The Nissan 370Z is seductively honest, entertaining and great value, too. But it’s no long-haul cruiser

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The Nissan 370Z has a lineage that goes back to the Datsun 240Z of 1969. This was Nissan’s first bespoke sports car aimed specifically at the US market, and it went down a storm, with good looks, reliability and a muscular straight six engine.

Many Z-cars followed, including the excellent twin-turbo 300ZX of 1989. When the 350Z was launched in 2003, it revived the original Zed idea and hit the spot again. The 370Z is very much a natural development of the 350Z.

There's an old-school sports car charm about the Zed

Both in its spirit and in its execution, the Nissan 370Z is very much a natural progression from the old, much-loved 350Z. Although its styling is more modern and arguably more striking than before, it clearly emanates from the same gene pool and has similar proportions to those of its predecessor. 

You could easily make the assumption that Nissan has adhered to an age-old rule of car design in this instance – the one that says that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Except that there are several important areas in which Nissan has improved the 370Z, mainly to make it better and/or less raucous to drive. 

As a result, there is a 3.7-litre V6 engine in the nose, producing 323bhp while the Nismo-tuned version gets 339bhp, with all three attached to a six-speed manual while the GT and Nismo is available with a seven-speed paddle-shift automatic gearbox.

Nissan claims also to have improved the Zed’s refinement in every respect. 
At the same time, however, the company has tried hard to keep the old car’s unashamedly butch personality intact. What also remains is the car’s value – it offers plenty of power per pound.

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Nissan 370Z indicator light

In its effort to produce a final shape for the Nissan 370Z, Nissan enlisted the services of every single member of its design team, from Paddington to California. It regarded the project as being that sacred, that important to get right. 

In the metal, their creation looks undeniably striking – yet it’s also a very clear evolution of what we’ve seen before. It is exactly how you’d expect a modern interpretation of the 350Z look, even if the detailing around the nose and tail in particular is entirely new.

The styling is fussier than the old 350Z's

On the road it is unmistakably a Nissan Z-car, right down to the exceedingly handsome 19-inch Rays alloys (standard on GT Pack, not on the base car, which gets 18" wheels). 

Better breathing for the V6 engine is provided by a much bigger grille in the nose. The bonnet features a pair of long, thin power bulges and is made of aluminium to help keep the kerb weight below 1600kg. Meanwhile, massive wheel arches front and rear provide an old-school muscle car look. 

Even the mirror design is aerodynamic led to help reduce the amount of wind noise, while boomerang-shaped rear lights are one of the 370Z’s most distinctive styling features.

Twin exhausts are finished in chrome and they look every bit as good as the noise that comes out of them at 5000rpm.

The Nismo coupe wears a bodykit which aids the 370Z’s high speed stability by smoothing airflow around and underneath its body. It is difficult to miss, adding a big boot-mounted spoiler and some width to cover those wider rear wheels – the rears are half an inch wider – while a protruding front splitter and rear diffuser add 150mm to the Nismo’s length. 


Nissan 370Z dashboard

The Nissan 370Z’s cabin and driving position are very much of the love-it-or-loathe-it variety. There are no complaints over the build quality, though, which has been flawless on every model we’ve reviewed.

If you like a low-slung, arms-out driving position, you’ll love the 370Z’s two-seat-only cabin, although the lack of under-thigh support on both seats isn’t an especially welcome feature. Nor is the lack of reach adjustment on the steering column/instrument binnacle, which moves as one in a vertical plane only.

Boot is still shallow but it’s wide at the back

Having said that, with a bit of fiddling on the otherwise excellent electrically adjustable seats it is possible to achieve a decent driving position, and the clarity of the instruments themselves is impressive, with a large trip computer screen appearing on the far left of the display and a big rev counter in the centre.

The standard 370Z gets 18in alloys, automatic wipers and lights, bi-xenon headlights and a dual chrome exhaust system on the outside as standard, while inside there is climate control, keyless entry and go, and auxiliary audio port.

