The Nissan 370Z is a good-value, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe with a lot of power for the money, but it’s really showing its age these days.
The Nissan 370Z is a sporty coupe that provides more of an old-school feel than alternatives such as the Porsche Cayman, Toyota GT86 and BMW 2 Series.
It’s been on sale for quite a while, but it still looks very distinctive. Those muscular, aggressive looks mean it stands out from those more understated alternatives.
It’s very different inside, too, but not in a good way: the Nissan 370Z is really showing its age. Not only are the materials of lower quality than what you’ll find in, say, an Audi TT, the mix of different shapes and dated displays means the Nissan’s design isn’t as classy as the Audi’s. Yes, there are some nice touches – such as the sporty dials sprouting from the top of the dash – but they’re not in the same league as the Audi, which has beautifully crafted turbine-style air vents and an optional digital dashboard.
Also unlike the Audi TT, the 370Z is strict two-seater and it’s focused very much on the driver. Behind the wheel, you get a low-slung, legs-and-arms-stretched-out driving position and, in some ways, it’s easy to get comfortable. For instance, when you adjust the steering wheel, the instrument binnacle moves with it. However, the wheel doesn’t move in and out as well as up and down, while taller drivers might find the footwells a little shallow. On the other hand, the seats are very supportive, especially the ones that come in the Nismo version.
Of course, no one expects a two-seat coupe to be all that practical, but even taking that into account, the Nissan 370Z is pretty poor. Not only will some people find the cabin quite claustrophobic, but the car’s 235-litre boot is also pretty tiny (smaller than a Volkswagen Up’s) and impractical. Its shape is awkward, there’s a high lip to lift things over and the strut brace that links the rear suspension turrets together (to increase chassis stiffness) gets in the way.
Overall, the 370Z is clearly an ageing car and that shows in the way it drives, too. While some more modern quick coupes seem to shrink around you when you drive them, the Nissan does the opposite. It always feels large, heavy and occasionally unwieldy.
That’s not to say it’s a bad car, but anyone expecting the kind of nimble feel you get in a Toyota GT86 will be disappointed. The Nissan 370Z is more like a sporty steamroller, hammering bumps into submission rather than moving with the road.
It feels most at home on fast and open A-roads, where the steering’s slight lack of accuracy matters less and the car seems properly sure-footed, with bends easy to judge. Faster roads also allow you to use the full range of the 3.7-litre V6 engine, which rewards your efforts with a very decent noise, particularly when the car automatically blips the throttle for you as you shift down through the gears.
This reminds me so much of a classic 70s-style muscle car that I’m just disappointed to see that a chest wig and a massive medallion aren’t part of the standard equipment.
Find some tighter roads and, although it doesn’t suffer from major body lean, the car feels a bit unwieldy and you’ll feel plenty of bumps through the stiff suspension. On top of that, the controls need quite a bit of effort to use and the car’s weight means it is easy to get it out of shape if you tackle bends a little too keenly or are a little heavy-handed with the controls. That said, Nissan has set up the car’s traction and stability control systems to allow for a fair amount of slide before they check your efforts.
Essentially, the 370Z feels like a big muscle car that you have to hustle to get the best from it. And, if you want that sort of car, the good news is that the 370Z certainly has the right sort of engine. Even the entry-level model has 328hp and can get from 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds, while the Nismo version is quicker still and ideal if you plan to test your skills on the odd track day.
To cut a long story short, it has pretty brutal acceleration that’s always available, but the fuel economy is just as shocking. Officially, it’s 27mpg – a figure that will make your wallet cry for mercy these days – but you shouldn’t expect to get anywhere near if you’re having fun…
On the other hand, the basic 370Z looks pretty good value, given how much power it has, and it’s a fairly cheap way to go very quickly. But, if you’re looking at the Nismo model, that argument doesn’t hold so true, as it’s much dearer.
The good news is that even the basic version of the car comes with six airbags, stability control, vehicle dynamic control, active head restraints and a very, very large set of brakes. It also has air-conditioning, electric windows and electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors, but the GT model looks a little more attractive, with cruise control, a suede leather interior and sat-nav.
If you want some old-school fun, the 370Z could be the car for you. Its performance still impresses, and it’s competitively priced, but it’s a long way from perfect and a less powerful Audi TT or Toyota GT86 – which will demand far fewer compromises in everyday life – could be the better overall choice.