Used 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO
- Responsive and powerful V6, tenacious cornering grip, nifty rev-matching manual transmission, supple highway ride, good driving position, relatively low price.
- Massive blind spots, nighttime instrument reflections, V6 gets a bit coarse at high rpm.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is a logical evolution of its successful predecessor that results in a more thrilling sport coupe that's easier to live with on a day-to-day basis.
In the 50-some-odd years that Japan has been exporting automobiles to the U.S., most have been of the reliable, sensible-shoes variety. There have been very few "icons" -- cars that transcend basic transportation, eliciting a strong emotional connection that resonates for decades. The Nissan Z car is one of those few and the first to show up on American shores. Although various numbers have appeared in front of that Z (plus the occasional X on the back end) as the engine displacement rose, each Z car has been a top performance choice among contemporary sports cars. The 2009 Nissan 370Z carries on this tradition while raising the bar for all sport coupes.
There are clear visual ties between the 370Z and its successful 350Z predecessor (which continues on this year as a convertible only), but from the ground up, every aspect of the Z has been revisited, redesigned or re-engineered to create a more finely polished performance machine. The wheelbase has shrunk and the rear track widened, while 95 pounds have been trimmed from its waistline. Not only does this pay dynamic dividends, but the car now looks trimmer, too. Torsional and bending rigidity have been increased, yet the old structural crossmember that used to eat up valuable cargo space has been relocated out of the way. All of this plus revised suspension tuning results in a car that feels more premium and grown up.
The engine has grown up as well. As its larger number for 2009 suggests, the 370Z boasts a bigger engine, one it shares with Infiniti's G37. This 3.7-liter V6 is basically a larger version of the outgoing engine, with variable valve timing, variable valve lift and a redline of 7,500 rpm. Its 332 horsepower is actually 17 more hp than in the 2010 V8-powered (and heavier) Mustang GT.
On the inside, the new Z benefits from a revised interior that's higher in quality than before. There's less hard plastic, easier-to-read gauges (yes, they still move with the tilt action of the steering wheel) and even a proper glovebox. The Touring trim level continues this year, with upscale features such as leather seating, Bluetooth and a hard-drive-based navigation system with music storage capability.
If there's one area where the 370Z inherently struggles, it's practicality. Even with the newly inverted rear brace, the cargo area remains on the small side, and with only two seats, you'll rarely be called on to be the designated driver (perhaps that's a good thing). If you need additional space, the BMW 1 Series, Infiniti G37 and Mazda RX-8 are smart alternatives, while the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the new batch of 2010 American muscle cars (Camaro, Challenger, Mustang) may also be worth a look. However, if you can work around its size limitations, the 2009 Nissan 370Z delivers abundant power, strong brakes, world-class handling, a comfortable ride, a pleasant interior, an ample features list and a reasonable price. That's what we call a winner -- and another Japanese automotive icon.
2009 Nissan 370Z configurations
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is only available in a two-seat coupe body style with base and Touring trim levels. The convertible roadster version retains the 350Z name and body style.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, performance summer tires, cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, an eight-way manual driver seat and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The 370Z Touring adds leather and faux suede upholstery, power seat adjustments, heated seats, a rear cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an upgraded Bose stereo with six speakers, two subwoofers, an in-dash six-CD/MP3 changer and satellite radio.
Optional on both 370Z models is a sport package that adds 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, front and rear spoilers and the downshift rev-matching SynchroRev Match feature for manual-equipped cars. Optional on the Touring is a navigation package that includes a navigation system, real-time traffic, a 7-inch screen, voice recognition, digital music storage (9.3GB), an auxiliary audio/video jack and an iPod interface.
Performance & mpg
The 2009 370Z is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 good for 332 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and when equipped with the sport package includes SynchroRev Match. This feature automatically blips the throttle during downshifts, eliminating the need to heel-and-toe downshift. A seven-speed automatic transmission is optional and includes manual-shift paddles.
In performance testing, the 370Z went from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. It also stopped from 60 mph in 101 feet, which is about the same as that of the outlandish Nissan GT-R supercar. Nissan estimates the car's fuel economy at 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Nissan 370Z includes side torso and head curtain airbags, traction control, stability control and active head restraints.
You don't have to be a magician to utilize the 370Z's extra dimension of performance, which is truly thrilling. As before, the VQ-Series V6 performs with even more gusto than you'd expect. However, one gets the feeling that it's stretched to its limits, as vibration grows disturbingly intense the closer you get to the engine's 7,500-rpm redline. Though the six-speed manual transmission is the obvious enthusiast's choice -- especially considering the trick new downshift rev-match function -- this year's new seven-speed automatic is similarly impressive for its quick shifts and rev-matching ability.