In mid-spec GT trim the 370Z comes almost as well equipped as you could wish for. The seats are covered in leather and suede are heated and electrically adjustable, active noise cancellation, cruise control and Nissan's 7.0in infotainment system complete with sat nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, DVD player, a reversing camera and a Bose sound system.

The Nismo model gets an aerodynamic bodykit, 19in superlight alloy wheels, Recaro sports seats and a leather and Alcantara clad steering wheel.

Less impressive is the amount of luggage room on offer and the way that the boot’s cargo remains partially on display, despite the fitment of a tonneau cover. The boot itself is unusually shallow and impaired by a big suspension brace. There is more storage room behind the rear seats if needed, but again the space itself isn’t an especially useful one for stowing bigger cases. 



Nissan 370Z rear quarter

The Nissan Z-car, in all of its incarnations, has always provided an unusually large hit of performance for the money, and the 370Z is no exception. In raw statistical terms it is quite simply one of the quickest cars you can buy at this price, and in the end this, more than anything else, is what will endear it to its target audience.

We recorded a two-way average of 5.4sec to 60mph, with 0-100mph taking just 12.8sec. This is in a car with a seven-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, remember; we’d expect the manual car to clock times a fair bit quicker than that, particularly from rest to 30mph.

This auto version doesn’t suffer the same first-gear whine as the manual-equipped car

As you’d expect from a big-capacity, normally aspirated V6, it’s also a 
very strong performer low down. In fact, the engine is so strong and feels so much more comfortable at low to middling revs. It sounds like it too; an experience that's even more apparent in the convertible when the roof is folded.

What’s not in any doubt is the quality of the optional paddle-shift gearbox, which switches between fast-shifting manual and lazy auto as quickly as you can slide the lever from one side of the gate to the other. What’s more, the ratios are just about perfectly chosen, and the shifts in manual mode happen quickly and smoothly.

The Nismo is also offered with a six-speed manual, and it's drivetrain remains as dominant as ever. The small increase in power (up 16bhp) barely makes any difference in reality, it dropping 0.1sec for an official 5.2sec 0-62mph run. Top speed is pegged electronically at 155mph. It feels slightly more eager at higher revs, but the engine’s ever present sound and vibrations are much the same as its non-Nismo relations

We have no complaints about the brakes. At the test track, the 370Z stopped very well (70-0mph in under 45m) and suffered from zero fade. On the road, meanwhile, you’ll appreciate both the strength and feel that’s on offer from the left-hand pedal. 

Whether you opt for the seven-speed paddle-shift auto or the regular six-speed manual, Nissan has developed a software system within the 370Z’s gearbox that automatically blips the revs on downshifts. Inevitably, it works in manual mode only on the paddle-shift auto; in the manual car, you can override the system and blip the revs yourself.


Nissan 370Z cornering

On one hand, the Nissan 370Z provides all the thrills and most of the dynamic ability you could possibly want from a front-engined, rear-drive car. The way it steers and handles is almost from a bygone era in which aspects such as ultimate body control and outright grip take a back seat to the level of feel and fun factor on offer.

It’s a deliberate attempt by Nissan to make the 370Z as enjoyable and communicative as possible to drive, and if that means it doesn’t break any records with its g-force readings at the test track, so be it. The 370Z isn’t meant to be a rule breaker in the laboratory in the first place.

Tyre noise would drive me round the twist if I drove this car frequently on British motorways

As such, and in the right conditions, the 370Z can be a riot to drive. Although it’s extremely well sorted ultimately, with fine body control and bags of grip on or near the limit, it also moves around in a way that most modern sports cars wouldn’t dream of doing. It’s quite soft at the rear, and you can use this to your advantage if you know how. As a result, it also rides pretty decently for a sports car and it has a lovely, honest feel to its steering.

