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2009 Nissan 370Z Review

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Model: 2009 Nissan 370Z
Engine: 3.7-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 332 hp @ 7,000 rpm/270 lb.0ft. @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 100.4 in. (-3.9 in.)
Length/Width/Height: 167.1 x 72.6 x 52.1 in.
Tires: 255/50R18 (F)/245/45R18 (R)
Cargo volume: 6.9 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway
Fuel capacity: 19.0 gal.
Sticker: Less than $30,000 base for base level 370Z

The Bottom Line: This fifth iteration of the Datsun/Nissan Z-Car retains the sports car feel of the original that was singularly responsible for the decline of the British sports car industry. In the 40 years since the 240Z was introduced the engineers at Nissan have learned a lot and applied it to their newest baby. The 370Z is powerful, has a choice of two excellent transmissions, and handles like a dream on all roads.

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Since the first Datsun 240Z arrived on American shores in 1970, the Z Car has been an icon. It changed the perception of Japanese cars in America as well as becoming a sports coupe of the highest magnitude. The car has evolved from the 240Z through the 260Z, 280Z, 280ZX, 300ZX, 350Z and now the 370Z.

Visually, the 350 and 370 aren't that much different, even though 3.9 inches have been removed from the wheelbase and the car is 2.7 inches shorter than before. It is also 1.3 inches wider and slightly lower. What this has done is create a tighter package that actually offers better response.

For example, the wheelbase shortening was accomplished behind the seats, which resulted in moving the yaw center (the point around which the car will spin) from behind the seats to the seats themselves. Therefore, the driver has a much better feel for what's happening with the car in tight, fast turns. Most of us won't have the opportunity to test the car under such extreme conditions, but it's nice to know that the ability to sense changes is there.

The chassis is more rigid than the previous version, an accomplishment that began by building paper models of the car and flexing them, noting where strengthening was needed.

The end result of all these changes is that the 370Z is a very friendly car on the road and on the track. We had an opportunity to drive it through some scenic areas with twisting roads designed to bring out the car's best features.

On the highway, we drove a car equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission. The shifts were precise and even included a slight downshift accelerator "blip" when you use the paddle shifters on the steering column if you want to use the gearbox in manual mode. The only fault we found with the car was that the right paddle (for downshifting) obscured the trip odometer.

We tried the manual transmission on the track and loved it. Even with my ham-handed shifts, I found it to be smooth in operation and forgiving if you came close to the 7,500 rpm red line. This transmission, too, "blips" when you downshift, so heel-and-toeing isn't necessary.

Handling is firm, which is ideal for excellent cornering, but not too firm. All too often, sports cars that have firm suspensions tend to knock your kidneys around on rough roads. The 370Z is compliant in that it's friendly on all kinds of roads. It's surprisingly smooth for a true sports car.

On the track, the 370Z handles extremely well with no trace of lean. At times, we foudn the brakes to be too tacky, but more experience with the car would show the=2 0driver how to modulate this.

I found the driving dynamics to be excellent. This rating may pale somewhat compared to a mid-engined super car or an overpowered Viper or Corvette, but for a "normal" sport coupe it's excellent. Unless you really drive dumb and make critical mistakes at the wrong time and place, you won't kill yourself in a Z.

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The seats are very comfortable. The driver's and passenger's seats are different, with the driver's shaped to make shifting and braking easier.

This is a two-seater, so the area behind the seats holds small items for storage. The trunk is slightly reduced in volume from the 350Z, but it's more practical since a transverse stability rod has been moved toward the center of the car.

While the styling is reminiscent of the 350Z, it is smooth. The "boomerang" headlights and taillights are a means of identification. It cane sometimes be mistaken for a compact sedan. It does not have the long low sleekness of the 240Z or 280Z, but it is a more efficient design aerodynamically.

My only problem with it was a serious blind spot in the right rear with the side panel. There's a small window there, but it's next to useless because, in my situation, the passenger headrest blocked it.

But, there's no doubt that Nissan has another winner with the 370Z.

2008 The Auto Page Syndicate