Nis­san al­pha­bet swoop

Nis­san’s 370Z is bring­ing a sharper Z to the mar­ket, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

DRIV­ING a Z car is al­ways fun. Truth­fully, my fun run goes all the way back to the Sev­en­ties when my mate Jim Dar­ling some­times asks me to do the des­ig­nated-driver deal in his 260Z af­ter a tough dead­line night.

But that’s a his­tory story and the lat­est 370Z is here and now.

The lat­est Zster was up­dated last year with a tauter new body and a sig­nif­i­cant qual­ity up­grade in the cabin, a big­ger en­gine and a bunch of other me­chan­i­cal tweaks, but zero soft­en­ing of the driv­ing genes which have made it a global hit since it came back from the Dat­sun grave­yard.

If any­thing, the 370Z is in­tended to be sharper and more re­spon­sive.

It faces a tough job, not just be­cause of its his­tory, or op­po­si­tion that runs as tough as the Mazda RX-8 and BMW’s pocket rocket 135i, but be­cause it now sits in the same garage as Godzilla. Com­par­isons with the GT-R are in­evitable.

Just to get it out of the way, I much pre­fer driv­ing the Z. It doesn’t have the shut­tle launch blast of the GT-R but it’s a car which is more in tune with real driv­ing in the real world, and still might­ily brisk.

The price is bet­ter than it was, start­ing at $67,990 as a man­ual to un­der­cut some sig­nif­i­cant ri­vals.

I first saw the new Z at the open­ing of the Los An­ge­les Mo­tor Show last year, when the chrome yel­low coupe up un­der lights looked hot and hap­pen­ing. The body was pulled tighter around the wheels and Nis­san peo­ple talked about more per­for­mance from the big­ger 3.7-litre en­gine and a lighter car.

Me? I looked in­side to see if Nis­san had an­swered com­plaints about the Ti­ida-style cheapie plas­tics and see the an­swer is a tick.

So, what about the new 370Z? The Z is into its 40th year and the new car is shorter, wider, lighter and quicker than the 350Z it re­places. And there is a Road­ster com­ing in 2010. ‘‘The new 370Z builds on the best fea­tures of both the first and last gen­er­a­tions of Z car; re­spect­ful but not retro, sim­ple yet so­phis­ti­cated, and un­mis­tak­ably Z,’’ the manag­ing di­rec­tor of Nis­san Aus­tralia, Dan Thomp­son, says.

You can ar­gue the new Z is re­ally just a ma­jor facelift of the pre­vi­ous car, a pat­tern re­peated for a good re­sult with the lat­est Mu­rano SUV, and it’s hard to ar­gue against the grain de­spite a new me­chan­i­cal plat­form. Af­ter all, even if 35 per cent of the en­gine is new there is a lot of car­ry­over, even out­side the pow­er­plant.

But power is up to 245kW and torque is also boosted to 363Nm, with a re­vised six-speed man­ual and a seven-speed auto, the cabin has been made more friendly with a lug­gage tray in the rear — re­mem­ber it’s only a two-seater — and even ex­tra car­ry­ing space in the tail af­ter the elim­i­na­tion of in­tru­sive strut braces on the rear sus­pen­sion.

Apart from the ex­pected safety gear of trac­tion and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and a full suite of airbags, the Z gets a full leather in­te­rior, in­tu­itive satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, trip com­puter, xenon head­lights and al­loy high­lights around the cabin.

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