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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Is there a letter in the alphabet cooler than the letter "Z"? Nissan seems to know this and has built an automotive history stretching over 40 years around the character, combined with a simple formula – keep a car sharp looking and fast. The new Nissan 2-seater 370Z now houses a larger engine (found on Infiniti G37) and has shed nearly 100 pounds.

I drove a base 6-speed manual transmission 2009 Nissan 370Z that features a one and only powertrain – the 332-horsepower 3.7-liter 24-valve VVEL V6 engine. Standard equipment includes: 8-way power seating for driver; tilt steering column (instrument cluster moves when positioning wheel); audio steering controls at wheel; push-button start; cruise control; speed-sensitive power locks; rear window defroster with timer; 4-speaker audio system; Xenon headlights; 18-inch alloy wheels. Total vehicle cost was a cool $29,930.

If you are looking for a convertible, you should know the 350Z roadster still exists. Aside of base, the 370Z is available in a Touring trim (adds leather-appointed heated seats; a Bose audio system Bluetooth; Homelink; aluminum-trimmed pedals; a rear cargo cover; and an optional navigation system) and a NISMO (mainly performance parts). There are also optional packages, but I want to point out the base model I had – the under-$30k – is excellent as is.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The 370Z is an undeniable hot-looking sports car. The interior features bolstered seats, cradling the body with great 8-way power seating to really work yourself in there. The climate vents embedded in the side door are a nice touch and the glovebox is new. If you're familiar with the vehicle, you'll notice the back structural crossmember has been relocated for better cargo space. You're still limited with what you can fit, but it's an improvement. My shifting arm couldn't find a nice place to rest because the central console groove was too small. My elbow kept opening the lever to the center-back console compartment.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Loaded with safety features, the 370Z has Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS); seat-mounted side airbags and roof-mounted curtain side air bags; Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC); Traction Control System (TCS); Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD); and Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System. Active head restraints are included in every model. A panic system or the Vehicle Security System is also standard.

Cost Issues: A $10k-spread does exist from the simplest to the nicest Nissan 370Z. First, the base Nissan 370Z ($29,930) runs to the Touring ($34,460); tack on the Sports Package ($37,460); now make it a NISMO ($39,130). But like I'm saying, the base 370Z is an excellent deal.

Activity & Performance Ability: The 3.7-liter has a sound relationship with the 6-speed transmission – she just prefers high revs for shifting and overall cruising. You'll find your driving rhythm very easily. Stability control kicks in beautifully at fast dips and turns. Steering is tight, sort of heavy to pull; but erect (a telescoped wheel would have perfected the placement.) The tiny second-row windows create a massive blind spot – no way in bolstered seats are you going to get a good look behind on your driver's left.

The Green Concern: The EPA gas estimates are 18-mpg city/26-mpg highway driving.

The Nissan 370Z represents an affordable and well-performing sports car not needing a lot of extra packages to look and feel fancy – you'll do great with the base trim and be financially under $30k. 2009 Katrina Ramser