Car reviews - Nissan - 370Z - coupe
7 May 2009
NISSAN is taking aim at another Porsche with the new 370Z coupe.
Just as the stunning GT-R lands a few punches on the iconic 911 in motorsport events, Nissan is introducing a car that has been designed to challenge the Porsche Cayman.
Of course, it is unlikely that many customers will compare the two cars given that, a) the Nissan costs $67,990 while the Porsche is $122,200 and, b) there is a considerable difference in status of the two brands.
Perhaps a more useful comparison is between the 370Z and the 350Z it replaces.
Released in 2003, the 350Z was the spiritual successor to the original 1969 240Z which proved Japan could make decent, affordable sportscars.
Unfortunately, the 240Z was followed by a series of vehicles that became progressively heavier, more cumbersome and less attractive.
Nissan was not about to make the same mistake with the new-age Zed, developing a successor that is not only more powerful, but lighter too.
Nissan said the new design and safety systems could have made the 370Z around 100kg heavier than the 350Z, but it put the new car through an extensive weight-loss program.
The result is a kerb weight of 1471kg, which is 15kg less than the model it replaces. Engineers saved weight by replacing the steel doors, roof and lift-back with aluminium panels to match the bonnet, which was already made from the lightweight material.
Going against the trend of most new models growing larger, the new Zed is smaller in most dimensions.
It is 65mm shorter from bumper to bumper (4250mm), the roof is 8mm lower (1315mm) and it is 30mm wider (1845mm).
Perhaps most importantly, the wheelbase is 100mm shorter (2550mm). Nissan points out that all 100mm was cut out of the section between the rear axle and the seat.
The 370Z has a wider footprint than the previous model, thanks to a 15mm-wider front track and 50mm wider at the rear.
With Nissan designers insisting the new Zed have a more aggressively sloping roofline, the engineers placed the seats 10mm lower.
Despite all the dimension changes, the front-to-rear weight distribution is identical to the previous car at 53 per cent at the front and 43 per at the rear.
Nissan has introduced a new double-wishbone front suspension for the 370Z and upgraded the multi-link rear set up.
The front suspension now has forged aluminium links, plus a new subframe using an alloy cradle. Both are 25 per cent lighter than before.
It has also fitted stronger steering arms and a hollow anti-roll bar that is both lighter and stiffer.
Nissan engineers increased the stiffness of the rear suspension links and anti-roll bar, which are both lighter.
All 370Zs run on 18-inch alloy wheels like the last iteration of the 350Z.
While Nissan made two 350Z models available, Touring and Track, there is only one 370Z available at $67,990.
This is $3000 more than the previous Touring model and $2000 less than the Track version of the 350Z.
The main differences between those two models were Brembo brakes, body kit and electronic stability control fitted to the track. Yes, that meant the Touring model, which had the same power output as the Track, was not fitted with ESC.
Luckily, commonsense has finally prevailed and the new 370Z comes standard with stability control, ESC and front, side and curtain airbags.
Nissan has also fitted the new car with a pedestrian friendly bonnet that pops up when it senses a collision, apparently to prevent the pedestrian’s head hitting hard points by creating a buffer between it and the engine and strut towers.
Nissan is no longer using Brembo brakes, but is using its own premium anchors with four-piston calipers at the front and dual-piston calipers at the rear. The brake discs are ventilated and the calipers are painted silver with Nissan printed on them.
As you may have guessed from the 370Z name, the new car’s engine is 3.7-litres.
It is essentially the same as the previous VQ 3.5 V6, but has been stroked and now features a new inlet valve control system. Nissan says 35 per cent of the components are new.
Power has been increased from 230kW to 245kW which is now achieved 200rpm higher at 7000rpm.
Torque has only been improved by 5Nm and the peak of 363Nm is now extracted at 5200rpm rather than 4800rpm as was the case with the 350Z.
The gains seem modest, but Nissan says the driveability of the engine has been improved, thanks largely to the new valve control system which takes silly component names to an all new level.
It is called the Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) with Variable Valve Event and Lift on Intake Valves (VVEL).
Apart from the existing variable valve control, the new system now has an added feature that sees the intake valves control the intake rather than throttle valve.
Nissan says this results in a more immediate throttle response and more powerful combustion phase.
The compression ratio has also been increased from 10.6:1 to 11.0:1.
It all means the 370Z is now capable of doing the 0-100km/h dash in 5.4 seconds.
Fuel consumption has been reduced and both the manual and the automatics use just 10.4L/100km for a combined cycle.
The 370Z is available with a revised six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic.
While some manufacturers have switched to a dual-clutch system, the Zed auto retains a traditional torque converter controlled by magnesium paddles on the steering column.
Nissan says the transmission shift times are “up there with some of the DSG gearboxes.”
The new automatic now automatically blips the throttle when changing down.
Surprisingly, the new Zed also has a feature that blips the throttle on down changes. Yes, the new SyncroRev Match system makes heel-and-toe technique essentially irrelevant.
Instead of you blipping the throttle on down changes to even up the revs for a seamless change that doesn’t destabilise the vehicle, the 370Z does it for you with a range of sensors working out when you are going to change down.
Of course, purists can turn off this feature.
The previous 350Z, and indeed the original 240Z, was criticised for the poor-quality interior.
Australians even had to put up with a silly compartment in the middle of the dashboard that hid the hole that would hold a large sat-nav screen in other markets.
This time, Nissan threw a lot more money and resources at the interior to make sure similar complaints were not made this time around.
Suede-feel material is used to line the doors, soft, quality plastics are used for the dashboard and centre console and there is even stitching on the dashboard.
The wrap-around seats are lined in leather, with grippy suede-like material pads on the seat bottom and back. They also come standard with heating.
Nissan has opened up a bit more room in the back of the 370z by doing away with the brace that ran across from the tops of the rear suspension strut towers.
It now has an aluminum tube that runs along immediately behind the driver and passenger. Nissan refers to it as a cargo bar, but adds that it does provide some improvement in rigidity.
Not that this is an issue as the new Zed’s body is stiffer than the last.
The new car comes with a high level of standard equipment including Xenon headlights and rear LED lights, DVD satellite navigation, a seven-inch information screen, Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual-zone climate control, rain sensing wipers and automatic headlights and a premium Bose sound system with two boot-mounted subwoofers.
The 370Z also has keyless entry and start system which means you don’t have to get the key out of your pocket to open the door or fire up the engine. You just hit the centrally mounted Start button.
Nissan has increased the paint palette to eight following the current trend by adding white as a new colour.
Half of the colours are classified as premium or metallic, which cost an extra $495.
A convertible version of the 370Z is due to arrive in Australia early next year.
Nissan Australia expects to sell around 100 370Z cars a month, admitting the figure could have been around 25 per cent higher were it not for the current global financial climate.
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