On the road, the 2009 Nissan 370Z provides unrelenting contact and razor-sharp control, and yet it's also easy to drive and generally makes you feel like a better driver. Gone is the stiff-legged feel of the 350's suspension, replaced by a ride that's almost European in its ability to be supple without mucking up the handling. However, the sport package's 19-inch wheel-and-tire combo, which admittedly provides seriously tenacious grip, can get awfully noisy, especially on concrete highway slabs. If there's not a lot of aggressive driving on your docket, we'd suggest skipping the sport package and sticking with the standard 18s.
The interior was probably the old 350Z's low point: a dour den of cheap black plastic with limited storage capacity. The 2009 370Z features the same basic look with equally intuitive controls, but materials are greatly improved and in line with the rest of Nissan's pricier offerings. The driving position is now friendlier for tall folks even though there's still no telescoping feature for the steering wheel. The instrument pod continues to tilt along with the wheel, though the gauges tend to reflect off the windshield.
Storage has also been enhanced, thanks to a traditional glovebox (the old car only had a bin behind the passenger seat) and a cargo area that's no longer intruded on by a large structural brace. You can now actually fit a suitcase in a Z car. However, there's a rather nasty right-rear blind spot to contend with.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
It's called "The Fastest Road in the West" for a reason. Willow Springs International Raceway is known for its staggeringly high lap speeds, and it defines itself with one of the gnarliest, high-speed corner combinations anywhere in the world: a long decreasing-radius bend from Turn 8 to Turn 9. And so in an effort to preserve the world's population of auto scribes like us, Nissan has created a makeshift chicane to successfully emasculate these corners during our test of the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z. Smart move.
Fortunately there are ample opportunities elsewhere on this track to explore the car's increased performance over the standard 2009 Nissan 370Z. Namely Turn 6, which apexes at a blind crest and is followed on the downhill side by a huge midcorner bump that makes the standard Z-car wallow like a Buick LeSabre over a Wyoming frost heave. It's here that the Nismo Z sells itself.
In the Sport Z-car we're afraid. Afraid of physics. Afraid that the track will toss us — like a Buick — into the unforgiving desert. But after a few laps in the Nismo Z, we're confident. And we're faster. We keep our right foot planted all the way over the Turn 6 crest and across the bump, gaining enough speed that a few hundred yards down the track we ingloriously annihilate most of the orange cones that Nissan deployed to keep us alive. Nice.
Stiffer and Stuff
Primarily this extra speed comes courtesy of the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z's all-new suspension components. Front and rear spring rates are up 15 and 10 percent, respectively. The front antiroll bar is 15 percent stiffer and the rear one is 50 percent stiffer. Front damping is increased 40 percent while rear damping is increased 140 percent. The combination yields a 15 percent increase in overall roll stiffness, the Nissan engineer tells us, making the already flat-cornering Z corner even more, well, flat.
Wider rear tires don't hurt, either. The 245/40ZR19 front and 275/35ZR19 rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires of the standard 370Z with Sport package have been replaced with 245/40ZR19 front and 285/35ZR19 rear Yokohama Advan Sport tires. The stickier rubber is mounted on forged-aluminum Rays wheels (19-by-9.5 inches front and 19-by-10.5 inches rear) with rims that are a half inch wider than the stock Z's cast-aluminum wheels.
Though the body of the 2007 Nissan Nismo 350Z was seam-welded like that of a racing car, the 370's only additional structural enhancement is a different front strut-tower brace. "This car's stock body is stiff enough to meet the additional demands placed on it by the Nismo hardware," says Nathaniel Mason, senior manager of product planning in Nissan's Specialty Vehicles division.
Like the Nismo 350Z, the 2009 Nismo 370Z utilizes two mass dampers between the unibody's frame rails (one front, one rear) to reduce the body vibration produced when the stiffer suspension encounters certain road surfaces. We'd tell you what the car is like without them except that we have no idea. But we can say you probably wouldn't want this structure any more rigid. Compliant it isn't.
Nissan engineers found an additional 18 horsepower for the 3.7-liter V6 in Nismo tune. This raises output to a nice round 350 hp, but you'll have to rev the mill to 7,400 rpm to access it. Standard versions of the engine make peak power at 7,000 rpm. Torque is up 6 pound-feet to 276 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm — the same engine speed which the standard Z engine produces its torque peak. Redline remains at 7,500 rpm.
