2010 Nissan 370Z Touring Review


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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2010 Nissan 370Z Touring

Back in 1970, Nissan sold cars in the U.S. under the Datsun name. If the first Datsuns were rather pedestrian small sedans of the type chosen in those days to establish an import brand in this country, that began to change with the debut of the 510 sedan in late 1968. The 510 offered the performance of a similarly-sized European sports sedan at a considerable discount, and established Nissan/Datsun as a force in the American automotive marketplace.

But the 510 was just the warmup act. October 22, 1969 saw the arrival of the 240Z in America. The Z®, as it became nicknamed (and now trademarked by Nissan), was to the expensive European sports cars what the 510 was to the sports sedans: the affordable alternative, with no compromise in performance or style. To say the "Z-car" was a success would be massive understatement, and early Zs are collectible and useable today.

Of course life brings change, and if the second-generation 280ZX of model year 1979 was mostly an improvement -- and introduced a turbo option -- the third-generation 300ZX of 1984 was more problematic. Optioned correctly, it could be a fast and good-handling sports machine; or it could be a soft poseur. The fourth-generation 300ZX of 1990 solved that problem neatly, and in favor of serious performance with grand touring comfort. It became a true Japanese supercar, with, alas rising price and declining sales that forced its demise at the end of 1996.

But the original Z idea was too good to die. So model year 2003 saw its rebirth as the 350Z, and again Nissan had a winner on its hands. The 350Z was very much in the mold of the 240, updated for the day. And meaning: simple, if not "no-frills" also not the overly-complex and hence expensive beast which the last 300ZX became. The formula worked, well. Very well. But competition marches on, and so for 2009 the sixth generation of Nissan's legend was unveiled, in the form of the 370Z.

Superficially looking like a restyle of the 350, just about everything in the 370 was changed. It was shorter, wider, and lower. And more powerful, with a 332-horsepower namesake 3.7-liter V6 replacing the old 306-hp 3.5. More extensive use of lightweight aluminum, in the suspension and for the hood, doors, and rear hatch, contributed to a weight decrease, most unusual for a new car these days.

I never managed to get into a 2009 Z, but have just spent a week with a 2010 Touring model coupe. "Touring", as is the Nissan convention, denotes the upscale trim level. with leather instead of cloth seats, upgraded audio, fancier interior trim, and more available convenience options. The Sport Package, with a viscous limited-slip differential, 19-inch RAYS forged alloy wheels with performance tires, Nissan Sport brakes, and functional lift-decreasing front and rear spoilers, is available on both trim levels, and with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.

My timing wasn't exactly perfect. The calendar said "Spring" but the weather said "Winter" most of the time, with some torrential downpours and plenty of standing water. A Pathfinder or Xterra would have been the Nissan of choice, but the Z tracked true and stable, even in near-hydroplaning conditions. The shorted wheelbase doesn't compromise interior space or comfort, although luggage space is limited as expected. Even with the automatic, performance was at a level that was exotic-car territory back in the day of the 240Z. Nissan's iconic sports car has matured into a serious grand touring coupe (and now convertible, too) with the performance and amenities of European cars costing half again as much more, or more.

Just like the 1970 240Z. Happy 40th, Z, and many more!

APPEARANCE: The basic shape is familiar, but the details are a touch more aggressive, with a nod to wildman cousin GT-R. Most notable are the "L"-shaped head- and tail-lights. The new grille has a purposeful, almost racecar look, and gives the Z a determined face. The cutlines in the hood are reprised in the roof for a bit of a Zagato "double-bubble" effect, and everything blends well in a muscular but not steroidal classic long hood / cab-rearward fastback coupe body.

