Our test car’s white exterior over a black and orange interior made for a very sharp color combination. This is a serious sports car, with a very stout chassis, nicely communicative, precise steering, great body control, and excellent roadholding and grip. What we’ve also got is a VQ-series V-6 that is bordering on unacceptably coarse, hoarse, and harsh. When you give this car the stick, you’re not rewarded with mellifluous mechanical noises; instead, you get a lot of harshness and a lot of driveline resonance and lash. I had forgotten that the 370Z has the automatic blipping of the throttle, which is kinda fun. This is a competent and competitive car for the price, but it borders on not being refined enough. I know it’s not an Infiniti, but still. All that said, it sure looks great, and it telegraphs “sports car” to all onlookers. In fact, I was driving along a country road that paralleled an open field where several guys were playing with four-wheelers. One of them happened to be in line with my direction of travel. He looked over at me and gunned it, clearly itching for a race. I obliged. He beat me, but only because I came up on traffic and had to slow down. To celebrate his victory, he did a wheelie. I gave him a wave but kept all four of the 370Z’s wheels on the ground.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
If the Nissan 370Z doesn’t make you smile, you’re not a car enthusiast. Sure, other cars might handle better, accelerate quicker, top out at a higher speed, look better, boast more refined powertrains, or be more practical, but the 370Z does an excellent job of being an all-around awesome sports car that can squelch a bad mood or turn a good day into a great one.
Our test car’s white paint looked fantastic in tandem with the brownish-orange leather trim and upholstery in the cabin. The seats aren’t the most comfortable, with a hard seatback and a narrow cushion, but I got used to that within a few miles. The gearbox’s action could be a bit slicker, too, but it’s still a pleasure, with or without the rev-matching electronic function enabled. The long-travel gas pedal is good for precise inputs, like that in a Chevy Corvette.
Speaking of the Vette, I was surprised to learn that the 370Z’s sales aren’t all that far behind the (admittedly more expensive) Corvette — 10,215 sales for the Nissan in 2010 versus 12,624 for the Chevy. To me, the Nissan wins the styling category hands-down, but the Vette’s lusty V-8 and extra luggage space would make it a tough call, were I forced to choose one over the other. Unfortunately for me, I’m not forced me to make such a decision. Bummer.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Go ahead and have it, Rusty. Just rip that Bunkie Knudsen True Car Guy membership card right out of my hands. My eyes may grow wide with toddler-like disappointment as you shred my enthusiast credentials, but I’m standing firm on this one: I don’t like the Nissan 370Z. In fact, I kind of resent it.
As an affordable, accessible sports car, the Z should be an energetic, light-footed athlete on the road, eager to accelerate quickly and turn deftly at any speed. In reality, it’s the exact opposite of that. The truckish engine is slow to rev, and noisy without sounding sexy. The clutch pedal operates like an on-off switch, and the stiff shifter takes too much effort for the crisp, precise throws that I expect of it. A stiff, go-kart-like ride is too punishing long periods of street time. The result is a car that only makes sense when driven on the track and pushed to its limits. As a weekend sports car or daily driver, the 370Z is too distant and too heavy-handed to instill any joy on the back roads. I’m a big fan of rude, crude speed-at-any-expense performance like Corvette Z06, the Nissan GT-R, and the Dodge Viper. But the 370Z doesn’t compete in that league of performance and in many ways has even less finesse and charisma than those cars.
There’s not much to directly pit against Nissan’s Z, but that can’t keep me from coming up with a half dozen sporty cars that are more exciting and more rewarding to drive. Depending on what your style is, check out the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Mazda Miata, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru WRX STI, or even a Hyundai Genesis coupe.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
From the moment you get behind the fat little steering wheel in the Nissan 370Z, there’s no mistaking that this car is about performance, not comfort. Once you’re underway, the rather raucous engine and the stiff suspension calibration further reinforce the fact that you’re in a sports car, which means that ride comfort isn’t the car’s strong suit, and neither is cargo capacity or outward visibility. Still, in this Touring version of the 370Z, Nissan manages to add a few nice upscale touches. The leather upholstery is very nice to the touch, as are the soft suede inserts on the doors. The door pulls themselves are very well designed (for some reason, I’ve noticed lately that Nissan does an exceedingly good job on the design of its door pulls). The entertainment system is generic Nissan, but that’s OK, as the buttons are big and well labeled. One niggle, the center console only has one cupholder. Perhaps not a high priority for some, but I like to have one cupholder for a water bottle and the other to hold my keys, my parking card, and other assorted items like lip balm and my garage door opener. (Maybe I just need to learn to travel lighter.)
