An analog car.
That’s the description that kept popping to mind as I wheeled through my first miles in the revised-for-2018 Nissan 370Z coupe. There are no cockpit switches to adjust the suspension firmness or engine response. There’s Bluetooth hands-free phone capability but zero cutting-edge cockpit tech. The standard audio system is operated via a simple row of buttons and knobs. Same for the climate-control system: three rotary dials. In base form—the most popular trim for the Z and what I drove—there isn’t even a touchscreen. Instead, where “digital” cars have a big center display full of color and flash, the base Z has a flip-up cubby. I tried talking to the Z—“change the radio station,” “navigate me to the nearest ATM”—but it never listened.
You’d have to look far and wide to find an automobile as straightforward and true to its original form as the 370Z. You might also say “unchanged.” Or even “old.” Yes, for 2018 the base model is available in dramatic Heritage Edition trim (mine was painted in Chicane Yellow, but Magnetic Black is also available). Yes, the exterior is freshened a tad—including dark-tinted headlights, black matte-chrome door handles, and a blacked-out rear lower fascia. Yes, there’s a new, optional 19-inch alloy wheel (my tester wore the standard 18s). But otherwise you could roll the time machine all the way back to 2009 and, in any Nissan dealership you’d care to visit, you’d find pretty much the exact same car.
That is not, however, an entirely bad thing. While rivals have piled-on the upgrades and the electronic candy, so, too, have their prices soared. The Z? The base sticker of $30,875 gets you a 332-horse V-6, a six-speed manual, 18-inch black-finish alloy wheels, and a bod that still turns heads after all these years. Add my tester’s carpeted mats ($130) and the Heritage Edition package ($790)—which nets you black outside mirrors, the black accent decals, and yellow interior accents—are you’re still looking at just under $32K.
True to its uncomplicated character, the Z is a solid all-rounder that stands out not for bleeding-edge performance but for delivering an unfiltered, even “nostalgic” driving experience at an affordable price. The VQ37VHR DOHC, 3.7-liter V-6 is as tried-and-true as Skippy peanut butter: It’s been around for years and can also be found in such rides as the Infiniti Q50 and Q70. It’s far from the smoothest V-6 around, particularly at the upper rev ranges—gets pretty gritty near its 7,500-rpm redline—but it pulls hard enough to scoot the Z from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.0 seconds or perhaps even less.
Nissan has refined the drivetrain a tad for 2018, altering the accelerator-pedal and throttle-valve opening angles to make using the gas pedal a more relaxed experience (Nissan claims a reduction in throttle modulation on winding roads and improved re-acceleration after braking).
I honestly can’t say that I noticed the updates, but the Z was plenty rewarding to hustle though the twisty stuff—aided by its close-ratio six-speed and a new Exedy high-performance clutch with “L-PEC”—an acronym for “light pedal effort clutch.” Higher-trim levels offer a downshift rev-matching system but, frankly, I’d rather heel-and-toe downshift myself. Doing so in the base Z is a pleasure.
The suspension is on the stiff side but the Z doesn’t crash over rough stuff. On the highway, it rides pleasantly enough. On wriggling roads, the chassis shrugs off most body roll while digging hard into corners. Understeer is minimal, and with traction-control off you can use the throttle to walk the rear end helpfully. You’ll need to be fairly high on the tach to do so, though, as the 270 lb-ft torque peak is up above 5,000 rpm. Steering response from the vehicle-speed-sensitive variable power-assist system is languid compared with more modern machines, but there’s a good, tactile sense of the road that flows to your fingertips.
The cockpit, as noted, is as all-business as they come. The Heritage yellow accents add some sizzle, and the fabric seats are commendably form-fitting, but otherwise this cabin is as uncomplicated as they come. A big, analog tach and speedo. A manual parking brake. A beefy shift knob and a nicely padded three-spoke wheel. Done. Visibility to the rear quarters is pretty bad, and a blind-spot detection system isn’t available (you can get a rear-parking camera on uplevel versions, though). That said, the Z is plenty roomy for two—with good headroom—and there’s decent storage under the rear hatch.
Remarkably, the Z remains a head-turner even after all these years. It’s probably due in large measure to the Heritage Edition’s bravura yellow and black, but I heard, “Hey, dude! Nice car!” lots and lots of times. Indeed, that’s exactly what the latest 370Z is: a nice car, a competent, well-rounded, solid-performing GT wrapped in an attractive package. Rivals? Well, a Subaru BRZ Limited with the optional Performance Package isn’t as powerful or quick as the Z, and the Nissan is better-looking, but the BRZ Limited costs a bunch less, comes with leather seats, and blows away the Z in chassis firepower. It feels more modern and feisty.
The 370Z is a gentleman’s sports coupe. Sure, that’s just another way of saying “for older, analog dudes.” But there’s nothing wrong with that.
2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition 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||18/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||167.5 x 72.6 x 51.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.0 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph (est)|