Lady in Red

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Ferdi de Vos Images © Nis­san SA

Sexy in red and neatly lined up at the Red Star Race­way near Emalahleni they shim­mered in the sun – the lat­est em­bod­i­ment of Nis­san’s iconic Z-car with a legacy that be­gan in the 1960s.

While it was ex­ported as the Dat­sun 240Z, the orig­i­nal Z-car was in­tro­duced in Ja­pan in late 1969 as the Nis­san Fair­lady Z – an in­con­gru­ous name for a sports car con­sid­ered in Western terms, but one that has stuck.

Ev­ery Z-car sold in Ja­pan is known as a Fair­lady Z, but else­where it went un­der the names Nis­san S30, Nis­san S130, Nis­san 300ZX, Nis­san 350Z, and now, in its sixth gen­er­a­tion, as the Nis­san 370Z.

Over the years, this fair lady has been en­dowed with more and more power, mak­ing her ever more at­trac­tive. The 240Z (which was never of­fi­cially avail­able in South Africa), 260Z, 280Z, and S130 (280ZX) were pow­ered by an in­line-six with dis­place­ment grow­ing from 2,4 litres to 2,8 litres.

The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion 280ZX, in­tro­duced in 1979, was a com­plete re-de­sign with a turbo op­tion of­fered later, but the third gen­er­a­tion 300ZX switched to a 3-litre V6 en­gine.

Two gen­er­a­tions of the 300ZX – the Z31 from 1984 to 1989 and the Z32 from 1990 to 1996 – with non-turbo or turbo engines were avail­able, but dwin­dling sales and es­ca­lat­ing prices led to its demise in 1999.

How­ever, just over three years later, the Zee, as it is known in the United States, was res­ur­rected. The 350Z, pow­ered by the 214kw 3.5-litre VQ35DE V6 was in­tro­duced in 2003 and its en­gine power was up­dated twice – in 2005 to 224 kw and in 2007 to 232 kw.

The 370Z (called the Fair­lady Z Z34 in Ja­pan) was in­tro­duced in 2009 with a big­ger VQ37VHR mill pro­duc­ing 241 kw and since then it has been reg­u­larly up­dated, spawn­ing a 40th An­niver­sary Edi­tion in 2010, a GT edi­tion a year later, as well as an up­rated Nismo ver­sion.

Now the lat­est ver­sion of the 370Z has been un­veiled, and what bet­ter way to sam­ple the rear-wheel drive coupé with its high-revving V6 en­gine but to thrash it around a tight and twisty race track.

Up­grades for this sixth-gen­er­a­tion model in­clude metal chrome door han­dles and a black painted rear dif­fuser. The in­side cov­ers of the head­lamps and rear com­bi­na­tion lights, pre­vi­ously only avail­able on the Nismo ver­sion, have now been dark­ened and the 2018 model also comes with dis­tinc­tive new 19-inch al­loy wheels.

In­side its clas­sic Z-car in­te­rior is still dom­i­nated by a sim­ple three-spoke

steer­ing wheel and three cir­cu­lar gauges. Stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes a pre­mium in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with seven-inch touch-screen, sat-nav, a DVD player with 9.3GB mu­sic box sys­tem, and a rear-view cam­era. But the best ad­di­tion to this ex­am­ple of the quin­tes­sen­tial sports car is a stun­ning new Red Metal­lic ex­te­rior coat of paint.

On track it was ev­i­dent that while the Lady may have ma­tured some­what over the years, she still wants to live life in the red.

With 245kw of power and 363Nm of twist­ing force un­der foot, chan­nelled to­wards the rear wheels, the 370Z stays ex­hil­a­rat­ing and fun to drive. Sure, power de­liv­ery is not as lin­ear and im­me­di­ate as what one has be­come ac­cus­tomed to in more con­tem­po­rary con­tenders, and the seven-speed auto ’box is a tri­fle slow com­pared to some newer sys­tems.

But the di­rect­ness of its steer­ing, the bal­ance of the chas­sis, its ideal weight dis­tri­bu­tion, and the way in which the tail (re­bel­lious when pro­voked) can be con­trolled by throt­tle mod­u­la­tion and steer­ing in­put, makes it one of the few re­main­ing ex­am­ples of the clas­sic sports car genre.

A sports clutch by Exedy en­hances its dy­nam­ics, and Syn­cro Rev Con­trol – the world’s first fully syn­chro­nised down/up shift rev con­trol sys­tem for a man­ual trans­mis­sion – makes this de­riv­a­tive the must-have model in the range. Well, at least in my (old­school) opin­ion.

Yes, man­ual cog-swop­ping means hard work around the track and may be less com­fort­able in traf­fic, but the fact that it is less easy to drive as some of the new pre­tenders suits this Lady’s old-style per­son­al­ity.

Now avail­able at R661,900 for the man­ual de­riv­a­tive and R680,900 for the auto ver­sion, the up­dated 370Z could be con­sid­ered slightly out­moded, but while new­bies to the genre may have evolved to be more ac­cept­able and eas­ier to drive, the lat­est Z-car stays true to its her­itage.

On track it was ev­i­dent that while the Lady may have ma­tured some­what over the years, she still wants to live life in the red.

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