Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough
Revamped Z car brings the retro fun
After more than a decade, Nissan has updated its Z sports car. Well, mostly updated – it’s technically the same chassis as the 370Z and 350Z before it, but there’s a new engine and completely different styling both inside and out, so it’s worth a bit of fanfare.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
The new Z (no digits this time, just the letter) is, as mentioned, effectively a massive rework of the old 370Z. It uses the same FM platform as the 350Z and 370Z, albeit highly modified with better structural rigidity, better suspension, electronic power steering that apparently retains a ‘‘strong mechanical feel,’’ and wider front tyres on both models.
Under the bonnet is a twinturbocharged 3.0-litre V6, new to the Z but not new to Nissan as it is the same unit found in the Infiniti Q60. It makes 298kW/475Nm, up 51kW and 108Nm over the 370Z. Nissan doesn’t specify performance figures, but it should be quite a bit faster than the old car. Notably, this is more power (but less torque) than rival Supra.
It’s paired with either a sixspeed manual (purists rejoice!) or a nine-speed automatic that shares DNA with the Mercedes-Benz nine-speed. There’s no extra cost going with either transmission.
Both the automatic and manual transmissions come with launch control. Manual-equipped cars get an Exedy heavy-duty clutch and a carbon fibre composite driveshaft with rev-matching, while autos get the same shift paddles as the GT-R.
Standard specification for New Zealand will load the Nissan Z with a leather-accented interior, bucket seats similar to those in the GT-R, a fully customisable 12.3-inch driver’s display, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and three driving modes – Standard, Enhanced and Sport.
The standard car, just called Coupe, is mechanically equivalent to the US Performance model, which means a sportier suspension tune, larger brake rotors with stronger calipers, a limited-slip differential, 19-inch Rays lightweight forged alloy wheels, and an eight-speaker Bose audio system with active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement.
WHERE DID YOU DRIVE IT?
Nissan launched the Z over in Melbourne, with the day starting cloudy before rapidly becoming saturated. That meant about four hours of wet roads, so the outer limits of the Z’s performance remain untested, at least for now.
I started off in the manual
Price range: $84,990 Powertrains: 3.0-litre twin turbocharged petrol V6 with 298kW/475Nm, 10.8L/100km (ADR), six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic, RWD.
Body style: Coupe.
On sale: Now
version, which comprises about 70% of the 1200 orders, Nissan Australia said. There aren’t any power differences between the two transmissions.
The heavy-duty clutch didn’t actually feel too heavy and the gearing of the transmission is nice, with sixth keeping the engine at just below 2000rpm at 100kph. Nissan worked on the shifter action with new detents and it feels great. Not quite as snickety as a Mazda MX-5 or Honda Civic Type-R, but still lovely. Honestly, it’s just great to see it in a brand-new sports car.
The suspension is tuned slightly more towards being a grand tourer than an out-and-out sports car, which means it’s a bit more on the soft side. Not a bad thing, actually, considering how rough Kiwi roads tend to be.
Nissan has given the Z new electrically assisted steering, which is also more GT than sports. It doesn’t bounce around in your hands going over bumps in the road but a bit more precision and feedback wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps it’ll feel better over here under better conditions.
The automatic will probably be the model that most buyers go for at the end of the day, and it earns its keep. It’s fast to drop down cogs when you ask for it, and the extra ratios and smart computer brain means it’s easier on gas.
The engine is a peach, with plenty of pull from about 2000rpm right up to the 7000rpm redline, and sounds great from inside. Outside it’s a bit naff – you can thank sound regulations in America for that, as Nissan doesn’t change the exhaust for different regions. There’s heaps of top-end grunt as well, so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the Supra and Ford Mustang.
WHAT’S THE PICK OF THE RANGE?
Well, considering there’s only one you can get and the only difference is the transmission, I would say the manual, purely because it’s a manual Z and it’s brilliant.
Although, we are living in what might be the last hurrah for the manual, as Toyota has confirmed the Supra will get a six-speed by the end of the year, and the nextgeneration Ford Mustang/Honda Civic Type R will both come with a manual as well. Who knows how long they’ll last, so it could well be now or never.