Forget MX-5s, Evo Xs, WRXs – even GT-Rs: the 370Z is the definitive Japanese sportscar. Nissan’s Z-car heritage goes back to the legendary 240Z of 1969, a car intended to offer the style and performance of European sportscars at a fraction of the price. More than 1.7 million sales later, this 370Z continues that tradition in fine style.
It builds on a firm foundation laid by the 350Z model, launched in 2002 and sold here from 2005, a sportscar that typifies everything that this Z series should be about – with good looks, muscular performance and a fantastic fun factor, a car you could really take by the scruff of the neck.
Not much else could match a 350Z for the money, and even the Porsches that could keep up lacked its endearing mild hooligan streak. In launching its 370Z replacement in 2009, a quarter of a million worldwide sales later, Nissan needed to keep the things we liked – the charismatic V6 engine, the balanced rear-wheel drive chassis and the perfect weight distribution – and sort the few things we didn’t: high running costs, cheap-feeling interior and restricted luggage space. They did exactly that – and to keep the recipe fresh, a Summer 2013 package of improvements that upped the value proposition and slotted in a potent Nismo model at the top of the range up the ante still further.
The 370Z’s core component remains its 3.7-litre V6 engine. It’s a development of the 350Z’s 3.5-litre, but 35 per cent of its parts are completely different. The powerplant uses variable valve timing, which helps it achieve a smoother delivery of its 324bhp maximum power output.
Peak torque of 363Nm provides a muscular mid range and the 7,000rpm redline will please those who like a sports car which rewards a hefty right foot. If that’s not enough, the top Nismo coupe model delivers 340bhp from the same unit.
Even in the standard version, that’s good enough to see 62mph from rest dispatched in just 5.7s on the way to an artificially limited maximum of 155mph. The people who developed this car were petrolheads. Why else would they have spent five years in developing a Synchro Rev Control system that blips the throttle when you make a downchange to make you feel like Michael Schumacher? Or an optional seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox with gorgeous magnesium-crafted F1-style paddle shifters? So yes, this is a hi-tech stepping stone to Nissan GT-R supercar ownership. But no, its essential character hasn’t been diluted: it’s still a driver’s car, pure and simple.
The 370Z is still gorgeous. From the arrow-shaped headlamps to the boomerang-shaped tail lamps, there’s a handsome aggression that marks this car out from its overtly style-conscious contemporaries. The front air-intake borrows its look from Nissan’s GT-R supercar, giving this 370 greater malevolence as it looms in your mirrors with twin aerodynamic fins rising like fangs from its lower lip.
Inside, the dash is upholstered in a leather-like surface called Sofilez that’s more tasteful in both look and feel, and the leather seats fitted to most models have lovely suede-like inserts that not only look nice but stop you sliding around under hard cornering – though the seatbase is a little short.
A number of the old 350Z’s trademark features are still intact though, such as the instrument cluster attached to the steering column that moves as you adjust the driving position to guarantee an unhindered view of the dials. You’d expect the wheel to adjust for reach as well though on a £30,000 car.
It’s still a two-seater-only cabin and unlike, say, a Porsche Cayman, there’s a useful shelf behind the front seats where you can quickly sling a coat or jacket, with a glovebox now at last added for smaller items. As for proper luggage space, the hefty strut brace across the old 350Z’s parcel shelf that stopped you carrying a proper weekend’s luggage for two has in this 370 been banished, freeing up a more usable 235 litres of space.
We’re looking here at the 370Z Coupe, which is priced in the £27,000-£37,000 bracket, with a choice of base, GT and potent Nismo models and, in GT form, the option of a seven-speed auto gearbox as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual.
There’s a £5,000 premium for the extra 16bhp of the top Nismo model. For another £4,500, Nissan offers an open-topped manual or automatic Roadster version in the GT spec that most customers choose, a trim level that now includes Nissan’s Connect Premium audio system and satnav as standard. All variants, though, are well equipped. Even the entry-level 370Z comes with an Intelligent Key, plus an engine stop/start button, power adjustable seats, climate controlled air-conditioning, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, curtain airbag, alarm, audio with auxiliary input and Bluetooth hands free phone connection.
The 370Z loves to be driven hard – and to do so will inevitably rack up some fairly hefty bills. For example, while your Nissan dealer may quote a combined figure in the region of 27mpg, you’ll need to be some kind of feather-footed freak to fetch that. On one “enthusiastically driven” test route, we saw an average of 13.2mpg on the calculator. Ouch. Likewise the 370Z, while mechanically rugged, has an appetite for rear tyres if you occasionally like to disable the electronic control systems.
CAR Nissan 370Z
PERFORMANCE Maximum speed 155mph; 0-60mph 5.3s
MPG (combined) 26.7
CO2 EMISSIONS 245g/km