COMFORT: If your sport is driving, you're in the right place. If your sport is golf, a small club bag might (might) fit under the hatch. Or take your other car… this one is for serious driving, not mere transportation. The cockpit-style cabin is arranged around the driver, with the main instruments, as before, on the tilt-adjustable steering column. In automatic-equipped cars, the manual-shift paddles are attached to the steering column, not the wheel itself, so they stay in position at all times. Shuffle your hands, as is the current performance-driving custom, so they stay at the preferred 9 and 3 to 10 and 2 positions, and the paddles will always be within easy reach. The auxiliary gauges on top of the instrument panel are angled toward the driver, and the high center console puts the short shift lever and climate and audio controls on the center stack within easy and comfortable reach. Cruise and auxiliary audio controls are located on the steering wheel spokes. Visibility to the front and sides is good; use of the mirrors and a little head-turning is necessary for the rear quarters. Typical sports coupe, no complaints if you know the genre. The standard amenity level is considerably above that of the 240Z, and Touring specification adds an upgraded Bose® audio system, Bluetooth® connectivity, leather and synthetic suede seating and power seat adjustability, plus an available hard drive-based navigation system not fitted to my test car. Luggage accommodation is typical two-seat sports coupe -- travel light and no problem.

SAFETY: The Nissan 370Z Coupe has dual-stage front, side-impact, and head-curtain airbags, active head restraints, Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones and a strong safety cage around passengers for passive safety and strong four-wheel vented disc brakes with antilock and brake assist and good handling characteristics with quick reflexes for active safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It's a sport car so don't expect a soft old American luxury ride in a Z. Increased chassis rigidity makes for even more precise control, and the aluminum-intensive fully-independent double-wishbone/multilink suspension takes advantage of that. The Sport Package fitted to my test car develops that further with wider, lower-profile tires on larger (19") alloy wheels, upgraded brakes with larger ventilated discs and four-piston front and twin-piston rear calipers, and front chin and rear deck spoilers that eliminate aerodynamic lift for improved high-speed stability and safety. The 370Z is immediately responsive to driver inputs and a delight to drive on a good road in clear, dry weather. It works well in the rain, too, despite wide tires. Just dial back on the throttle. Extensive use of aluminum for major suspension components reduces unstrung weight, improving response, and aluminum hood, door, and hatch panels reduce overall weight as well, helping to improve handling, performance, and fuel economy. Further weight reduction comes from a carbon-fiber driveshaft.

PERFORMANCE: "Technology" relating to automobiles has somehow been twisted to mean infotainment systems. Yes, the 370Z has that. It also is a mechanical and electronic tour de force in the drivetrain department. The namesake 3.7-liter twin-cam 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 features "Variable Valve Event and Lift Control", which continuously varies valve lift and cam phasing for optimum power output and efficiency (thereby improving fuel economy and emissions) at all engine speeds. There's enough low-end torque that the car can be driven with the seven-speed automatic in "D" pretty much all of the time, including for performance, although the torque peak (270 lb-ft) is at 5200 rpm. The engine sips fuel at low revs, and allied with the automatic's overdrive 6th and 7th gears, good cruising economy is easily possible. But maximum horsepower -- 332 worth -- comes at 7000 rpm, with a high 7500 rpm redline. Keep it up there, and you'll get to wherever you may be going quickly, with wonderful music coming from the engine compartment and exhaust. You'll also make your favorite fuel company very happy…

CONCLUSIONS: 40 years after the original 240Z, meet the latest and best of Nissan's iconic line of sports cars, the 370Z.

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 Nissan 370Z Touring

Base Price			$ 36,130
Price As Tested			$ 40,745
Engine Type			aluminum alloy 24-valve dohc V6 with
				 VVEL
				 (Variable Valve Event and Lift Control)
Engine Size			3.7 liters / 225 cu. in.
Horsepower			332 @ 7000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			270 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			7-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		100.4 in. / 167.2 in.
Curb Weight			3314 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		10
Fuel Capacity			19.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A
				f: 245/40R19 94W
				r: 275/35R19 96W
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around, 4-piston front,
				 twin-piston rear calipers,
				 ABS, EBD, BA, VSC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone/
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		19 / 26 / 22
0 to 60 mph				x  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Carpeted floor mats					$   115
Illuminated kick plates					$   200
Sport package - includes:
  viscous limited-slip differential, 19-inch RAYs
  forged wheels, 245/40R19 front, 275/35R19 rear
  tires, front chin and rear spoiler, 
  Nissan Sport Brakes					$ 3,000
NISMO performance brake pads				$   580
Destination charge					$   720

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