Full 2011 Nissan 370Z Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Nissan 370Z carries on unchanged save for the addition of a rearview camera to the optional Navigation package.
Draw up the criteria for an ideal sports car and you'll find that the 2011 Nissan 370Z covers nearly all the bases: two seats, lightweight coupe body, more than 300 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, big wheels and tires, and curves for days. Factor in a seductive price starting around $30,000 and you've got lusty sheet metal for the Lead Foot Everyman.
The Z even comes in roadster form. Purists might dismiss it, but the open Z is powered by the same burly 3.7-liter V6 and six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission as the coupe. Similar suspension tuning and a weight increase of just 200 additional pounds help the roadster retain most of the coupe's quick reflexes and acceleration.
But the 370Z isn't without flaws. The V6, while strong, lacks some refinement and feels labored at high revs. This might seem a petty complaint, but it substantially dulls the enjoyment of a spirited run on open roads. The coupe is also remarkably noisy, especially when fitted with the larger, optional wheels and tires. Also, a performance car like the Z deserves an invigorating engine note, and some isolation from road roar would make long freeway trips less exhausting.
These are unfortunate flaws, as the rest of the 2011 Nissan 370Z package is stellar. It honors and advances the Z philosophy of outstanding performance at earthly cost. Even so, others are worth consideration, including the more refined 2011 BMW 1 Series, the capable 2011 Hyundai Genesis coupe, the related (and considerably more polished) Infiniti G37 or the trio of American pony/muscle cars. But if your dreams center on affordable high-performance sports cars, the Nissan 370Z is the best way to realize them.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Nissan 370Z is offered as a two-seat coupe or a convertible soft-top roadster. The coupe is offered in base, Touring and Nismo trim levels, while the roadster comes in base and Touring only.
Standard features for the base 370Z coupe include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, heated side mirrors, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, a tilt steering wheel wrapped in leather, an eight-way manual driver seat and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 370Z Touring coupe adds leather and faux suede upholstery, power seat adjustments, heated seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a cargo cover, Bluetooth and an upgraded Bose sound system with six speakers, two subwoofers, an in-dash six-CD/MP3 changer and satellite radio. The track-ready 370Z Nismo comes with 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, high-performance tires, a limited-slip rear differential, stiffer suspension tuning, a more powerful V6, upgraded brakes, unique front and rear fascias, a larger rear wing and special Nismo interior trim details.
The 370Z roadster comes standard with a power-operated soft top but is otherwise equipped similarly to the coupe. The Touring model adds heated and ventilated seats with power adjustments.
Those wanting more performance without committing to the Nismo edition can opt for the Sport package, available on both 370Z models, which includes 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, front and rear spoilers, and the SynchroRev Match feature for manual-equipped cars. Optional on the Touring is a Navigation package that includes a hard-drive-based touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic and weather updates, voice recognition, digital music storage, Bluetooth audio streaming, an iPod interface and a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
Base and Touring Nissan 370Zs are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that puts 332 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque to the pavement through a standard six-speed manual transmission. Equipped with the Sport package, the manual 370Z also comes with the SynchroRev Match feature, which automatically matches engine rpm to wheel speed during downshifts to make clutch re-engagements super-smooth. A seven-speed automatic transmission is optional and includes steering-column shift paddles and rev-matched downshifts of its own.
The 370Z Nismo has a tuned version of the same V6 engine that develops 350 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed manual with SynchroRev Match is the only transmission offered.
In Edmunds performance testing, a 370Z coupe with the Sport package accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.1 seconds; the roadster did it in 5.5 seconds. The fuel economy penalty for such hustle isn't devastating. The EPA estimates the coupe achieves 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with either transmission. Roadsters are rated at 18/25/21 mpg with the automatic and 18/25/20 with the manual.
Standard safety equipment for the 2011 Nissan 370Z includes antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front-seat side impact airbags, side curtain airbags (roof-mounted in the coupe and door-mounted in the roadster) and active head restraints.
In Edmunds brake testing, a coupe with the Sport package's upgraded brakes stopped from 60 mph in a super-short 101 feet -- about the same as the outlandish Nissan GT-R supercar. A roadster with the Sport package took only 5 more feet to stop.
Interior Design and Special Features
High-quality materials and solid construction are prominent throughout the 370Z's cabin. Touring models feel even more upscale, with leather upholstery and upgraded faux suede door inserts. The roadster's lined, fully automatic soft top drops down beneath a body-color tonneau cover in about 20 seconds. The Z doesn't have a telescoping steering wheel, but most drivers will find the driving position comfortable and sporty.
Neither version will help you move much stuff beyond two or three duffel bags: the coupe has 6.9 cubic feet of luggage space beneath its hatchback and the roadster has 4.2 in its conventional trunk. Rear visibility is also a problem, as the thick roof pillars create large blind spots.
On the road, the 2011 Nissan 370Z provides unrelenting grip and razor-sharp control, but it's easy to drive and makes you feel like a better driver than you are. The ride quality impresses with its ability to be supple without compromising handling. The Sport package's 19-inch wheel-and-tire combo can get awfully noisy, especially on concrete highway slabs. The roadster actually fares better on this count due to its enclosed trunk. The 370Z Nismo offers no apologies for its more jarring conveyance, but makes up for it with super-controlled cornering attitude, tenacious grip and eagerness to please on weekend track days.
The Z's big V6 provides formidable thrust when you jump on the throttle, but it's equally mannered around town. Either transmission is a respectable choice. The manual shifter doesn't like to be rushed, but its hefty feel suits the overall solidity of the car (plus, SynchroRev Match is one of the coolest features in any car today). The automatic, meanwhile, does a great job of keeping the V6 in the thick of its power band, and provides quick blip-throttle downshifts in all modes. Our only gripe is that the V6 just never sounds that healthy when given the spurs, even from the exhaust. It also generates extraordinary vibration and harshness at high rpm.