2016 Nissan 370Z Review
Say what? A Porsche 911 costs how much? $89,400? And you can get into the similarly powerful, equally dynamic, almost as premium, “techier”, nearly as legendary and arguably as good-looking 2016 370Z for less than $30k? Something’s wrong with this picture. You’d think with such a logical choice available that performance car fans would be bowling over Nissan salesmen at the door in order to be first in line, but during 2014 the German luxury brand sold nearly a third more 911s than the Japanese giant hawked Z cars. The venerable Porsche is mighty quick off the line with a zero-to-60 sprint of just 4.4 seconds compared to the 370Z’s 5.1-second charge. Still, compared to the $126k you’d need to shell out for Stuttgart’s 911 GTS Cabriolet, the new Z car with a base price of $29,990 is a lot of bang for the buck.
The new base 370Z is mechanically identical to last year’s model, meaning that its front mid-mounted 3.7-liter V6 puts out 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, that latter number the biggest reason the 911 gives it such an ass whipping off the line. Just the same, the Z feels plenty fast from the seat of the pants, and its carbon-fiber composite driveshaft can’t be found on any stock 911. More importantly, compared to most cars that the Z actually competes against such as Scion’s FR-S and Subaru’s near identical BRZ, it’s a helluvalot quicker; the Toyobarus are in the low-seven-second range. Then again Hyundai’s Genesis Coupe performs very similarly to the Nissan’s sport coupe with a low-five-second sprint to 60, although all of these rivals just mentioned are larger 2+2 coupes, whereas the 370Z is exclusively for two.
The entry-level 370Z is only available in six-speed manual trim, but it’s as enjoyable to drive as Z cars come, Nismo aside. Just the same, the base Z is so capable through the corners that it’s almost anticlimactic, the 225/50WR18 Yokohama Advan Sport high-performance front tires laying stubborn claim to their lane despite the speed attained and the 245/45WR18s in the rear never straying their course no matter how hard I pushed it around tight fast-paced bends. It didn’t take long to realize that the 370Z’s breaking point was way beyond my comfort level—not in taking it to its limit but rather in getting caught by the law doing so. Of course, if you purposely drive it beyond its limits (and every car has limits) its rear rubber will break loose and let you drift away ‘til you free your soul, but for those of us living life in the gray who’d rather cut the perfect apex at the highest speed possible, the Z is an ideal scalpel.
Making all this possible is a two-link double-wishbone aluminum front suspension with an aluminum subframe plus a four-link aluminum rear setup, front and rear stabilizer bars included, whereas the car’s aluminum hood, doors and hatch help reduce its curb weight to a slight 3,301 lbs so that its sport-tuned ripple-control dampers aren’t stressed to the max when forced to iron out road wrinkles. Open the hood and a three-point front strut tower brace hovers over a nice looking composite engine shroud, while a rear underbody V-brace remains on the sights unseen list.
Even though much of this kit is the same as on previous 370Zs, the 2016 feels even more stable at speed than others I’ve driven. I must admit, though, to finding it a bit challenging to get smooth with the shifter in the city at first, but after a bit of tooling around town I managed to master the clutch take-up and was able to move away from standstill without any abruptness. This brings up an important 911 comparison point, by the way. Porsche might trump Nissan by incorporating a seven-speed stick compared to the Z’s six-speed mixer, but Porsche has spat on everything sporting by removing the 911’s manual handbrake lever and replacing it with an electronic parking brake. Try taking off from a steep hill with the manual 911, and its hill-holder system sticks so tenaciously that it bogs down the engine and stalls the car. After you do this a few times in a row, people start laughing at the idiot who can’t drive his six-figure supercar to save his life. You won’t experience such trouble in a 370Z thanks to its classic handbrake lever.
That handbrake is leather-clad, as is the shift knob, shifter boot and steering wheel, whereas the spokes of that latter item are covered in illuminated switchgear for the car’s multi-information display, redundant audio controls, plus cruise and hands-free phone functions. The base Z’s list of standard goodies includes automatic on/off HID bi-functional xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, black-finish Y-spoke 18-inch alloys, variable intermittent wipers, powered heated side mirrors, powered windows with one-touch auto up/down, automatic climate control with microfiltration, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with RDS plus aux and USB connectors, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with thigh and knee support, active head restraints, pretensioning seatbelts, tire pressure monitoring, Vehicle Dynamic Stability Control, traction control, four-wheel ABS-enhanced discs with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, immobilizer and anti-theft systems, plus the usual count of airbags.
Most of its rivals have a similar list of standard gear, but one thing that none offer is a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel that also moves the entire electroluminescent gauge pod for ultimate instrument visibility no matter your height. And while shocking but true, there’s no way to get proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition with the 911 or any Porsche for that matter, the Stuttgart company shunning this ultra-convenient technology for some reason and Nissan making it standard with the 370Z.
All of this equipment comes in a cabin that’s so much nicer than the old 350Z in 2009, with wonderful detailing that includes the model’s trademark three-bay gauge cluster atop the center stack and a really high-end soft-touch dash top that reaches right down to the mid-portion of the instrument panel and across the door panels. Even nicer, the center stack is covered in a padded leatherette that looks and feels just like leather, stitched down the middle with contrasting light gray thread. The rich surface treatment is wrapped right around the shifter as well, not to mention on the very welcome kneepads. The doors also get attractive woven cloth inserts to match the bolsters on the fabric-covered seats, and the latter buckets not only look good but support in all the right places. As expected the rear cargo area is small, but there’s extra space behind the seats if you’re not too tall.
The 370Z is also extremely quiet, delivering Infiniti levels of noise reduction despite its Nissan badge. I suppose this makes sense being that it shares underpinnings and its drivetrain with the Infiniti Q60, but dare I say the Z is too quiet? I hate to admit it, but the wonderful award-winning VQ engine makes no satisfying noises at all. How I miss the old 3.5 and its sonorous exhaust note, as this direct-injected mill makes a diesel sound exciting. Can’t they pump in an artificial engine and exhaust soundtrack through the stereo system like the 911’s Sound Symposer? Don’t come down too hard on Porsche for this faux audio track because BMW does the same thing with its new M3 and M4, while Ford just started faking its Mustang engine note. Yes, I know this seems like sacrilege to a Z fan, but millions of F1 fans can’t be wrong, the song of the engine is an important part of the spectacle we pay big bucks for and this sexy looking ultra-hot sports coupe sounds sadly anemic.
Fortunately, while the base 370Z’s stock stereo might look remedial, it sounds pretty good, so I amped up The Smiths How Soon Is Now, slotted the short-throw shifter into first, added revs, eased in the clutch and then let it loose, an immediate reminder that there might not be much bark to this beast but there’s plenty of bite for the buck.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press