Of the millions of Japanese cars produced for North America in the past half-century, most are memorable only through their sheer numbers. A small group, however -- including the Nissan Z -- have achieved true icon status. Originally sold on our shores as a Datsun, the Z has offered a special mix of style, performance and value from the get-go. The Nissan 370Z, representing the Z's sixth generation, continues this tradition.
The 370Z stands out thanks to its thrilling performance, sculpted styling and surprisingly comfortable cabin. There are some downsides -- the engine is prone to unwelcome roughness at high rpm, there's an abundance of road noise and outward visibility is poor -- but the 370Z it is certainly one of the most exciting two-seat sports cars around and a fitting progression of the Z's heritage.
Current Nissan 370Z
The Nissan 370Z is available as a hatchback coupe or a roadster (convertible). The coupe offers three trims: base, Touring and Nismo. The roadster comes in base and Touring. Each comes with the most powerful standard Z-car engine ever, a 3.7-liter V6 that cranks out 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic.
Base models feature 18-inch wheels, automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a CD stereo with steering wheel controls. Touring models add leather and faux suede upholstery, power heated seats, Bluetooth, and a Bose audio system with satellite radio. The Touring roadster is treated to heated and ventilated seats.
The track-focused 370Z Nismo includes a performance-tuned V6 (350 hp), 19-inch forged aluminum wheels and high-performance tires, a limited-slip differential, stiffer suspension tuning, upgraded brakes, unique front and rear fascias, a larger rear wing and special Nismo interior trim details. If that's too much, one could just opt for the available Sport package (also available on the roadster), which adds larger wheels and tires, spoilers, a limited-slip differential, upgraded brakes and a rev-matching "SynchroRev" feature for manual-transmission-equipped cars. An optional navigation system is also available on Touring models.
Once underway, it's easy to maximize the 370's sharp performance. The high-winding V6 is gutsy, though you'll know you're approaching the 7,500 rpm redline when the engine starts to sound and feel coarse. The 370's tenacious grip and sharp reflexes make it the best-handling Z yet, and its ride quality is also quite civilized. However, an extraordinary amount of road noise filters into the cabin, which can grow tiresome on long trips.
Enthusiasts and novice stick-shift drivers alike will appreciate the optional SynchroRev rev-matching feature, which ensures super-smooth downshifts by automatically matching engine speed to wheel speed. The quick-shifting seven-speed automatic will also likely impress buyers.
Despite its all-around competence and slew of strengths, the Nissan 370Z's less practical sports car attributes limit its daily usefulness. There's only room for two passengers, of course, and its cargo area design limits visibility and utility despite a space-saving rear strut brace. If you need more room for people and their stuff, other "2+2" sport coupes might serve you better. But for those who prize speed over space, it's hard to beat the performance heritage of the Nissan 370Z.
Used Nissan 370Z Models
The 370Z debuted for the 2009 model year and was only available as a coupe. The Nismo Z was a late model year addition, while the roadster arrived for 2010. Not much has changed on the 370Z otherwise. An upgraded navigation system with Bluetooth streaming audio was also introduced for 2010, as was a limited-production 40th Anniversary Edition Z package with unique exterior paint and badging. The navigation system picked up a rearview camera for 2011. The 2013 Z lineup was treated to revised front-end styling with LED running lights, and the Nismo model got a little more luxurious with some options from the Touring trim.
Shoppers interested in the previous-generation Z should read our Nissan 350Z review.