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  • 2009 Nissan 370Z

    Posted on May 14th, 2009 ninarussin

    Nissan’s iconic sports car goes back to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Nissan 370Z

    2009 Nissan 370Z

    The interior of the Nissan 370Z coupe reminds me of a bat cave: black seats, carpeting, headliner, steering wheel and instrument panel. Normally, bat cave interiors make me claustrophobic, but this one’s cool. It fits right in with the car’s not- for- everyone personality.

    The rear window is ludicrously small, due to the car’s upswept rear quarter panels. As Raul Julia said in the 1976 film classic, Gumball Rally, “What’s behind me is not important.”

    The best reason for putting up with the 370Z’s minor flaws is its performance. True to its heritage, the newest Z likes to be driven hard and put away wet: the harder the better.

    The 370Z is shorter and squatter than the 350Z it replaces. It’s slightly lighter, and the standard V6 engine has 26 more horsepower. There are two available transmissions: a six-speed manual with an available synchro-rev match function, and a seven-speed automatic.

    A sport package on the test car upgrades the standard rims to nineteen-inch wheels with performance tires, adds bigger brakes, a chin and rear spoiler, and the rev-match feature.

    Loves to corner

    There are only two places where a driver can truly appreciate the Z’s performance: a track, or a winding road with no police in sight. This isn’t to say that the car can’t go fast in a straight line. But what it loves to do is hunker down in the corners, and hold the line like glue.

    The rev-matching feature takes some getting used to. When the driver downshifts, the car’s on-board computer blips the throttle. The feature works best when the driver is pushing the car through a corner: it keeps the engine in its power band and prevents shift shock from upsetting the chassis.

    Engineers reduced the car’s overall weight by 95 pounds, while improving its structural rigidity. The 370Z has aluminum door panels, an aluminum hood and rear hatch. Engineers also took weight out of the suspension, fuel tank, wheels and exhaust system.

    These weight reductions allowed them to beef up structural supports throughout. A new front suspension cradle, rear structural reinforcements and an underbody “V” bar reduce lateral bending. The rear strut tower has been reconfigured so it doesn’t intrude into the cargo area as in former models. A front strut tower brace, front and rear stabilizer bars are also standard.

    Steering feedback is exceptional at all speeds. Nissan sport brakes that come as part of the sport package have four pistons in front and dual pistons in the rear to stop the car on a dime.

    Practical enough to drive every day

    While the 370Z is in its element on the track, it has all the necessary features to use as a daily commuter. Despite driving the car hard, my average fuel economy was 21.6 miles-per-gallon: slightly above the EPA estimate.

    The clutch is a little stiff for standing in traffic, but gears have enough range to keep the driver from shifting constantly when he doesn’t want to. Despite its black interior and hundred-degree temperatures, the interior was comfortable in the hottest part of the day.

    The car’s small footprint is an asset for city dwellers who have to weave through congested traffic. The front chin spoiler is aggressive enough to enhance aerodynamics, but small enough to avoid hanging up on the driveway apron.

    All models come with standard keyless entry and start, which allows the driver to unlock the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket.

    Visibility out the back is terrible with the small rear window design, but pretty good to the front and sides.

    Driver-focused cockpit

    NIssan 370Z Interior

    NIssan 370Z Interior

    While the Z has always been a two-passenger car, the interior is all about the driver. I like the new fuel and information gauge. A digital readout under the fuel gauge gives ambient temperature, average and real-time fuel economy. Analogue gauges at the top of the center stack show charging system status and oil pressure.

    A small cubby below the gauges is big enough for portable electronic devices. Temperature and audio controls are easy to access from either seating position.  Two twelve-volt power outlets recharge portable electronic devices on the go.

    Designers added a locking glovebox: it’s too small for much beyond the owner’s manual and registration papers. There’s a small center console bin under the center armrest. Unfortunately the latch had a habit of opening when I moved my arm to shift. Two wells in back of the seats hold small laptops or packages in place.

    The eight-way adjustable driver’s seat provides excellent support, with enough bolstering to hold the driver in place through the turns. The four-way adjustable passenger seat is quite comfortable as well.

    Standard cloth upholstery on the base model is comfortable and attractive. Unfortunately, the cloth is only available in black: not the greatest choice for residents of the southwest. At least the steering wheel and shift knob are leather, so it’s possible to drive the car in hot weather without risking third-degree burns.

    The three-spoke steering wheel with redundant audio controls is just the right size: a tilt and telescoping function allows drivers of all sizes the find a comfortable position.

    The doors have small map pockets and bottle holders. The bottle holders are pretty shallow: I wouldn’t recommend using them when driving the car for sport. There are also two cupholders in the center console.

    The shift knob has a nice feel and a wonderfully short throw. The clutch is on the stiff side: what one would expect in a sports car. But it’s easy to engage, and shifting is very precise.

    Standard safety

    All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, traction and vehicle stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system and antilock braking.

    Base price on the test car is $29,930, not including a $695 destination charge. Chicane yellow exterior paint adds $500. The sports package is $3000; carpeted floor mats are $115.

    The new Z coupe is on display at Nissan dealerships nationwide. A 370Z roadster model rolls out for the 2010 model  year.

    Likes: Exceptional power and performance in a sports car priced under $30,000. The available sports package with rev-matching, nineteen-inch wheels and performance brakes will appeal to buyers who want to spend time at the track. The 370Z can hold its own against cars costing twice as much. The reconfigured rear strut brace makes the rear cargo area much more functional.

    Dislikes: Small rear window creates huge blind spots in the back corners.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Nissan
    Model: 370Z Coupe
    Year: 2009
    Base price: $29,930
    As tested: $34,240
    Horsepower: 332 @ 7000 rpm
    Torque: 270 lbs.-ft. @ 5200 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Fuel economy: 18/26 mpg
    Comments: The manufacturer recommends premium unleaded fuel.

     

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