Nissan 370z Road Test 2018

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THE XY OF Z


When Nissan or should I say Datsun first appeared in the UK back in 1968 they were regarded with both suspicion and maybe not a car manufacturer to take overly seriously. Ironic if you now think back since after Toyota, Datsun were the second largest car maker in Japan. Thing was how could you get serious about cars that were called Cherry, Sunny, Violet, Fairlady and even the Cedric. No, sorry we Brits were more than happy with cars like the Cortina, Anglia, the less than vast array of Austins and Morris plus of course the all new Escort that appeared in the same year.


Be honest, would you want a car named after a fruit or a flower. Strange thing was my dad owned a new Datsun Cherry for a while and it was a great little car....it even had an Hitachi MW/LW radio and what were called ‘coffin backed’ front seats which was some going at the time. Rare as they were you even saw the occasional Datsun Fairlady open topper on the odd occasions but being a Datsun it’d never be any form of contended for the MGB or Triumph Spitfire. Then all of a sudden the ‘Z’ appeared in 1969 and it all rather changed. Called the Fairlady Z in Japan, the feminine part of the name disappeared for the rest of the world, the 240Z a Datsun everyone took seriously....very seriously!


A two door, two-seat coupe complete with a straight-six 2.4-litre engine that produced around 150hp with near 50:50 weight distribution it became a global success. Yes, it was a little bit E-Type at the front but so what, it was a fresh design that looked good and came as standard with most things the others charged extra for. Convincing UK buyers that Datsun were a brand to be taken seriously along came the famous red and black Samurai works cars that took on the world’s hardest rallies and won. What more could you want?


As time went by the 240Z became the 260Z and then the 280Z then 280ZX. But as is the now familiar path seemingly followed by most manufacturers, the purity of the first Z gave way to middle aged spread and larger more lethargic engines needed to haul the acres of velour interior around. It also became apparent that the Z and ZX cars were aimed at the American market, the sporting and touring aspects long since abandoned although the second twin-turbo incarnation of the fourth generation 300ZX did improve matters.


Move forward to 1999 and Renault’s purchase of 44.4% of Nissan and a true Z was back on the cards, 2002 seeing the 350Z make its appearance followed in 2008 by the 370Z, the car on test the latest version. Combining performance, looks and a far more defined purpose it now offers buyers most things they’ve come to expect from the German sports cars at a far more affordable price whilst the front engine, rear wheel drive meant it was a ‘proper car’.


The 370Z has a definite hint of the Jaguar about it. A low set wide mouth, narrow swept back arrow head style bi-xenon lights and muscular well defined arches that house 245/40R19 rubber and alloys. But there it ends, from the raked front windscreen the 370 arches rearwards into a curvaceous teardrop profile, an upwardly tapering waistline flowing into the downward flowing roofline, the two meeting at the rear arches that envelope the larger 258/35R19 rear wheels and tyres, distinct rear lights, and almost flat and irritatingly only operable from within the car tailgate. A pair of twin chrome tailpipes and a rounded rear end giving the 370 a soft, rounded rear profile, the whole generating a drag coefficient of 0.3.


Vertically set on the trailing edge of each long, frameless door, whilst they work perfectly well, the matte silvered door handles would now look far more in keeping if they were coloured keyed to the rest of the 370. A small point but one that now stands out given its minor details such as this that many potential buyers will see almost immediately.


Sat a mere 123mm above the ground the front suspension is composed of double wishbones with aluminium components, the rear independent multi-link with aluminium and steel components. Combined with the 370’s near neutral handling and conventional GT layout of front engine with rear wheel drive, the flat feeling of the car only becomes disturbed if exit speed is overly increased to provoke the 370’s levels of natural traction.


Inside the cabin the 370 once again adheres to the conventional two-seater grand tourer layout. Trimmed in vented alcantara and leather and leather effect albeit the heated and contoured seats are supportive and comfortable, each occupant enjoys their own individual compartment. Soft, textured surfaces provides the bulk of the cockpit trim, whilst the wide centre console acts as a comfortable divider housing the short gear lever and storage bin. Moving as one in conjunction with the rake only adjustable multi-function steering wheel and set in a silvered hooded binacle its the rev counter that dominates the instrumentation, the speedo over to the right, the fuel gauge and onboard read outs on the left whilst the three dash mounted gauges house the clock, battery charge and oil temperature.


Just below the angled 7” touch screen houses the satnav, Bluetooth, CD/DVD player and radio although the lack of DAB hints at the systems age. All other controls including climate are located just below the screen, are clear to understand and quick to deploy. Apart from the glovebox, the interior of which is taken up by the car’s handbook, cabin stowage is severely limited. The single cup holder ensures the cup or bottle stored within constantly catches the driver’s left elbow, the door bins are minimal although two larger bins and one covered compartment behind the seats provide an extra if inconvenient place to stow infrequently needed oddments.


Shallow but usable, the luggage bed will hold 235 litres of cargo space although with just 498mm, 904mm and 1,357mm of available height, length and width, common sense needs to be used when packing. On the plus side, luggage nets, covers and the rear suspension bracing bar ensure baggage remains secure and firmly in place whilst the rear can more than accommodate the weekly shop or soft bag luggage for a week’s touring.


The most impressive part of the 370Z sits beneath the bonnet in the shape of the Euro6 V6 3,696cc DOHC and VVEL engine. Located firmly beneath the front suspension bracing bar the V6 develops 324hp and 363Nm of torque and in this instance mated to a positive but heavy 6-speed manual transmission, the engine is impressively flexible. Hitting 62mph in 5.3 seconds and onwards to a limited 155mph, whilst the 370Z will provide most buyers with more than sufficient performance, the engine is still more than happy to pull smoothly from 20mph whilst in 6th gear. Classified with a 248 CO2 emission, economy isn’t the 370Z’s forte, even gentle, set throttle running only able to achieve 34mpg whilst general motoring will see around 24mpg at best. Preferring the higher octane unleaded, work on the theory that you’ll see around 380 miles per 72 litre tank of fuel.


Behind the wheel of the 370 the lack of reach adjustment becomes immediately obvious, tall drivers having to sit closer to the wheel than they might want to. Two other negatives are the large blind spot created by the thick A-pillars, highlighted when turning right out of junctions whilst the lack of speed related power steering tends to mean feel and feedback are lacking at higher speeds or when cornering hard. When pushed hard the 370Z does reward, the V6 responding very quickly to throttle requests, the twin tailpipes suddenly bursting into song, the illumination of the gear shift light keeping the engine’s sonorous exuberance at full flow. Similarly, irrespective of the car’s traction control systems, the 370Z will wag its backside under fast cornering or enthusiastic exit speeds, sawing at the wheel commonplace when pushing along quiet back roads.


Many 370Z aspects indicated that Nissan need to upgrade more than the engine. In comparison to the car’s direct competitors, it now lacks certain refinements no matter how basic or insignificant they might at first appear. Conversely, the looks and performance of this GT coupe are in the main without question, the lines of this Nissan are to my mind more or less the equal of any similar sports coupe whilst performance is everything you’d expect from a 3.7 litre V6.


As I’ve already commented, in comparison to other similar cars of which there are actually relatively few, Nissan’s 370Z is to a degree falling behind especially in some of the now important minor details. No DAB, a steering column that doesn’t adjust for reach, non-variable power steering, relatively poor cabin storage and rather heavy consumption figures. On the positive side, at £34,860 inclusive of the Infra Red metallic paint option, the 370Z is great value for money when you look at the complete 370Z package. Or to put it another way, a T-Bone steak that melts in the mouth but the vegetables don’t quite do it justice!


By; Mark Stone