Nissan 370Z — Answering the call in more ways than one

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were cruising down the interstate highway in our bright 2009 Monterey Blue Nissan 370Z when we decided to take a short detour into rural farm country to practice our hobby of hunting down and shooting pictures of abandoned cars and trucks.

Hindsight always being perfect, perhaps it wasn’t a particularly good decision on this overcast late spring day.

We can report we are in good health, unbloodied, but much wiser and with a healthier respect for property rights.

As we rolled down a back-country blacktop we spotted an abandoned house, a couple of broken down barns and — paydirt — four or five automotive hulks rusting in the weeds. We slowed and turned into an old driveway just feet off the road. Camera in hand we snapped some shots of a couple 40-year-old Chevy trucks, a late ’60s AMC model and a Chrysler relic.

As we returned to the 370Z, a pickup truck squealed to a stop just behind us, blocking our car, and a shotgun-wielding shirtless guy who identified himself as the landowner demanded to know what we were doing trespassing on his property.

Explanations fell on deaf ears as the shotgun was continually waved menacingly close.
He said he was going to call the sheriff’s office. Since we had no way out, we agreed that was a good idea. No phone? Here use this one, we offered.

The deputy showed up, checked our license and car registration and declared we were legal. Things then took a turn for the better, and then even better again. And thanks to Nissan Motor Company and its delightful sports car, all of us — including the once-irate landowner, and the courteous young deputy — fell into a discussion of the 370Z.

The landowner joked about its “towing capacity,” the deputy asked questions about horsepower and handling, and we secretly wished to be back on the road and as far away from this place as fast as the Z’s 332 horses could safely take us.

When all was said and done, handshakes were passed around and we were finally back on the blacktop heading for the nearest interstate on- ramp, the Sirius-XM radio blasting out tunes from the Classic Rewind channel in an attempt to calm out shattered nerves, and thanking our lucky stars we didn’t have to detour to the nearest emergency room with a gunshot wound.

While this is not the kind of attention we sought while driving the 370Z, the Z’s helpfulness in a bad situation was appreciated. The Z-car, restyled for 2009, provided a welcome diversion from what started out as a tense situation.

The “new” Z was born in 2003 after a six-year absence and was an immediate hit with a powerful 3.5-liter 287-horsepower V-6 and many styling cues from the original Z-Car, which reached our shores as a 1970 model.

For 2009 we are blessed with the second-generation of the new Z and to Nissan’s credit they have elevated a very good two-seat sports car into an even better two-seater from virtually every aspect including performance, handling, stopping and styling inside and out. It just doesn’t get any better than this for a base price of $30,625 including destination charge.

The wheelbase has been cut nearly four inches and the rear track is 2.2 inches wider for better balance and handling. Despite the addition of safety features and other options, weight has been trimmed 95 pounds. Torsional rigidity has been improved by about 30 percent creating a more solid feel.

Nissan designers managed to smooth out and slim down the new Z while retaining the basic look and shape of the 2003 edition. The biggest difference comes in large “boomerang” headlights similar to those used in the 2009 Maxima.

We like the new look and we generally liked the look of the revised interior although mixing the new Nissan/Infiniti navigation screen and controls with the three 70s-era round retro gauges at the top of the dashboard canted toward the driver were inharmonious to us.

On the road there is nothing but harmony — the 370Z is a wonderful companion propelled by 3.7-liter V-6 making 332 horsepower, 26 more than last year mated to one of the best six-speed manuals we’ve driven in recent times. Also available is a thoroughly modern seven-speed automatic transmission.

When equipped with the optional $3,460 sport package, the manual comes with what Nissan calls SynchroRev Match. We recommend it. We predict you won’t regret the extra cash outlay. The feature automatically blips the throttle during downshifts eliminating the need for heel-and- toe. And who these days has that technique mastered?

The option also includes a vicous limited slip differential, 19-inch forged wheels, front and rear spoilers and Nissan sport brakes capable of bringing the car down from 60 in seatbelt-grabbing 101 feet.

Getting to 60 is lightning quick - measured at 4.8 seconds to 5.2 seconds depending on whose statistics you rely on. And cornering — this thing runs on rails. The tires felt like they were coated in glue. Driving excitement is there for the taking.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and we think it will remain comfortable for long trips. And still one of the neatest interior designs, used on the 350Z as well, is an instrument pod that tilts with the steering wheel.

We need to address a few minor nitpicks, the biggest of which is blind spots in the rear quarters. And even though the car comes with a big expanse of rear glass, its angle reduces the driver’s rearward vision.
Another disconcerting trait is an occasional tire boom on some road surfaces.

We are also somewhat disappointed by the smallish 6.9-cubic-foot cargo capacity with the hatchback design. But admittedly, the Z carried everything we asked it to over our seven-day testing period.

The 370Z comes in just base and Touring editions. Our Touring test car carried a base price of $35,155 and an as-test price of $38,470 with the addition of the sport package and a couple of other inexpensive items such as illuminated kick plates.

We’ve been Z fans for many years having owned a couple along the way. Maybe for that reason it was even more of a joy to drive the newest and most advanced edition — except of course for that 60-minute diversion on a back-country road. But even then the Z answered the call. Thank you Z.

Base price: $30,625; as driven, $38,470
Engine: 3.7 liter V-6
Horsepower: 332 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 270 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Seating: 2
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches
Length: 167.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,278 pounds
Turning circle: 32.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 6.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 26 mpg highway, 18 city
0-60: 5.1 seconds (Edmund's)
Also consider: Infiniti G37, Chevrolet Camaro, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Ford Mustang

The Good:
• Exhilarating performance
• Corners like it's on rails
• Great bang for the buck

The Bad:
• Minimal luggage capacity for a hatchback

The Ugly:
• Disconcerting blind spots