Eight years from its production debut in 2009, the Nissan 370Z soldiers on. In this industry, we treat model years like dog years, making Nissan’s rear-drive sports car quite the senior citizen. Seeing as the Z’s sales figures aren’t what they used to be, and the future of the vaunted Z-car line is uncertain, we spent a week with a base-model 370Z to see how the coupe holds up toward the tail-end of 2016.
Let’s get it out of the way: our striped-out, base-model 370Z with cloth seats, no infotainment display, Bluetooth connectivity, or satellite radio carried a sticker of $30,855. This is a tall price to pay for a car with essentially no standard amenities, save a radio and climate control. It’s not as if these omissions add up to any stupendous weight savings either — just 60 pounds separate the 3,292-pound base model from the top-spec 3,353-pound Sport Tech trim. This level of asceticism was the norm in 2009; it wasn’t until a few years later when the majority of new cars began to feature standard infotainment screens.
The price only climbs from here. Ignoring the track-tuned Nismo, a 370Z Touring tops out just north of $41,000, putting the entire Z line in dangerous territory. If you disregard non-comparable cars like the Golf R, Focus RS, and Subaru WRX STI, you’re left with a field of heavy hitters. Within the $30,000-$40,000 range, cars like the Mustang GT, Camaro SS, BMW 220i, and Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack offer tremendous power and performance in similar front-engined, rear-wheel drive, two-door packages.
However, the 370Z is the only two-seat sports coupe available under $40,000 and,despite the age, the engine isn’t asthmatic. Like every non-Nismo 370Z, power comes from a 3.7-liter naturally-aspirated V-6 engine, an oddity in a world of strung-out turbo-fours. 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque is routed to the rear wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission, giving the Z a claimed 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed limited to 160 mph. Not bad for a grandpa.
Our Z arrived wearing bright Chicane Yellow paintwork, a discontinued hue brought back for the 2017 model year. The eight-year-old lines are still distinctive — and still capable of stealing interested glances from other drivers and pedestrians, somewhat to our surprise. In a world of angular fastbacks like the Mustang and Camaro, the big-butt 370Z remains a curvaceous outlier. From a rear quarter perspective, the flared rear haunches are tremendous, sticking out like a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, and from the front, the long hood visually pushes the cockpit away from the grille, creating classical “long hood, short cabin” sports car proportions.
Even without accoutrements, the Z felt special to drive around town. Perhaps we just aren’t used to fixed-roof two-seat cars anymore, but the Z’s interior design felt cozier and more driver-focused than a Mustang or Camaro. Still, corporate Nissan rules the switchgear, including a steering wheel that appears ripped straight from a Sentra. In place of the usual infotainment screen, a leather-wrapped compartment filled the space, with a simple display strip underneath for the radio.
If you were ready to forgive the 370Z for a dated design, things begin to crumble when you tackle a mountain pass. Thanks to an overprotective stability control system, we arrived at the end of the canyon road with roasted brakes. Partially to blame are the skinny 225/245 F/R Yokohama Advans, which let go far too easily. When the Advans began to lose grip, the stability control system stepped in eagerly, overheating our brakes by the end of the run. The car also felt heavier than it should and wasn’t eager to indulge our quick inputs, preferring to rip around clogged city roads than a winding two-lane.
Backroad manners aside, it’s not all bad. The gutsy 3.7-liter under the front hood breathes deep up to a lofty 7,500 rpm, giving us plenty of range to play with. Power was consistent and strong, despite peak torque arriving at a heady 5,200 rpm. When we did get moving, we found that the shifter was a short-throw unit with fantastic tactility, allowing for quick up and downshifts at speed.
There’s still much to love about the 370Z, but it leaves us apprehensive. Nissan has remained silent on the future of the slow-selling sports car, but dark clouds have gathered on the horizon. Rumors regarding hybrid power, drive-by-wire steering, and even a crossover Z have circulated for a while now.
On second thought, let’s hope the 370Z stays around for another eight years.
2017 Nissan 370Z Specifications
|Engine:||3.7L DOHC 24-valve V-6/332 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 270 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||18/25 mpg city/hwy|
|L x W x H:||167.5 x 72.6 x 51.8 in|
|0-60 MPH:||4.7 seconds (est)|