A recalibrated ECU and true dual exhaust (difficult to accomplish with this rear suspension configuration, we understand) are solely responsible for the additional power and torque. The exhaust utilizes a crossover pipe just downstream of the primary collectors and reduces backpressure by 30 percent. What it doesn't do, however, is add any meaningful character to the Nismo Z's engine note. There's slightly more engine sound at idle, but above that speed the engine makes the same coarse, blender-on-puree racket produced by the V6 in the standard car.
This is a disappointing oversight in the base-model Z, but the lack of engaging engine sound is really unacceptable in a specialty model like the Nismo Z.
The Obvious Changes
Overall length of the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z is up 7.1 inches from the standard car, most of which comes from the redesigned nose with its aero splitter, a feature that increases downforce without increasing drag. The Nismo's bodywork also features a new, larger rear wing and a functional rear aero diffuser. All the body changes combine to create 150 pounds of downforce at about 75 mph while generating less aerodynamic drag than the Nismo 350Z.
All these tweaks are still subtle enough to keep the Nismo 370Z under the radar relative to the earlier Nismo Z, which managed to look both obvious and homely. By comparison, the new car is subtle and gorgeous. Sure, there's still a big rear wing, but it's functional and not as obtrusive as some. The rest of the bodywork melds into a perfect balance of purposeful and aggressive, accentuating the Z's rear haunches and making the car faster at the same time.
There's no shortage of Nismo branding, which is sprinkled generously throughout — from the exhaust tips to the wheels to the seats. And of course there's a plaque between the seats on the rear shelf to celebrate the chassis number. Otherwise, this is largely the much-improved 370Z Touring interior we've already praised.
What It Still Needs
As purposeful as the changes are to the Nismo Z, there are a few areas Nissan didn't address. Most of all, the rear differential is the same viscous unit used in the standard car. A viscous limited-slip differential is notoriously slow to react and often lacks the durability required in a car of this caliber, although it is inexpensive and proves unobtrusive in everyday driving.
As a result, the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z spins its inside rear tire when exiting tight, slow corners under high load. An autocrosser, she's not.
What's more, the differential in the sole Nismo Z available for testing in the U.S. failed halfway through our evaluation, leaving the car on jack stands. Several journalists who hadn't driven the car as extensively as we had were wondering how they were going to report on a car they had not actually driven. After the differential had been repaired later in the day, one of the assembled journalists unceremoniously answered that question by driving off the track at Turn 3 and destroying the car entirely.
Another bit that didn't make production is an engine oil cooler, a $780 part that Nissan recommends for any Z-car that will see track use, because the electronics put the engine into limp-home mode with a reduced rpm limit as soon as they detect potentially destructive oil temperatures. The Nismo Z we drove had the cooler fitted, as does our long-term 370Z. Nevertheless, the production Nismo 370Z will not get one — an odd oversight in a performance model.
We drove the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z back-to-back on the street with a standard Z-car with a Sport package, and this is the experience that will separate the men from the boys when it comes to choosing which model to purchase.
On the road, the Nismo delivers more cornering grip and driver confidence, but so, too, does it transmit a lot more road harshness. What you gain in speed, you lose in compliance. If you're extreme enough to road trip in this machine, then we expect you're extreme enough to be drinking energy drinks with names like Monster, Amp, Pitbull and Beaver Buzz. And if you must energize while you drive, we suggest you also buy a sippy cup with a name like Munchkin or Mommy's Helper to keep the swill off your red-stitched Nismo seats. You're going to need it.
We see two different kinds of enthusiasts buying this car. The first is the kind who doesn't know (or care) enough about ride comfort to give a damn about how stiff his car rides. His girlfriend still thinks his spiky hair is cool and that's OK. We can appreciate this guy because there was a time when we were just like him. And it's good there's a car out there for him. The second buyer is the one who will use the car as a track-only driver. Both will appreciate the Nismo Z in different ways for the same reasons.
Get Yours Soon
Nissan expects the Nismo model to account for about 5 percent of 370Z sales. The car will be available in late June with one transmission option — the six-speed manual with SynchroRev Match. Pricing will start at less than $40,000 and five colors will be available: silver, gray, black, white and red.
We've got mixed feelings about the 2009 Nissan Nismo 370Z. We can't help but love a hard-core track version of an already highly capable sports car. But a track model that lacks several critical components for track use is frustrating. Still, it's difficult to overlook the value statement it makes. This is a lot of car for the money and there aren't many comparably priced machines that can match its combination of looks and speed — especially on a track.
And Turn 6? Well, few production cars handle it as capably as the Nismo 370Z. Just watch out for Turn 3. We hear that's the real killer.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO Overview
The Used 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO is offered in the following styles: NISMO 2dr Coupe (3.7L 6cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Nissan 370Z?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.