“Z’s is a great moment,” says an imaginary voice in my head. To make sure we are all on the same page, here – briefer than a tanga on a Brazilian babe – are three words that explain why the 370Z is greater than the 350Z: more powerful, smaller, lighter.
Okay, so it’s four words, since “powerful-er” doesn’t exist. But what Nissan has done with the 370Z is undoubtedly remarkable, no less than what they did for the R35 GT-R that everybody raved about last year. Remember that the 350Z, launched in 2003, is itself a landmark car. Coming after an illustrious line since 1961, Nissan brought it back in a thoroughly modern package. But the question here is: How much better is the 370Z than its predecessor?
It’s an especially valid question since the local distributor still has remaining units of the 350Z in a variety of guises, with prices starting at $138,500. The 6-speed manual 370Z is priced at $23,300 more but there’s a $3,000 “early bird discount” to consider.
Let’s rephrase the question: Is the 370Z $20,300 better than the 350Z?
The extra moolah doesn’t buy you more real estate because the new car is actually smaller than the 350Z. It’s 70mm shorter overall and the wheelbase is some 100mm less. It doesn’t get you any “rear” estate either because it’s strictly a 2-seater. Curiously, Nissan seems to have abandoned the tradition of making a “2+2” variant, as was the case with the Zs before the 350Z.
As Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, famously said: “More power makes (the car) go faster in the straights; less weight makes it fast everywhere.” Not only has Nissan given the new Z a little bit more power (an additional 20bhp), it has also made the car 25kg lighter. Making a new car lighter than its predecessor is a rare trait and a feat that’s commendable. More than just trimming excesses, Nissan has made the 370Z more focused on being a Z-car.
The philosophy of the Z-car has always been to be a traditional sports car as opposed to the geeky, techno-obsessed ethos behind the GT-R. While the 300ZX had Nissan slapping on more fat, more technology and even turbos for more power, the 350Z is refreshing in that the carmaker kept things as old school as it could in the new millennium.
Cunningly, the 370Z’s reduced dimensions don’t really show in the cabin. The passenger side actually feels more spacious than the 350Z’s, thanks to the glove compartment’s scallop design.
The old car is never praised for plush materials in the cabin. The 370Z is slightly better, especially on areas like the centre console, which feels a bit more substantial.
There’s a significant update in terms of equipment level, too. Keyless entry and engine start have finally found their way into the Z. The automatic variant (as tested) packs seven instead of six forward ratios, and there is a handy pair of steering-mounted shift paddles to fiddle with, instead of relying solely on the shifter. The manual 6-speed version, on the other hand, has a “SynchroRev Match” feature that automatically blips the throttle during downshift, mimicking the traditional heel-and-toe manoeuvre.
Where the car’s smaller dimensions are most obviously felt is in the area of dynamics. The 370Z is nimble and direct, while the 350Z feels heavy and deliberate. The 370Z doesn’t quite dart around like, say, the similarly priced Lotus Elise S, but the chassis’ responses are definitely more crisp and precise than the 350Z’s. While the 100mm shorter wheelbase surely helps in the responsiveness, it remains calm and settled on the high speed longer turns.
In terms of its behaviour during fast directional changes over switchbacks, the 370Z is practically electric when compared to its predecessor. It feels a lot lighter than the mere 25kg less reflected on paper. Throughout the proceedings, the steering wheel is brimming with useful feedback to egg the driver on.
Reflecting the advancement in chassis development since the 350Z’s debut, the 370Z manages to give the driver a better ride – despite wearing bigger alloys with lower tyre profiles (19-inch ones versus the 350Z’s 18-inch wheels). The newer Z is definitely more settled, even if it doesn’t quite shed the pronounced tyre rumbling you’d feel in the 350Z.
Perhaps it’s the newfound alacrity in the chassis that has influenced the engine’s characteristics. Developed from the same VQ family of V6 engines, the 370Z’s engine seems to rev more cleanly than the 3.5-litre and feels a little more peakish. Power delivery is nicely linear, to the point of masking the sensation of acceleration (it’s better to check the speedo frequently). Yet it packs a satisfying second wind as the engine pulls beyond 5000rpm or so, where you don’t have to look at the speedometer to know that the car is going quite fast. The accompanying deep soundtrack inherited from the 350Z is well and good here.
Next, we come to the most subjective of justifications for the 370Z’s case: its looks.The car starts with the signature cues from the 350Z – the pronounced “Coke bottle” shape, the vertical door handles, and the Z-shaped C-pillars and the resulting rear windscreen rake have all been given a radical rethink. The 370Z is very different from its predecessor but manages to immediately identify itself as its successor. The resulting design is a car that’s more shapely than the Porsche 911 (993), with the bulging wheel arches and a very gently raked rear windscreen.
There are new dramatic touches, too, like the Z-shaped headlamps, the “fangs” in the front bumper valance and the Z emblems on the front fenders that double as signal repeaters. Speaking of emblems, there are fewer Z badges on this car than on the 350Z. For now, there’s also one less variant to choose from, since the convertible version of the 370Z has yet to be announced. (Sun seekers have to turn to the 350Z Roadster for their fix.) As it is, the coupe’s aggressively styled profile is contentious, to say the least. Given that this is a sports car that’s expected to find no more than 15 or so orders a month (the official estimate), Nissan has probably decided that it’s a gamble worth taking: Better to polarise opinions about its looks than create a dull-as-Evian sports car. Or worse, create a sports car that looks less outstanding than its predecessor.
But in creating this outlandish coupe design – not to mention a vastly updated drive – the 350Z has been firmly cast into obsolescence. The 370Z has taken a step forward indeed.
ENGINE: 3696cc, 24-valves, V6
MAX POWER: 333bhp at 7000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 363Nm at 5200rpm
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H: 5.8 seconds (manual), 6.2 seconds (auto)
TOP SPEED: 250km/h
CONSUMPTION: 9.5km/L (combined) manual, 9.6km/L (combined) auto
PRICE INCL. COE: Unavailable
ENGINE: 3498cc, 24-valves, V6
MAX POWER: 313bhp at 6800rpm
MAX TORQUE: 358Nm at 4800rpm
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H: 6.3 seconds (manual), 6.6 seconds (auto)
TOP SPEED: 250km/h (manual), 238km/h (auto)
CONSUMPTION: 8.6km/L (combined) manual, 8.5km/L (combined) auto
PRICE INCL. COE: Unavailable