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.
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.
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.)
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).