When was the last time you thought about a Nissan 370Z? Sure, it came out a few years ago, but for some reason it seems like the vast majority of people would only answer with "never." It's a little, over-powered, rear-wheel drive monster, and you can get it with a folding roof. So I set out to find what went wrong.
(Full disclosure: Nissan wanted me to drive the 370Z Roadster so bad that I told Travis I needed to get some errands done and is there a car that needs reviewing, he said that we could do the 370Z, Nissan said okay and then they dropped it off at my apartment with a full tank of gas. That was nice of them.)
I've tried to think of all the celebrated mid-priced sports cars of the past few years. The Porsche Cayman. The WRX STi. Various low-end AMG models. The BMW M Shoe. Camaros and Mustangs. The Toyobaru Twins.
In short, the 370Z was confusing me. Here's a 330-horsepower two-seater, with the power going to the back, and an incredibly short wheelbase, and yet at no point in the past four years has anyone come up to me, ever, and said,
"So, how about that Nissan 370Z?"
And after driving it around for a bit, that's a goddamn shame.
Even if it does have two major flaws.
There are very few cars that strangers will stop you in to say, "hey, NICE CAR," while you respond all awkwardly, as there is no real response to that sort of thing, because what are you going to do, give a pilot "thanks" and then sit there being uncomfortable while someone grins at it ridiculously?
But the Nissan 370Z Roadster is one of those cars. I had it for four days, and in those four days, five separate people stopped me to tell me how much they just liked the looks of it.
Nissan was actually a bit brave when they first designed the 370Z. When most cars advance a generation, they grow a bit longer, they grow a bit bigger, they grow a bit fatter. But not this one. Compared to its predecessor, the 350Z, the newer one is shorter all around, from the wheelbase to the overall stretch.
Sure, the optional Rays wheels have helped a ton, but I've always liked the squat proportions of the 370. It's not long for the sake of length, so no one thinks you're compensating for anything like low SAT scores because what else would you compensate for. The rear haunches bulge like the muscles under a bodybuilder's well-tailored suit, and those lamps ain't so bad, either.
So as a roadster, it's just peachy. The front is a little cat-fishy, but they've fixed some of that with the most recent refresh.
The interior of the 350Z isn't necessarily a bad place to be, it's just not very amazing. It's a bit small, befitting, the dimensions of the car, and it's got loads of plastic and the electronic dials, filled with their square orange numbers, are a bit dated. And sure, the 370Z has been out for five years now, but surely something can be done about that if they give it another mid-cycle refresh. Just to keep things current.
An extra point, however, for the seats, which are comfy and are in that neat maroon-ish color. I like that maroon-ish color.
You might be wondering why I didn't give some extra points for those three dials that sit atop everything else, because everyone knows that extra dials are great. And that's because they're functionally useless. One is a digital clock, which is just silly to have as a stand-alone gauge in a sports car, and the other is battery voltage, which you use in daily driving exactly zero times every day. The engine isn't turbocharged, so no boost gauge, but it does offer a lot of power, so a horsepower meter, a torque meter, a how-many-ties-do-I-have-on-this-car-right-at-this-very-moment meter, really any of those would've been great.
Sadly, we don't get those.
We get a digital clock.
The Z accelerates to 60 MPH in about five and a half seconds, and that's great. With your foot all the way down, you really feel it. With 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque out of Nissan's venerable "VQ" V6 engine that they pretty much put in everything these days, it's a hoot.
When you put your foot all. the. way. down.
Since there's no category for "throttle response," I'm going to go on a bit of a rant here, in the acceleration section. Because why not.
Most of the complaints that I read about the Nissan 370Z, in my lead-up to driving this car, was that it "didn't know what it wants to be." I'm not one of those people who ascribes existential crises to mechanical objects, so let's just assume, for a minute, that it does very much know what it wants to be.
It wants to be a hot little sports car for the guy that is normally used to a boulevard cruiser with a soft top.
And that's fine, that's okay. Really, it is.
But one of the ways that Nissan tried to tame the little beast was to give it a whole bunch of pedal travel in the accelerator. About 16 miles of pedal travel. That, my dear friends, is what we call "too much pedal travel."
So you have to hunt for it, really bury your foot, all the way down. And by the time you finally get to the bottom of the Kola Superdeep, it feels like the engine is just groggily waking from its sleep.
Now, I know that the VQ engine is not sleepy, not in any sense of the word. And in its newer applications, like the Infiniti Q70, it feels like it's been given a shot of adrenaline without actually being given any extra power.
And if it what separates a good road car from a great road car, speed isn't really about numbers on a stats sheet, or how fast something gets to highway velocity. It's about feeling.
And in the Z, because of the slow throttle, you don't feel like you're going very fast.
