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