big mouth with a pair of Vampire's teeth ! I suppose a black 370Z would be the perfect car to attend Halloween party.

I also dislike the interior design of this car, as the organic theme of its plastic dashboard and transmission tunnel is outdated. There are many alloy inserts here and there, but you can easily spots most of them are fake. The handy 3-gauge instrument pod remains. It continues to be adjustable for angle together with the steering wheel. Unfortunately the latter is not adjustable for reach. The manual seat adjustment is another signs of cost control to enable a low price. Nevertheless, soft plastics are used throughout the cabin now, which makes it feel far more expensive than the low rent cabin of 350Z.

The organic theme is outdated, though soft plastics lift quality feel...
The new chassis is slightly wider and lower than that of 350Z. In order to improve its agility, Nissan shortened its wheelbase - which was admittedly too long at 2650 mm - by exactly 100 mm. Shorter wheelbase also helps improving chassis stiffness, so torsional rigidity has been increased by 30 percent up front and 22 percent at the rear structure. Better crash protection, higher quality standard and equipment means the Z-car needs some diet to keep weight down, so it adopted aluminum bonnet, doors and tailgate. The front radiator housing and driveshaft are even made of carbon fiber. Nissan claimed the new car is 43 kilograms lighter than 350Z, but in reality a 370Z Sport is proved to be sightly heavier than the equivalent old car. Moreover, at 1530 kg, it is by no means lightweight. For comparison, a manual-gearbox Porsche Cayman S weighs only 1350 kg.

Nissan said its handling is improved by the wider tracks, shorter wheelbase and a slightly lower center of gravity. The latter is achieved by mounting the engine 15 mm lower and the seats 10 mm lower. However, what Nissan didn't tell us is the front-to-rear weight distribution has been worsened from 53:47 to 55:45, blame to the 3.7-liter engine, which added 19 kilograms to the front axle.

What Nissan didn't tell us is the front-to-rear weight distribution has been worsened from 53:47 to 55:45, blame to the 3.7-liter engine...
On the road, however, 370Z Sport is better than its predecessor in any respect. Its massive Bridgestone rubbers (245/40WR19 front and 275/35WR19 rear) generate tremendous grip. Its large brakes (355mm front and 350mm rear, with 4-pot and 2-pot alloy calipers respectively) provide powerful stopping and good pedal feel. Its body control can be described as rock steady, accompany with a firm but controlled ride. Its steering is more weighty, precise and direct than before. Besides, less understeer is displayed near its limit.

However, with more weight over the front wheels, it never feels as agile as the mid-engined Cayman. Its cornering prowess is gifted by its grip and roll resistance rather than chassis balance or steering feel, which is less tactile than Porsche. This mean while it is a clear improvement over 350Z, it is neither as talented nor as entertaining to drive as Porsche. It also rides harder and generates a lot of tire roar, thus it is not as good as a daily companion. Despite of the refinement, Nissan still leaves some brutality and rough edges intact in 370Z.

If you cannot afford the Porsche, this will be the next best thing.
The same goes for the new VQ37VHR motor, which comes from Infiniti G37. On paper, you have to pay the highest tribute to it. It has dual-continuous variable valve timing and a low-inertia continuous variable valve lift mechanism to ensure high output and efficiency. It produces 332 horsepower, versus the previous 306 hp. Redline is raised by 500 rpm to 7500 rpm, yet it returns lower fuel consumption. Unfortunately, its refinement has taken a backward step. You might remember the original 2.3 and 3.0-liter VQ engine was renowned for smoothness. Now with capacity stretched to 3.7 liters, it finally reached its limit. When it approaches redline,  its soundtrack gets coarse and itself starts vibrating. The latter can be felt by the driver through the throttle pedal and gear selector. What a pity, because the powertrain is otherwise flawless. The 6-speed manual transmission is especially a joy to use because it has a facility to blip throttle automatically on down change, so the rev is matched and smoothen the transition from one gear to another, very much like an automated manual gearbox.

Capable of accelerating from rest to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and 100 mph in a little over 12 seconds, Nissan 370Z is very fast without doubt. It cannot beat a BMW 135i Coupe in straight line, but comparing a thoroughbred sports car with a civilized coupe is pointless. The only comparable car is again Porsche Cayman. A base Cayman 2.9 takes 5.6 and 13.4 sec to do 0-60 and 0-100 mph respectively, which is obviously not in the league of 370Z. A Cayman S with PDK gearbox is barely faster at 4.9 and 11.2 sec, but it costs nearly twice the price. If you cannot afford the Porsche, this will be the next best thing.
The above report was last updated on 25 Dec 2008. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

370Z Sport

Front-engined, RWD

Steel monocoque

Mainly steel

Length / width / height 4244 / 1850 / 1316 mm

Wheelbase 2550 mm

V6, 60-degree

3696 cc

Valve gears
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT, VVL (VVEL)


Other engine features

Max power
332 hp / 7000 rpm

Max torque
270 lbft / 5200 rpm

6-speed manual

Suspension layout
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link

Suspension features

Tyres front/rear
F: 245/40WR19
R: 275/35WR19

Kerb weight
1530 kg

Top speed
155 mph (limited)

0-60 mph (sec)
4.9* / 5.2** / 4.7***

0-100 mph (sec)
12.1* / 12.8** / 12.0***

Performance tested by: *C&D, **R&T, ***MT

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Nissan 370Z
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