The Nissan 370Z tries to make hardcore sport driving go as smoothly as leisurely touring, for the driver.It's more comfortable than an uncompromising sports car, but not nearly as practical as a sports sedan.
It's been 45 years since the Z came sensationally to our shores, as the Datsun 240Z.It would be proud of what it has become, the 370Z.The Z car has earned our affection.
Today it's beautifully balanced, with its 3.7-liter V6 engine mounted rearward in the chassis, and rear-wheel drive.The engine makes a healthy 332 horsepower.The Coupe comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for semi-manual gear changing.If you want a six-speed manual you have to get a Roadster or the Nismo high-performance model.
Ford 2016, all but the base model get a Bose noise-canceling system to tone down the boom from the engine.Boom? What boom?.
The Nissan 370Z Coupe ($31,290) is a steal, the fabric seats are sporty and standard features include cruise control, rearview camera, Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, HID headlamps.The Roadster ($46,750) comes with the automatic, but is $1500 less if you choose the 6-speed manual transmission.
In between those prices are Touring and Sport and Tech models upgraded with the usual best options, including Bose audio.A stand-alone Sport package includes 19-inch alloy wheels and wide sticky tires, beefier brakes and a limited-slip differential.
The 370Z NISMO model is ready for track days, with more horsepower and a stiffer suspension.
Coupe or Roadster, the 370Z looks good.An aggressive nose sweeps toward a sleek windshield and short cabin, then tapering to a snub rear end.It's got the lines of a modern wide-track sport coupe, and also the classic Z shape of cabin rearward.It's sensual and muscular.The Roadster even more so, with the top down.
The NISMO enhances the Z's styling with cool wings and flares.It's about the aerodynamics, says Nissan.
The seating is slung comfortably low and snug.If you need your sports car seats to have power adjustment and air-cooled ventilation, it is available.The seats are supportive and comfortable, and the cabin is focused, pleasing, and functional.The materials are almost premium on the top trim models.The switches are solid and the leather is supple.
The Roadster soft top goes up and down quickly with a power button.It's a bit louder inside, and some trunk space is lost, but everyone knows that.It's not the best top in the lot.
The 370Z is noisy inside from the engine, suspension, tires and wind.Some might not mind the engine noise one bit, as that 3.7-liter engine has an iconic sound.Still it might be heard as more mechanical than mellifluous.So on all models but the base, there is a Bose noise-cancellation system.
Love those Recaro seats in the NISMO.
The 370Z suspension is stiff enough that you might find yourself dodging bumps to save your weary butt, and that's after it was softened for 2015.We're not saying it's too stiff, mind you.We think it's worth it in this car, to get the handling that you get.There's plenty of grip.The ride isn't that bad.If your favorite set of curves is fairly smooth, you're golden.
The seven-speed automatic transmission is very capable.The six-speed manual is fairly slick, bringing shifts with short, stiff throws.If you don't know how to heel-and-toe downshift, the SynchroRev system does it for you, blipping nearly flawlessly while you just worry about braking and clutching.The automatic transmission rev-matches, too, sometimes with a big fun blip.
The Nismo's 350 horsepower comes from the exhaust and electronic tuning.You can get either the six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic with it.One of the best track sessions we've ever had was in a Nismo.Late afternoon at Riverside Raceway and a great dice with a Shelby Mustang had much to do with it.But the Nismo was the perfect car.That was more than a few years ago, of course.
The Nissan 370Z is nimble and powerful, a sweet merger of strengths that's especially rare at that price.For a rewarding and engaging experience, drive it hard.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection.Sam Moses contributed to this report.