But there is one rather significant caveat that almost undoes all of the 370Z’s good work here: the amount of tyre roar. How loud and how intrusive this becomes depends almost entirely on what sort of road surface you’re travelling on.

Over brand new or Continental roads, it’s nowhere near as much of an issue as it is in the UK. Most road surfaces in the UK are not as good as they are in mainland Europe, which means that the 370Z, despite being a great-handling car, is a disappointingly poor long-distance one for us British drivers.

Slight suspension revisions to the 370Z GT have yielded significant benefits. Recalibrated dampers increase stability and road holding without upsetting the 370Z's honest handling approach. At higher speeds, the GT remains composed and confidence-inspiring where the standard 370Z can feel skittish.

In the Nismo version, the tuning arm has added five body struts to increase the 370Z's rigidity. The result is spring rates increased by 14 per cent at the front, and damper rates that are 23 per cent stiffer at the front, and 41 per cent stiffer at the rear. Despite the greater focus it’s not overly troubled by poor surfaces and its composure and control at speed is impressive. 

The steering feels slightly quicker, if little improved for actual feel. 


Nissan 370Z

It’s hard to think how you could better the Nissan 370Z for value for money. It offers huge pace and lots of equipment at a price that undercuts virtually all of its rivals – try finding something of similar power and the chances are you’ll have to stick another £10,000 onto your budget.

A nicely specced Porsche Cayman or Porsche Boxster would be at least that, only an Audi TTS gets somewhere close to the Zed’s value, but then doesn’t compete in terms of thrills.

The Nissan is cheap to buy, but mid 20s fuel consumption will hurt

We’d always plump for the GT version of the 350Z – it’s got the kit you would want to pay extra for as standard – leather seats and an upgraded stereo to start with. 

The 370Z’s quasi-cult status means that it will hold its value pretty well in the short and medium term, too.

The flipside is that insurance and company car tax are not cheap. Nor is the fuel economy of the 3.7-litre V6 anything special; we averaged 25.9mpg on test, but if you use it enthusiastically, the 370Z will rapidly drop below 20mpg. Rivals with a more advanced (and subtle) powertrain will do much better, even if they don’t make such an enthralling noise.

Then there’s the road noise issue, which also puts a sizeable dent in the 370Z’s everyday owner appeal, especially if you do frequent long journeys.



3.5 star Nissan 370Z

The Nissan 370Z is such an honest, old world kind of sports car that it’s almost impossible for us, as enthusiasts, not to be drawn to its many charms. It is so obviously geared towards entertaining its driver that it’s easy to overlook its one or two flaws.

The Zed also offers exceptionally good value for money, serving up a simple, straightforward blend of good looks, muscular performance, fine build quality and generous equipment for a relatively modest amount of money.

Great value and a rewarding driver’s car, but lacks refinement

It’s as close to an old-school muscle car, brought bang-up-to-date, as you’re likely to get. We love the engine’s power and flexibility. We’ve even warmed to the automatic gearbox. And the convertible lets you enjoy a glorious soundtrack. And unlike old-school muscle cars, you won’t have to spend time and money keeping the car going – it is a Nissan after all. A thirsty Nissan, though.

If the Zed cost more, it wouldn’t compete anywhere near as well as it does against some pretty big names – the likes of the Porsche Cayman and Boxster, BMW’s BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK. But compete it does and with it’s own unique twist.

Yet there is one big issue — the amount of noise it generates on UK road surfaces — that very nearly spoils its entire act. Truth is, if you have to make frequent long journeys in it, the 370Z is probably not a car you could tolerate.

The pricey Nismo is getting into Cayman territory, and while the Porsche is out-gunned on both performance and kit by the overt Nissan, it’s out-pointed on the road. 

Despite its flaws, though, the 370Z remains one of the more beguiling sports cars you can buy, and we wouldn’t blame you if you did.


Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Nissan 370Z First drives