If you're in the market for a fast, rear-wheel drive GT car, you're not exactly strapped for choices. Countless car manufacturers from all over the world make excellent GT cars, but in the end it boils down to what type of person you are.
If you're the stay-at-home-and-drink-tea-by-the-fire type of person, the Brits have got you covered with offerings like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the Jaguar XK-R. If you're the type of person who prefers cruising the autobahns at 140 mph, you might fancy something from Germany, like the BMW Z4 or a Mercedes SLK. If you want a car that's soft and comfortable on the road but still fast enough to school the riced out Civics at the local drag strip, perhaps a new Camaro or Mustang will interest you.
If, however, you've always wanted to be a ninja, find yourself one of Nissan's Z cars.
The Japanese, with their obsessions with neatness and efficiency, might not sound like the type of people that can make truly epic sports cars. Yet time and time again, the Japanese have proven that they are just as good at making passengers puke as their European counterparts. Take the new Nissan GTR for instance. For half the price of a Porsche 911 Turbo, you can have a car that will have your significant other blowing chunks way further than they would if you were driving even a Ferrari. Quite a bargain.
The last Z car, the 350Z, was also quite a bargain. For the tidy sum of $30,000 you could have yourself a nicely equipped car that seemed to respond to your thoughts rather than your physical actions. I should know, I bought one.
In fact, I've always wanted to write a little something about the 350Z, but up to this point, I never have. I've never felt I could be truly objective when talking about my own car, and there was always the lingering threat of catastrophic failure. If something were to go horribly wrong with my 350Z after I had given it a good review, I would feel like an idiot and everyone here at E2 would laugh at me.
With the newer 370Z, which I don't own (yet?), these problems don't exist. However, there are quite a number of brand new problems.
Visibility, for example. Sure, maybe not number one on the checklist for someone about to spend forty-some thousand dollars on a dedicated sports car, but still, lack of visibility can definitely cause problems. For instance, your trophy wife will think you're a loser when you crash your 370Z into the pickup that was cruising in your blind spot. She will probably divorce you and take half, and then you will cry.
There are also the normal problems that go hand in hand with sports car ownership. The rear tires are massive 275s and will cost you a fortune to replace. The gas mileage is exactly what you'd expect from a 3.7 liter, 330 horsepower engine: terrible. You'll have to use 93 octane fuel (or higher...) and synthetic oil. There's no back seat. Your left calf muscles will become massive from trying to feather the clutch in heavy traffic situations, and though I admit you could counter this effect by going extra hard on the gas pedal, tree-trunk legs are so 90s.
And so on and so forth. But all of these problems are pretty much standard issue when dealing with sports cars. You expect them, you deal with them, you bitch about them to your friends and then you move on with your life. On the other hand, there is one problem that I didn’t expect.
It seems Nissan has rewired the Z car. Whereas the 350Z was connected directly to your brain via a neural interface hidden inside the headrest of the driver seat, this car isn’t. In this car, you have to use…your hands.
What do I mean by this? It’s hard to describe; everything just seems a bit disconnected. I wouldn’t say the 370Z suffers because of this feeling of disconnect, it just lacks that special ingredient that really makes people go from liking a car to loving a car.
It’s a shame really, because I do like this car. The interior is a very nice place to be; it’s very ergonomically designed. The engine is spectacular and produces power so low in the rev band that you feel like you’re stepping on an on/off switch rather than an accelerator pedal. The noise is amazing and the looks, though they might take a while to get used to, are fantastic. Just look at that “swooping” rear end and the mean eyes, and those “shark teeth” in the radiator grille. Awesome.
The gear change up is smooth and controlled, and on the way down, the car’s computers automatically rev the engine for you before you engage a gear. This cool new feature is called “SyncroRev” and totally eliminates the need to heel-toe as you downshift. I usually turn off most driver aids when I want to go fast; I want to feel like I’m doing everything myself, but even I must admit, this SyncroRev stuff is really, really cool.
But despite all the electronic voodoo magic and the almost perfectly flat torque curve, this car just doesn’t feel right. It feels heavier, and rightfully so because it is. The steering is less precise and has less feel to it, and there’s noticeably more roll in the chassis. It just isn’t as eager to change directions as my 350Z. It seems they’ve changed this car from a grippy yet chuck-able tire-torturer to something more suited to long highway journeys.
Would I buy a 370Z? No. The fact is if I were to trade my car in for a 370 I would be spending an extra $30,000, and I’m sorry, but the 370 simply isn’t 30 grand worth of more car. Do I like this car? Yes, very much actually. I love the throttle response, the power curve, the trick gearbox and the way it looks like it could eat your pet dog for breakfast. It may not be the same ninja the 350 was, but it’s definitely still a Z car, and that means it’ll have your heart racing like a virgin in a cabaret.