|05-03-2010, 02:00 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2008
Drives: 09 370Z MB Sports M6Rep Power: 10
Drop Zed head
As part of the 370Z revamp, the roadster version has gained some hips, so instead of coming from the maritime school of car design, it's now almost Rubenesque, says DAVE MOORE.
The waistline of the old Nissan 350Z was as straight as a die, which meant that without its long tapering roof - as in the soft-top roadster version - it looked a bit like an upturned skiff, albeit a pretty stylish one. Which possibly explains why many a Ferrari, Alfa or Fiat drophead has been known as a barchetta, which is Italian for "little boat".
For its new 370Z model, as well as adding boomerang-shaped head and tail lamps, Nissan has made an effort to add a little muscularity to the coupe's profile, effectively pinching the vehicle's waist close to the doors' rear shut lines, in an artistic way. The painter Peter Paul Rubens had a similar way with hips and waistlines.
In roadster form, the 370Z now takes on the profile of sports cars of old, its new waistline almost becoming a homage to the big Healeys, XKs and TRs that dominated the segment 50 years ago. Hood up or down, it is a vastly better looking car than the 350Z roadster.
The black fabric hood opens or closes electrically in just 20 seconds, stowing itself under a tidy rear-hinged hatch with double humps - one each for driver and passenger - behind the cockpit. The benefit of this neat foldaway is that you can carry the same amount of luggage roof up or down, something not possible with folding metal roofs. I managed two sizeable airline trolleybags with no trouble.
The Z's interior got a good going over last year when the coupe model was launched and the roadster benefited, too. So now when an admirer, beguiled by the car's sexy styling, looks over into the cabin, they're no longer let down by the plasticky finish of the 370Z's predecessor.
With instruments that move with the adjustable steering wheel, better materials in general and satin metallic rings on its gauges and controls, and the extra dials on top of the centre console, it's much improved.
With a lower seating position than I remember in the 350Z, I felt very snug and cosy in the new car, and with its standard wind- deflector in place, seat warmers on and the heater adjusted for my hands, top-down motoring on the first frosty dawn of the year was no problem.
Nissan did not just re-skin the old Z-car to make the new one. Unlike the gradual, Elvis- like fattening of the Z models of the 70s and 80s, the latest 370Z is 65mm shorter over all, and 100mm in the wheelbase, and it's 25kg lighter. Which means that with more power and torque than before, thanks to a 200cc larger engine, it's quicker to boot.
The 3.7-litre DOHC V6 engine has what Nissan calls variable valve event and lift control (VVEL). Never mind the acronyms, its makes 245kW at 7000rpm and 363Nm at 5200rpm and, driving through the car's seven-speed automatic, which is the only transmission you can opt for, it is very quick by any standard.
The auto has a paddle-shifter on each side of the steering wheel - right for up, left for down - and uncannily the system has a device called downshift rev matching, causing one passenger to remark: "I thought this was an automatic." When I told them it was, he replied: "Then how on earth do you blip the throttle on downshifts?'
Suffice to say, it makes progress very smooth and it made even a so-so driver like me seem pretty special, too. Until I explained, of course.
I reckon the 370Z will hit 100kmh in under six seconds without really trying, which very much brings it into the performance territory of roadsters such as the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster, as well the quicker versions of Audi's TT. If there is a criticism of the Zed, it is that if sales depended on sound-track, it would have less of a show than the Germans, each of which have howlingly emotive engine notes that raise the hairs on your neck and arms, while the Nissan's more mechanical sound is not as inspiring as its looks.
Mind you, with a pricetag at $81,000 that sits at about $40,000 less than similarly- powered versions of those Germans, it would be churlish to complain too much.
In fact, such a pricetag could plausibly excuse an average performance in many areas. But such failings are hard to find.
The car's not as firm in terms of its ride quality as its predecessor, and is less affected by mid-corner bumps and changes of surface. There's also little evidence of wobbling in the body, which can be a signature for roofless versions of normally hard-topped coupes, which is as much a compliment to the suspension as to the stiffness of the car as a whole.
Despite the chassis' improvements, however, road noise is always noticeable.
While you're always aware of which end is doing the driving, the 370Z responds predictably to throttle input and is easy to keep balanced. There's plenty of grip and the car's steering reacts to driver input incisively, without kicking back on bumps.
The car doesn't mind pressing-on at all, after all, it's seriously quick, biddable and involving when you want to enjoy yourself - a track would be handy for this. However, while it's not especially quiet, it's relatively refined, comfortable and easy to drive when all you have is the daily commuting drudge. So there are fewer compromises day-to-day than with similarly-talented machines.
On its own, the 370Z roadster is an entertaining and consummate sports car of the old school. Compared to the Germans, its only real competitors, it's a bargain to boot.
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