The brakes worked, and didn't fail on me after trying a few panic stops, so there's that. Good pedal feel, too. That long pedal travel on the right translates to a long pedal travel on the brake, too, and that actually is always a good thing.
Good brakes. Brakes good.
In keeping with the "sports-car-for-the-boulevard-cruiser-set" theme, the ride is firmer than you would think. You definitely feel bumps and potholes in the road. If you're trying to get a sense of where it is, think firmer than a BMW 3-series, but nowhere near as firm as Mini Cooper S. It sits right about at the firm-side-of-average of things.
No, it's not one of those little hatchback where you can use one of those "IT'S ON RAILS!" cliches, but you wouldn't want it to be anyways. It does grip, and grip, and grip, but it's rear-wheel-drive, and the power's going to the back of an unusually short wheel base.
That means that if you give it a little too much power with the traction control off, the whole thing rotates. And that means it drifts. And that means, when you go beyond the limit, it is more fun than any little Nissan has a right to be.
It slides so effortlessly, while at the same time being so controllable, it's wonderful. Want to drift half a mile? Drift half a mile. Want to do donuts? Do donuts.
But again, it's only when you want it. The flip side of that big pedal travel is that it is impossible not get exactly as much power as you want, nothing more, nothing less. And if you don't like sliding whenever you want it and never when you don't, because you're weird, you can just flip the traction control back on, and everything's very normal.
And then there's the steering. Very few cars have steering as lovely as this. Communicative, sharp, responsive, fantastic.
Oh, but the turning circle is slightly larger than the radius of Mars, for some reason. Watch out for that.
This particular Z Roadster was equipped with the seven-speed automatic, complete with flappy paddles behind the steering wheel and Nissan's Downshift Rev Matching system. And while that all sounds well and good, the transmission is actually kind of slow and a bit dim-witted, and when you want it to shift down and it matches the RPMs, it's a bit jerky. So everything's great in theory, but it all needs a bit more practice.
If you get one, get the manual.
The 370Z Roadster which I drove was the Touring model, complete with a Bose sound system. And it's a roadster, which means you should be able to hear that sweet, sweet V6 engine. So the audio should be great. Except it wasn't spectacular.
After driving this car down to Philadelphia, I felt like I needed to see an otolaryngologist just to get my hearing back. With the roof up, it's incredibly loud. Below you, those tires don't seem to muffle any noise at all, and above you, the wind sounds like you're doing 200 MPH even if you're barely hitting 50. I know it's a convertible, and some extra wind noise is to be expected, but for a car on sale in 2014 this was a bit silly.
And with that Bose system, it sounded like every single synthesized string of Total Eclipse of the Heart was coming from somewhere just ahead of the dashboard, no matter how I adjusted the balance.
But then again, it's got that glorious VQ engine. And you can't keep a good engine down.
Here's a weird thing. The Nissan 370Z Touring is loaded with electronics like a navigation system, bluetooth audio, heated and cooled seating, speed-sensitive volume control, and some other nice things. But then there seem to be oversights, such as the fact that the seat height is adjustable through a manual dial, while everything else is automatic, or the navigation system becomes nearly impossible to see if you're wearing sunglasses (in a convertible, it'll happen) and the sun hits the screen.
We'll hopefully get a new Z soon, but at the price Nissan wants to sell it at, I'm just not getting it.
So here's the thing about the Z. It's a great car, full of intangibles that metrics like audio and braking measurements can't capture. I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking for a great driver's car, especially if you get it in a manual and the throttle could be fixed.
But not at $51,365, which is what this Nissan 370Z Roadster Touring with the Sport Package and Navigation system cost.
The Sport Package is $2,830, and that's worth it, as you get beefier brakes, beefier shocks, beefier wheels, beefier tires, beefier life, and a limited slip differential.
But overall, at $51,365, that's not worth it. That's borderline crazy.
Yes, it's a convertible with 330 horses, but a brand-new Corvette Stingray coupe costs less than $2,000 more, and you'd be getting a whole lot more for your money. Maybe the Z was worth that, maybe, when it first came out in 2009, but definitely not now.
But there is hope. A base, hardtop, bone-standard 2014 Nissan 370Z could actually be had for as little as $26,750.
And at $26,750, any 370Z is an absolutely splendid deal.
So if you do want to get one, get your negotiating hat on. You know the one. It's got big fuzzy dice on top, and you may have stolen the base from a Soviet Army officer when you were drunk in 1989.
It just might do the trick.
Engine: 3.7L V6
Power: 330 HP at 7,000 RPM/270 LB-FT at 5,200 RPM
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
0-60 Time: 5.5 seconds
Top Speed: 156 mph (limited)
Drivetrain: Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 3,510 Pounds
Seating: 2 people
MPG: 18 City/25 Highway
MSRP: $45,470 ($51,365 As Tested)