2009 Nissan 370Z: Passionate Performance Carries on the Excitement
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Nissan’s exciting Z-Cars began life under the Datsun badge with the Fairlady Z in 1969. That sporty car was exported to America as the Datsun 240Z, while the original vehicle was named after the play, “My Fair Lady”. Featuring a 2.4-liter engine, the 240Z carried 150 horses and sold for $3526.
Subsequent Z-cars also utilized engine size in their alpha-numeric names, as the 2.6-liter 260Z (139hp) debuted in 1974; the 2.8-liter 280Z (149hp) came out in 1975 and the 300ZX (3.0-liter V-6 with 160hp – the optional turbo engine popped 200hp) debuted in 1984 and ran with a few generation uptweaks until the line was discontinued in 1996.
Beginning in 2003, the next production of Nissan Zs hit market with the 3.5-liter 350Z, and during this Z-car generation, the famous 2006 Super Bowl commercial featuring a GI Joe-type and a Barbie clone was aired. As an historical note: that commercial was named “Toys” and carried the tagline, “Enjoy the Ride.” Rated the top Super Bowl car commercial of all time, it played to the tune of "You Really Got Me," performed by Van Halen, and to avoid copyright infringement, Nissan named the characters "Nick", who was driving a toy Nissan 300ZX, "Roxanne," who was enticed out on a date by the adventurer, and preppy “Tad”, who was left in the dust to watch the pair drive away. Mattel sued them anyway.
Back to cars, the latest incarnation of the genre began in 2009 with the 3.7-liter Nissan 370Z, that thunders out 332 horses (more than twice the original Z) and has been tested in zero to 60mpg times of 5 seconds flat, beating the original 240Z time of 9 seconds.
Carrying a company slogan of “Passionate Performance at an Excellent Value,” the design passion is evident at first look, from its aerodynamic body to its aggressive and athletic demeanor and its light-weight, but rigid structure. Fluid lines run from the body-color front bumper with integrated front chin spoiler to the rear diffuser.
The Monterey Blue exterior of my test ride was a standout color that turns heads, but this sporty coupe design would warrant attention in any color, with a sport wheelbase of 100.4 inches, length of 167.1 inches, width of 72.6 inches and an air-slipping height of 51.8 inches.
Sport car power is generated by its 3.7-liter V-6 engine that thunders out 332 hp and 270 lbs.-ft, of torque. The system, coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission is muscular enough in all ranges to provide excitement to the point of passionate performance.
My week of testing, accelerating and downshifting in the interstates, city streets and country roads of Pennsylvania and Maryland achieved an average of 23.0mpg, well in line with EPA ratings of 18 city and 26 highway. While 5-seconds flat seems to be an often-reached zero to 60mph time for 370Z tests, my 3300-lb. test vehicle was about two ticks slower, as my best times were 5.2 seconds with a 13.6-second quarter-mile run. During extreme pedal mashing and gearshift jamming, the 370Z wants to jump out of its skin, as all the horses and pounds-feet of torque engage quickly to gallop out with solid low-end power. I found brawn in all ranges, as passing at high speed is a breeze.
Exceptional handling and response is conveyed by means of electronic drive-by-wire throttle, speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, SynchroRev Match, a synchronized downshift rev-matching system for the manual transmission and double-wishbone aluminum suspension.
Standard safety features includes the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System with dual-stage supplemental front air bags and seat belt and occupant classification sensors; front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags; roof-mounted side-impact air bags; seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, Active Head Restraints, Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones; ABS brakes with brake assist; Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System; Vehicle Security System and Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
Inside, the cockpit looks and feels like a sports car, with hugging interior space -- head room of 38.2 inches, leg room of 42.9 inches and shoulder room of 54.4 inches. Interior niceties include 8-way adjustable driver seat, adjustable lumbar support, easy-to-read sports cluster gauges with speedo and tach, power windows, automatic temperature control, 6-speaker Bose audio system with XM Satellite radio, 6-disc CD changer, two subwoofers and Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Weights
With a base price of $34,460, my test Z stickered out at $38,470. A $3000 sport package included viscous limited slip differential, 19-inch Rays forged wheels, P245/40R19 front and P275/35R19 rear Bridgestone Potenza tires, front chin and rear spoiler and Nissan sport brakes. Carpeted floor mats added $115 and illuminated kick plates were $200. Destination charges of $695 were tacked on and the final total still was under $40k.
Nissan officials reason that “this exciting new Z represents the essence of the Nissan brand, just as the original 240Z did nearly 40 years before,” and embraces the “passionate performance that sports car enthusiasts are looking for today”. Borrowing from the Super Bowl commercial of 2006, the 370Z “really got me” and behind the wheel or in the passenger seat, you can really “enjoy the ride.”
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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