People talk a lot of shit about the Nissan 370Z. It relies on an antiquated powertrain, doesn’t boast any of the tech that do the current crop of offerings, and it sits on a platform that’s going on a decade old. Not that it ever lit the world on fire when it was new, the current Z-car never seemed to live up to the hype and excitement that did its predecessor, the 350Z. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. The 370 has some chops to it on paper, and should in the real world to.
For some reason or another, the 370 has been on my mind recently. In an ever-shrinking world of true, dedicated, legitimate sports cars, Nissan’s Z remains one of the few naturally aspirated, true-to-its-heritage coupes. But is the Z any good today, an under-appreciated two-seat analog dinosaur that’s dying to be loved? Or does it feel overly long-in-the-tooth, too unsorted and out of place to wear the Z badge, desperate for an update? Curious to see for myself, I swung by a local Nissan dealer to find out.
To me at least, the 370Z has always been overshadowed by the other cars available in its price range– both new and used. I don’t have to list them, but with an MSRP of $30k in its introductory year of 2009 and prices today climbing into the mid-$40ks, there’s an absolute plethora of sporty cars and actual sports cars that are better in a number of ways (dynamically, comfort-wise, aftermarket, etc.) than Nissan’s dedicated sports coupe. But so what if it’s not the absolute best at anything; my curiosity got the best of me and I had to stop by a local Nissan dealer to take a 2014 370Z Touring for a spin to see what it was all about.
Looks-wise, the car is pretty attractive in my eyes even today; it’s aged quite well in class of cars that usually don’t do so. The nonsense outboard LED lights up front are a bit tacky, but as a whole the Z is proportionally right and has just enough aggression to the details to be fun to look at and to tell you of its sporting intentions. In all honesty, I don’t think it looks dated, not even close; whereas the 350Z looks like something designed twenty years ago (probably because it’s close to the truth), the 370’s looks, to me at least, like something that could be a fresh creation in 2017 aside from lacking Nissan’s horrid corporate grille.
Climbing inside, it’s clear this isn’t the most modern of cars and clear that it’s a purpose-driven interior. The seat lies low within the cabin, the tach is the biggest gauge and sits dead-center on the cluster (as it should), and the shifter and steering wheel are exactly where you need them. Ergonomics are fine despite the lack of room but the visibility, what with the slit of a rear window and the helmet-esque roofline (a la Viper), is pretty disappointing, inevitably at due to the car’s sheetmetal. Pushing the start-stop button to start the 3.7L VQ engine brings about a good amount of noise as it fires up, and then it settles down to a smooth and surprisingly quiet idle. The clutch is in a good spot [why the hell is the clutch on what feels like every used car I drive shot to shit?], and everything you could possibly need for driving is in reach. After a quick adjustment of the almost useless mirrors, it’s time to see how it does.
Out on the road, the Z feels its size and like it would absolutely love to run free should you have the open stretch of pavement or track space to do so. There’s definitely adequate power for a car that looks like this but it’s not delivered eventfully by any means. As the RPMs rise you get a lot more noise from the engine and exhaust and with it comes the appropriately matching increase in speed. There’s no surge in the powerband, no drama; power delivery feels linear and given the right circumstances that might be much appreciated. Here, it just felt somewhat uneventful.
Steering and handling is where I expected the Z to shine, and I wasn’t disappointed. The steering itself if good though not great, and felt like the right balance of feel and quickness for something not track-focused. It’s not overly twitchy but isn’t numb either, and as soon as you move the rack off-center it darts where you point it. For comparison’s sake, it made the steering of feel downright numb and lazy on the drive home; this is good news, but totally how it should be. In terms of handling, I didn’t get a chance to really explore how the car does when pushed, but it was pretty confidence inspiring in the few turns I carried a bit of speed into. I’d really like to get the car out on a track or autocross, that’s for sure. As a whole, the Z gave me the impression that it would be a fun, easy way to spend an afternoon carving up a canyon or beating on it on the track. Positive experience for sure.
This was my first experience in driving a car with rev-matching and I have to address it quickly if for no other reason than it’s way, way more eye-opening and stranger to experience in person than can be conveyed over the internet or in print. I doubt I’d ever keep it on full-time if I owned a car with the feature, but it was pretty neat to have the car do some of the work for me as I down-shifted from sixth through the gates into second when exiting a highway. Cool feature? Absolutely. Will I ever think about it again? Probably not.
In a vacuum, any car can be good. Some need that qualifier to justify calling them so, but I genuinely don’t think the 370Z does; to me, it’s just good on its own– in a vacuum or in the hyper-competitive automotive space that is 2017. As disappointing as the I recently drove was, the Z outright shocked me. It might not be the absolute best at anything, and it might not be the best choice by any means, but the Z is a solid, fun, enjoyable car…regardless of how much shit people talk about it.