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2010 Nissan 370Z Review

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MORE: Nissan Specs, Prices and Comparisons - Nissan Buyers Guide

A True New Sports Car
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

This Nissan 370Z is a true sports car, in my view. We’ve heard many arguments over the years about just exactly what constitutes a sports car. After all, the early ones didn’t necessarily have a lot of power and newer ones perhaps have too many comforts. The main criterion, in the old days, was that they just had to be simple and handle well. Luxury and convenience have crept into the genre over the years abrogating the oneness between car and driver.

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Back in the early 70s Nissan (then Datsun) pioneered this affordable, performance sports car segment with the introduction of the hot 240Z powered by a torquey in-line 6. The price was reasonable and it had classic rear-wheel drive sports car proportions with long hood, short tail and cockpit well back in the chassis. Overhangs were excessive by today’s standards, but in its day it looked great.

The 370Z, new for ’09, continues the tradition. With a base price barely under 30-grand, I guess we can still call it “affordable,” and fully in step with modernity. The classic proportions remain but it now looks more muscular and aggressive with minimal overhangs. A gaping lower grille up front looks to be gulping air through angular lower canine teeth. Exaggerated wheel arches, filled with the optional 19-inch tires on boldly styled, spidery forged wheels, bulge aggressively and the sloping, rounded tail screams scat-happy. We can just visualize the tail hanging out in a smoky drift through a tight turn. Pointy, triangular headlight and taillight bezels point dramatically rearward and forward respectively. In this brash Chicane Yellow color our test car is an eye-catcher for sure.

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This sports car is powered by a version of the 3.7-liter V6 that is shared by other Nissan, Infiniti and some non-affiliated brands. This one produces a substantial 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of grunt. It’s a high tech motor. The 24 valves are actuated with variable lift and timing. Micro finished cam and crankshafts will contribute to longevity and electronic drive-by-wire throttle provides immediate response. EPA rates this Z-car at 18-mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. Mated to a six speed manual transmission it is hard to imagine a powertrain more fun and functional.

A double wishbone front suspension design and multi-link, independent rear system provide an excellent balance of roadability and all-out performance. A three-point front strut tower brace and a rear brace exposed behind the seats make for a mighty rigid body structure. Optional sport brakes (vented discs all around) have the Nissan name molded into the calipers.

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Sliding down into the well-bolstered, fabric driver’s seat we find a truly sporty environment. Looking out over the shapely hood we get a sense of artful performance. The unusual gauge pod moves up and down with the fat, small, adjustable steering wheel with audio and cruise controls mounted on the wide spokes. The center stack features a handy, covered cubby where we presume the navigation system would reside, if the car were so equipped. Three little pod gauges (oil temp, clock and voltmeter) look toward the driver on top. Below, a stubby, short-throw shifter with leather-wrapped knob falls easily to hand and completes the sporty feel of the inside.

The driving experience is consummately sporty as well. As real car guys and gals will know, driving can be a multi-sensual experience: tactile, auditory, visual and even (in the case of a sports car using racing fuel) olfactory. The Z-car sounds just raucous enough as we poke the keyless start button on the dash. The modestly heavy clutch implies toughness. Running briskly through the gears we hear the rumble of this beautifully tuned dual-exhaust system from the driver’s seat. I expect the sound from outside is thrilling as well. Everything feels quick, responsive and fully up to the important job of entertaining us on the road. If we feel the need for olfactory input we need only turn off the traction control and smoke the rear tires a bit.

Don’t expect much utility value with the Z though. Under the rear hatch we were able to haul more groceries than I expected. You could probably pack enough stuff for a good road trip in soft duffels but don’t plan on rigid suit cases or golf clubs. This is a two-seater, by the way. There is not a hatch release button on the fob or inside the car – only a pinch pad under the lip above the license plate.

All the safety features we’ve come to expect on all cars are included as standard on the Z: six airbags, active head restraints, seat belt pretensioners, ABS, tractions control and the other chassis dynamics.

Our tester is the basic Z-car with starting price of $29,930. The yellow paint is a $500 option and we have optional floor mats for $115 and the Sport Package (manual gear box, limited slip differential, 19-inch wheels, front and rear chin spoilers and sport brakes) for $3,000. The bottom line on the sticker shows $34,240.

My contention is that a sports car is one designed and built purely for the sport of driving – practicality be damned. While the Z is at least minimally practical it certainly panders to our need for fun.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved