2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition Review: Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey Stuff
This old-timer drives stupidly raw; this is a good thing.
I just watched a "time-capsule" 2008 Honda S2000 cross the block at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas. When the gavel fell, bidding had hit $43,000, which is only surprising if you haven't been paying attention to what people are paying for mint condition modern classics. Another S2000—this one never even registered—sold for $70,000 on Bring a Trailer in February. Just last month an Acura Integra Type R with 6K on the odometer managed $82,000. Silly money? Maybe, but they aren't making any more of these old sports cars.
Except that Nissan is. Your local dealer will happily sell you a 2020 Nissan 370Z, which starts at just $30,985. Your brand-new car, complete with warranty, will be essentially the same 370Z that debuted at the 2008 Los Angeles auto show. Which, in all honesty, wasn't entirely different from the 350Z that went on sale in 2002. The fifth- and current, sixth-generation Z car are based on Nissan's FM platform and powered by versions of the company's VQ V-6, which dates back to the mid-1990s.
The 370Z itself has been in production for 12 model years—long enough to have spawned both 40th Anniversary and now 50th Anniversary editions. The latter is available as a $2600 option on only the Sport trim, which has a base price of $34,715. Two color combinations are available: white with red graphics or silver with black. It gets interior accoutrements and badging as well, naturally. A proper six-speed is standard (a seven-speed automatic is optional), so yes, you can still get a Z with a manual. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for the canceled Z roadster.
If you don't already believe that sports cars hit a zenith in the aughties, before the ubiquity of turbocharging and adaptive suspensions and infotainment systems, the 370Z makes a compelling case. Its naturally aspirated, 3.7-liter V-6 makes 332 horsepower at 7000 rpm, at which point the VQ is making its trademark scream—like Olympic fencing with circular saws—and there's still another 500 rpm before redline. Peak torque is only 270 lb-ft, way up at 5200 rpm, but the revs build like an ironworker on a skyscraper project. Every shift you make to keep the tach up there feels like an accomplishment, even when the rev-matching manual is doing it for you.
Sure, the Z's zero-to-60 performance, in the five-ish-second range, is eclipsed by modern powertrains. The new Toyota Supra, with its 335-hp turbocharged inline-six, is a whole second quicker—as it should be with a starting price of nearly $51,000. Still, less performance doesn't always mean less fun.
The 370Z flows between corners on a twisty road, with well-balanced controls. Feel from the heavy, hydraulic power steering builds with effort, and is full of little tugs and jerks that make the Z seem nimble, though the car still prefers sweepers to switchbacks. The suspension feeds into the low-slung seat, which you'd swear must be bolted directly to the subframes. That suspension consists of aluminum control arms up front and a rear multilink setup, with good old-fashioned twin-tube dampers tuned just one way: stiff, though not so much as to rattle your fillings loose.
The brake pedal delivers a matching weightiness and decelerative yank that reinforces the notion that as a driver, you've been given more than enough rope to hang yourself. This is no imperturbable chassis with unlimited grip, nor the sort of car that makes good drivers great and bad drivers think they're good. Do something stupid with the controls and the Z will respond in kind. The car drives stupidly raw; this is a good thing.
This theme carries over into the interior, where the high door sills remind you that once upon a time crash engineering was essentially putting more metal between occupants and the outside. Other anachronistic anomalies: A steering-wheel-mounted gauge pod that moves up and down when you adjust the wheel and HVAC vents in the door panels. Oh, and there's no infotainment system, although a tiny 7.0-inch navigation screen is optional on higher trim levels. If you are wondering about, say, Apple CarPlay compatibility, understand that the 370Z owner's manual—the 2020 model year owner's manual—mentions support for iPhone 3 and 4, running iOS 4. Apple discontinued that operating system eight years ago.
If the leather-wrapped cover over the hole in the dashboard where the navigation system otherwise resides proclaims that the Z is long past state-of-the-art, the exterior styling has come full-circle, to the point that the design is so old it looks fresh again—possibly even more chic than when it was new. The 370Z was a not-so-small sports car a decade ago, but now it seems comparatively diminutive, though still pretty spacious inside. The creep of time (and the competitive landscape) has actually been pretty kind to the Z aesthetic.
Yet parsing the Z in today's modern marketplace is tricky. It is commonly accused of being antiquated or expensive, or both. It is neither. It is actually still a heap of fun and an absolute bargain, but only if you're in the market for the sort of disposable sports car that you can use and abuse and not feel bad when you drive its wheels off. Which sure beats the alternative.
|2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition Specifications|
|ENGINE||3.7L DOHC 24-valve V-6; 332 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 270 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||17-19/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||167.5 x 72.6 x 51.8 in|
|0-60 MPH:||4.9-5.2 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED:||155 mph (est)|