Nissan 370Z a true hairy sports car

There’s no doubting the aspirations of the Nissan 370Z. It is clearly aimed at the style conscious sports car market. But, if that makes you think that it is all style and no performance, think again.

The Nissan 350Z was quite a hairy little sports car and a worthy successor to the Nissan Z cars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Well, the 370Z is, if anything, more aggressive in its styling and – with a bigger engine and more power, it promises more performance.

Nissan 370Z

The name Nissan may conjure up thoughts of sedate, reliable, but unexciting family motoring. But that is to forget that the Japanese marque also produced some brutal sports machines like the Nissan Skyline.

If ever there was a car whose name did not fit its purpose, this was one. I shall never forget a well-known rally driver scaring the pants off me with a drive in this coupé with its almost sugary-sweet, innocent name tag! Well the 370Z clearly wants to follow, at least part of the way, in the Skyline’s sporty wheeltracks.

The 370Z is small and very strictly a two seater. All you get in the back is a boot, a strengthening bar and a couple of storage pockets.

Indeed, the compact dimensions do pose a problem for those with longer legs. I really could do with an extra inch or two of legroom. But, with the seat fully back, it was right up against the rear bulkhead, so – short of getting a coachbuilder to build me a long wheelbase version – that was it.

Nissan 370Z interior

Combine this slightly restricted foot space with a clutch pedal that bit at the very last fraction of its travel and it took me quite a few miles to find a way to drive reasonably smoothly at low speeds. Smooth-driving evangelist Jackie Stewart would not have liked my driving and, judging by the dirty looks from Mrs Driveblog, neither did she.

But let the horns come out a little when you find a nice twisty bit of tarmac and you can really begin to enjoy the Nissan 370Z the way it was intended.

Under that big bonnet you have 3.7 litres pumping out 328 bhp. It is delivered with an intoxicating growl and bags of torque that will propel you down the road at a more than decent rate. Acceleration 0-62 is quoted at 5.3 seconds.

The handling is set up as a sports car too. Needless to say, this is rear-wheel-drive as you would expect of any serious claimant of the “sports car” description.

The steering feels quite meaty and gives plenty of feedback to the driver. It is also very responsive. Combine that with the compact dimensions and the handling is a little bit ‘go-kart’ in style. In that it is like the 350Z which proved so twitchy at one point that I seriously thought I had a rear puncture!

One neat trick is the automatic throttle blip when you change down in sports mode. This is something that enthusiasts achieve manually using the ‘heel and toe” technique – with the left side of your throttle foot on the brake, rocking your foot to press the throttle with the right side. It takes a lot of practice and the Z does it for you.

The purpose is to match the engine speed for the lower gear. The Nissan 370Z does it all for you. Clever.

Nissan 370Z

Despite this driver aid, I could not describe the Nissan 370Z as an effortless car to drive. But it is the one you might well choose when you have a favourite driving road to traverse. However, Its sporty ride and responsiveness is probably not what you will want all day, every day. Especially as, along with these attributes, you get some negative ones too.

The Nissan 370Z has limited space. It is strictly a two-seater as I said. The boot is also small and requires any luggage to be carefully hoisted over the rear bodywork to avoid the danger of scratches to the paintwork of your pride and joy.

Visibility is also a problem. The rear window is very low, meaning you are more likely to see the numberplate of the following car than the “police” sign on its roof! Over the left shoulder vision at oblique junctions is non-existent, meaning you have to square up on the approach to a junction, as you would in a van.

The noise levels inside are high, with a considerable amount of tyre roar, even when you are simply cruising on dual carriageways.

You wouldn’t expect the Nissan 370Z to be particularly green and the combined fuel consumption is quoted at 26 mpg. In reality I averaged around 17 or 18 mpg on a mix of town and country roads. Carbon dioxide emissions are relatively high at 248 g/km.

But it is fun. Trouble is, at £33,195 with the GT pack and sat-nav this is not the sort of car you could have as a weekend play thing.

But it maybe is the car you could choose as a second car, alongside a more mundane, practical hatchback as the main workhorse.
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