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
My night with a Mazda Miata was followed by several days with the Nissan 370Z Touring coupe, and, ironically, the differences between the two are about as different as night and day. Where the Miata is as adept at being a sports car as it is a casual, Sunday driver, the Nissan 370Z is all sports car, all the time. From the moment you depress the firm, long-travel clutch, the Z demands your full attention; a quality that can be as much a blessing as it is a burden. When the opportunity to have a little fun arises, precise steering, strong brakes, and super-glue-like grip (the Touring coupe is fitted with sticky Bridgestone Potenzas) make the Z incredibly rewarding. In daily driving, though, its stiff chassis, heavy steering, coarse engine, and firm, notchy shifter can be a drag.
The Z is easily Nissan’s most attractive vehicle and the pearly white paint on this example, which looks like an upgrade but is a no-cost option, makes it even sexier. As is typical in sleek, low-slung sports cars, the swoopy exterior translates into compromises inside. The interior is tight, storage is almost non-existent save for the small shelf behind the seats, and the ultra-wide C-pillar and relatively small and sharply angled rear glass can make backing out of parking spots a scary endeavor especially when your tucked in amongst bulky SUVs. The hatch definitely increases this cars usability, but not by much. The shallow and weirdly shaped cargo area can make loading your stuff feel like you’re playing a game of Tetris.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Ditigal Platforms
If Eric Tingwall thinks he’s going to outdo me with references to old Pontiac executives, he’s got another thing coming. To wit, Jim Wangers, one of the godfathers of the GTO, stresses the important difference between racing and performance: enthusiasts think they want a race car, but they actually want a performance car. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Nissan 370Z. Weekend track car? You bet. The Z eats up straightaways with V-8-like hunger and strikes a good balance between playfulness and surefootedness. You surely won’t find anything better for $35,000 (among new, unmodified cars, that is). On the street? Thanks, but I think I’d rather drive a Ford Mustang. The reasons, which Tingwall already illuminated, include a lugubrious and noisy engine, an overly stiff ride, and an unnecessarily beefy transmission (270 lb-ft of torque shouldn’t require a rock crusher gearbox).
Having said all that, I would not go so far as to say I don’t like the 370Z. For one, it might be the best looking sports car in its price range – more athletic than the chunky looking Mustang and Chevy Camaro, and yet far more emotional and graceful than a Mitsubishi Evo or Mazda RX-8. The interior, once a sore spot, is now executed to nearly the same level as that of an Infiniti G37. And then there’s the aforementioned fact that it is a fine track machine. If you think you might want to chase BMW M3s on the weekend and drive a reliable Japanese commuter during the week, here’s your car. I only wish the 370Z could make those commutes more interesting.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2011 Nissan 370Z Touring
Base price (with destination): $36,030
Price as tested: $41,895
3.7-liter V-6 engine
6-speed manual transmission
Traction control system
Vehicle dynamic control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Electronic brake force distribution
Leather sport seats
Tilt steering column
8-speaker Bose audio system
In-dash CD including 2 subwoofers
XM satellite radio
Auxiliary audio jack
Nissan intelligent key with push-button start
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Bi-Xenon HID headlamps
Options on this vehicle:
Sport package — $3020
Limited slip differential
19-inch RAYS forged wheels
Front chin spoiler
Nissan sport brakes
Nissan navigation system — $2150
Hard drive-based navigation
9.3GB HDD music box
DVD video playback
NISMO performance brakes — $580
Replaces standard brakes
Carpet floor mats — $115
Key options not on vehicle:
18 / 26 / 21 mpg
3.7L DOHC V-6
Horsepower: 332 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
Curb weight: 3278 lb
Wheels/tires: 19 x 9.0-inch forged-aluminum wheels
245/40R19 Bridgestone Potenza performance tires
Competitors: Mazda RX-8, BMW Z4