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Nissan 2009 370Z Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Nissan 370Z


by Marty Bernstein
Detroit Bureau
The Auto Channel

For countless baby boomers, their first aspirational, but attainable and affordable sports car was the 1970 Datsun 240Z. The “Z” was the first popular sportscar sold in America and is a collectable car today by aficionados.

It’s the car which built the brand reputation and established the DNA in America for an entire line-up of vehicles that changed its name in 1981 to Nissan. When a vehicle, such as this, is an icon, changing it to a more contemporary version can be damaging if the newest iteration does not reflect the integrity of the previous generation. Not to worry. The new 2009 Nissan 370Z continues the automotive legacy and heritage, in fact expands the appeal to anyone who has the chance to sit behind the wheel. Just one look and a drive will convince you this is a zenzational car. The new model zigs, zags, zips, zings and it’s a zinger, a zowie with zeitgeist and a zonker too.

OK, after lots of years, a new Z was re-introduced in 2003 with sales success, so why another version? And why a full redesign? It’s a question I asked while attending the new car’s introduction recently.

The answer was Darwinian: evolution. Actually, super-evolution as the purpose was to build an authentic sports car that does not require sacrifices and can be an everyday driver. This goal we were told, “Required a full redesign with nearly every piece and component was been rethought or redesigned – shorter wheelbase, greater use of lightweight body materials, new engine with more horsepower and improved fuel economy, a new 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, a world’s first synchronized downshift rev matching system for the manual transmission, new high quality driver-centric interior and new available”

A walk around the car shows elements of the former generations but with a bit more style and flair. The interior has been redesigned with new and larger dials and gauges along with basic instrumentation – and they’re at angle for easier viewing by the driver. The non-slip seats that are very comfortable, even at fairly high speeds on a winding road. Controls are within easy grasp and the overall design is functional. This is a sports car.

The drive was unique. From the urban adult Toyland of the Las Vegas’ strip to the calmer, more residential and commercial areas of LV to a national park to a special drivers country club track, the handling was crisp, agile and nimble. And the road surfaces changed from very smooth to not-so-smooth to long sweeping curves, hard rights and lefts, uphill and downhill the new Z was responsive and solid. And fast, very fast when pushed … and it was pushed.

For the techno-crowd, power comes from a new 3.7-liter VQ37VHR engine with 332 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm, up from the previous model.

The new engine is backed by a choice of two new advanced transmissions, both designed to improve driver performance. The new close-ratio 6-speed manual includes an available world’s first synchronized downshift rev matching system – which is really terrific -- which allows drivers of any skill level to experience professional-like gear shifting.

The “SynchroRev Match” function automatically controls and adjusts engine speed when shifting to the exact speed of the next gear position, essentially “blipping” the throttle to smooth out any up/down shifts. And it works! This not only allows the driver to focus more on braking and steering, it improves vehicle balance and smoothness by reducing the typical “shock” when the clutch is engaged. The system can be deactivated with a button next to the shifter for drivers who prefer less vehicle intervention.

If you are a sports car fan, take the time to visit a Nissan dealer near you. You’ll find out the last letter in the alphabet comes in first when applied to the model name of sports car.