2009 Nissan 370Z

John Roe

What's more, the increase in power is accompanied by an effective decrease in curb weight of about 88 pounds, according to Nissan. Our test car, though, a base model with the six-speed manual transmission, weighed in at 3380 pounds, some 120 pounds more than our Four Seasons 2003 350Z. Weight reduction in new cars has largely become a zero-sum game. Although Nissan shaved more than 50 pounds from the upper body section through the use of aluminum for the hood, door skins, and deck lid, the company's engineers had to add more structural stiffness to meet new crash standards, which put that fifty pounds, and more, right back on. Our test car's optional sport package also includes nineteen-inch rather than eighteen-inch wheels and adds bigger brakes. So the fact that the new Z weighs roughly the same as the old one is still a considerable achievement.

Any concerns that we might have had that the 370Z would become bloated compared with the 350Z were also put to rest when our bright blue test car pulled up to the curb. Something was different about the Z, something we hadn't noticed in the initial photographs of the car. It looked tighter, leaner, and more purposeful than its predecessor, with a sportier stance. It turns out that Nissan cut a whopping 3.9 inches from the car's wheelbase, most of it between the doors and the rear wheels. The car is also fractionally lower but about an inch wider. Overall length has decreased by nearly three inches. The sheetmetal itself, of course, has also changed. The way that the A-pillars no longer flow into the natural arc of the roof and the side glass that kicks up at the rear evoke the original 240Z. The vertical door handles have been slightly restyled and remain a striking exterior design element, and they now feature a tiny button to lock and unlock the doors via the keyless-entry system. But what really sets the new Z apart from the old one, visually, are its dramatic, boomerang-shaped headlights and taillights. Technical editor Don Sherman calls them "some of the most interesting styling touches I've seen in ages." And we hereby nominate the sport package's nineteen-inch, forged-aluminum Rays Engineering wheels as one of 2009's most stunning examples of automotive footwear.

Like its exterior, the 370Z's interior is at once familiar yet remarkably different. The low-rent atmosphere that plagued the 350Z is gone, and even our relatively Spartan test car's cabin felt like a quality effort. Most noticeable, the lid for the storage bin atop the center stack, which in the 350Z was a flimsy piece of plastic hardly fit for a Fisher-Price toy, now has a dampening mechanism and is covered with a soft-touch faux-leather material with French stitching. (Unfortunately, the latch to open the door is difficult to operate.) As before, the bin can be filled with an optional navigation system, now controlled by the signature Nissan piano-inspired keypad and dial.

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