Our Ã¢â‚¬Å“DrivenÃ¢â‚¬Â series highlights the several cars I was able to sample at IMPAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Spring Brake 2009 event. These short takes are summaries of my driving impressions of the cars on the roads surrounding Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland County, New York.
It is hard to believe the 350Z has been around since 2003, but the popular sports car was due for an overhaul. Enthusiasts welcomed Nissan’s then ‘new’ Z, which embraced the philosophy of the original 240Z. The car looked great, offered excellent performance and handling at a fair price. The one major downside was you felt the reasonable price where you spent the bulk of your time-inside the car.
Appearance-wise, I didn’t think the Z could be improved upon, until I saw the new 370Z. Simply put, this is the most beautiful Z ever made, and possibly the sexiest, most elegant car the Japanese have ever produced. Every line, every detail is perfect. If the boomerang-shaped headlight and taillights look a little out of the ordinary in photos, they are stunning in person.
Like the 350Z, the 370Z pays homage to the 240Z, but this car is not at all ‘retro’. Instead, it is a thoroughly modern design. Before climbing in the Z for a drive, I saw the Mustang GT, Camaro RS and Challenger R/T on the lot, and I have to give credit to Nissan designers for creating a car that evokes emotions of the original car, but doesn’t simply copy it. The Z is moving forward, not stuck in 1969.
Slipping behind the wheel of the 370Z, you immediately forget about the 350Z’s most glaring fault. The fat-rimmed steering wheel feels great in your hands. The leather, plastics, buttons all have a high quality feel. The Z has a close-coupled, intimate cockpit, but I had plenty of room for my 6’1″ frame. I appreciated the larger gauges but the small, LED fuel and temp bar graph meters were hard to read. Apart from that, this is a proper sports car interior-simple, focused, and high-quality. You could easily spend an entire day driving in comfort.
Oh-and the driving! The 3.7 liter V-6 now offers 332hp while delivering better fuel economy than before. The Touring model I drove had Nissan’s new 7-speed automatic. It is versatile-you can leave it in D and let it think for you (which it does, and remains sporty), or shift for yourself with the gearshift or the paddle shifters. I preferred the paddle shifters, which Nissan claims will deliver 0.5 second gear changes. Personally, I’d have preferred a manual, but this transmission was smooth, quick and always ready to rock.
Acceleration of the Z is explosive at all times, all the way to the 7,500rpm redline. The handling is top-notch and confidence inspiring. The 370Z is one of those cars that makes you feel like you are a better driver than you actually are. Steering is perfectly weighted, brakes are strong with excellent pedal feel. Even better, The 370Z sounds awesome. The sounds of the 350Z left me a little cold, sounding at times crude and unrefined. Not so the 370Z, it is a pleasure at idle and throughout the rev range.
With the 370Z, Nissan retained all that was great about the 350Z and improved upon it, while taking that car’s faults and addressing them. It is tough to follow-up on a successful car, but the 370Z manages to be leaps ahead of the car it replaced. Well done Nissan. The best Z yet.