It's Edmunds' party for the all-new 2009 Nissan 370Z and Randy Rodriguez is walking around like he owns the place. It's not only because he owns one of the baddest Nissan 240Zs at this event. It's not even because his 240Z -- one in a long line, because he's owned a Nissan Z-car as long as he's had a driver license -- is painted in a color previously seen only on a Nissan showcar. No, Randy Rodriguez is walking around like he owns the place because as the designer of the concept car that spawned the production 2009 Nissan 370Z, he might have saved the Z-car (not to mention sports cars as we know and like them) from irrelevancy.
The weight of the world is upon the modern automobile. With innumerable laws, regulations, standards and specifications to meet, it's no wonder that cars today are getting bigger, heavier, duller and blander. But not the 2009 Nissan 370Z. Compared to the 350Z it replaces, the new Z is shorter, wider, lighter and powered by a new 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 with variable valve timing and lift that's more powerful, too. It's a serious car, not just a stylish one.
It all sounds (and looks) great on paper, but a 12-month long-term road test here at Edmunds will validate (or invalidate) what our bar-napkin calculations hypothesize.
What We Got
When we began our talks with Nissan for the acquisition of a 2009 370Z for a long-term road test, pricing and specifications hadn't been released. We wanted a base car with the Sport package and the Technology/Navigation package. Turns out that such a combination doesn't exist. We could choose the base model car with the Sport package and get cloth-upholstered seats and a vacant cubby-hole in the dash, or we could have the Touring model with heated, leather-upholstered seats, a Bose audio system and Bluetooth, which offers the Navigation package as a $1,850 option.
While we debated our preferences for interior trim, there was no debate over the Sport package. It's a $3,000 option that we had to have. The $3 grand goes toward a set of slick-looking, lightweight, forged-aluminum 19-inch Rays wheels wrapped in wide Bridgestone Potenza tires, plus big brakes (14-inch rotors in front; 13.8-inch rotors in the rear) with four-piston calipers. On the driveline side, the Sport package adds a viscous-type limited-slip rear differential, while cars with the six-speed manual transmission like this one also include Nissan's new SynchroRev Match.
SynchroRev Match is Nissan's innovative feature that makes a manual transmission easier to use for the average driver. When we got our hands on one, Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh took us through a detailed overview. "SynchroRev Match," he says, "is a feature that automatically 'blips' the throttle when the driver initiates a downshift in manual-transmission-equipped 370s. If you depress the clutch, lift off the throttle and move the gearchange lever to a lower gear, SynchroRev Match zips the engine up to precisely the right speed for that gear.
"The result? Perfectly smooth rev-matched downshifts every single time, and drivers that look like heroes." It's a clever idea that's so useful for everyone that we're surprised it hasn't appeared sooner.
Base or Touring, all 2009 Nissan 370Zs have the same engine, the 332-hp VQ37VHR, a DOHC 3.7-liter V6. Nissan's VVEL (variable valve event and lift) is similar to BMW's Valvetronic, one more strategy to control the volume of fuel that flows in and out of the combustion chambers and thus combines good power with good air emissions.
The new 3.7-liter V6 also produces 270 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm, a number substantial enough that it helps get the Z-car out of the hole quickly enough to reach the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds at 104.8 mph.
Even though we think more people will buy the Base model, the Technology package won us over just because we can't do without a navigation system. Those buyers interested in the Base car can still relate, while those looking for more information on the full kit won't be lost.
And so our new long-term 2009 Nissan 370Z wears a sticker price of $40,320.
Why We Got It
Like you have to ask?
With its wide, arched fender flares, low stance and menacing grimace, the 370Z is more pony car than pocket rocket. The new 2010 Ford Mustang is on the horizon and the new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro isn't far behind, and the Z-car will put their performance into perspective. Affordable sports cars have been around forever, but they've never been this good. They've never been this fast. And they've certainly never had this level of refinement.
The 370Z represents one of the finest examples of bang-for-your-buck you can find at any car dealership (even if we did load up ours with some non-performance goodies), and we'll see if "good for the price" makes it as compelling both against pony cars at the low end of the price spectrum and against pure sports cars like the Porsche Cayman at the high end.
Is It Refined Enough?
For 12 months and 20,000 miles, we'll be blogging about the daily ins and outs of the new 2009 Nissan 370Z. The VQ37's refinement has been in question since its debut, so how will we feel about it after a year? The aggressive suspension calibration and hyper-sticky tires that help the 370Z nail our slalom test at nearly 70 mph are certainly fun for freeway off-ramps, but will the Z-car prove to be a tolerable ride the rest of the way to work? And the last Nissan with a clutch that we drove for a long-term road test -- the 2007 Infiniti G35S -- was frequently ignored because of its awkward, grabby clutch action. Will the Z-car be friendly enough for daily use? Moreover, how will the Z-car's appeal shake out when our long-term garage now holds not just two examples of the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution but also the 2009 Nissan GT-R?
Stay tuned to the long-term road test blog and let us know what you think.
Current Odometer: 1,410
Best Fuel Economy: 18.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 16.1 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.