First Drive: 2010 Nissan 370Z Coupe 6MT with Sport Package Review
Starting with the Nissan Fairlady Z in 1969, aka Datsun 240Z for those of us stateside, this marquee has been a member of the sports car lexicon for decades. With sixth generations under its belt, Nissan has been able to hone the Z into a battle tested stalwart that has risen above the ranks in a sea of stiff competition. The archetypal sports car formula is in full effect – wedge shape, two-seats, rear wheel drive, 300+ horsepower, lightweight chassis – but the Nissan 370Z finally arrives in a package that is fitting of its performance aspirations.
The 370 Coupe was introduced last year and quickly became a star, dropping the kinds of stats and figures on the street as well as on the track and putting much pricier vehicles to shame. And the 370Z Roadster finally silenced all of the critics of the 350Z convertible (that looked like an awkward teenager going through a growth spurt but never reaching maturation) by designing the car from the ground up with a drop-top version in mind. In any case, the revised 370Z is a stellar overhaul of the 350Z. So we set out to find where the new 2010 Nissan 370Z Coupe shines and where it can use some spit polish.
Frankly, the cabin of the 370Z is a warm and inviting place. The cloth seats are heavily bolstered with multiple padded comfort zones and a two-tone flavor of stretched black material on the outside and a webbed dark gray variation on all seating surfaces that appears impervious to wear and tear. Oversized manual knobs take care of lumbar adjustments and thigh and posterior lift. The driver has 8-way seats while the passenger gets 4-way. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather and feels particularly sturdy and capable.
Peering through the upper portion of the wheel, you see the classic Z-style instrument cluster with the 9000 RPM tachometer right smack in the middle and the speed gauge off to the right. On the left is a small readout screen capable of displaying various alerts and trip information buffered by the fuel and temperature gauges which come by way of horizontal rows of orange dots above and below. Whereas the 2010 Camaro SS places additional instrumentation tucked away below the dash, Nissan takes the opposite approach and posts the engine coolant temp, voltage and a digital clock in separately housed pods in the upper molding of the dash. A nice start/stop button sits at the left of the dash and initiation blips the gauges whose needles fully sweep clockwise and then back to idle.
The main dash houses the audio and temperature controls which are super easy to use if nothing else. In fact the setup is so basic and even cheap-looking that it could very well have been pulled from a Z several generations back. The only hints of technological progression are the cool metallic accent rings around the climate controls. Just above the swatch of plastic that is the am/fm radio with CD player is a nice leather cover hiding a gaping hole behind it. In Nissan's defense, the Touring model rights all wrongs by providing an optional fully immersive navigation and audio set-up (akin to the Infinity G37) that’s quite outstanding. One nice touch is the optional illuminated kick-plates which have the iconic Z symbol glowing orange.
The attractive styling of the Nissan 370Z has resulted in some less than ideal spacial and visibility compromises. The C-pillars are super thick and very difficult to see past. Some neck acrobatics are necessary when backing out of parking spots or even changing lanes in heavy traffic. To further complicate matters, the hatchback configuration only allows for 6.9 cubic feet of luggage space which sits right in the back window. There is a large structural brace that rests just aft of the front seats which separates the driving compartment and the "trunk." The nice thing is that there are two cubby holes just below that provide for easy access storage of small essential items.
The wedge-like 2010 Nissan 370Z Coupe is 2.5 inches shorter than the outgoing 350Z and loses 4 inches from its wheelbase, making it appear much more like a true sports coupe. It shares the same slung-back L shaped lights as the Maxima and takes similar styling cues from the GTR's roofline and windshield. The Nissan 370Z is also much more sculpted and aggressive than the 350Z. There is a front fascia with splitter spoiler, aerodynamic side sills, negative-lift rear diffuser and fully integrated rear spoiler that give the car an edgy look.
The Nissan 370Z is outfitted with a 3.7-liter DOHC 24-valve naturally-aspirated V6 aluminum-alloy engine good for 332 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque at 5200RPM. Nissan's latest VQ engine has a compression ratio of 11:1 and sports VVEL (Various Valve Event & Lift) throttle-less valve timing and lift control and loses the annoyingly sensitive throttle tip-in of previous generations. Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. To limit petrol burn, it’s nice to know thatone can safely cruise around town in 4th or 5th gear with enough torque on tap to zip over a lane without downshifting.
In order to keep costs down, Nissan chose to forgo a dual-clutch tranny and opt for a basic hydraulic one with a dual-mass flywheel. Even though their intent was to reduce clutch effort, this approach seems poorly executed. There is virtually no chatter but the amount of pedal travel is quite extensive and it still feels relatively "heavy", which isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on your preference. It's also a bit notchy and difficult to smooth out in 1st and 2nd. In fact at high-RPMs, the 1-2 shift actually had an occasional failure with some gnarly synchro noises to match.
That said, our car was a press fleet mule with 6k hard miles on it and who knows how many times the clutch had been dumped. And with a bit of time spent behind the wheel, these initial annoyances washed away with the sheer thrill of winding through the gears. The Nissan 370Z pulls hard all the way up to its 7500 RPM redline and doesn't fade or flinch.
Pedal placement is perfect for heel-toe shifting but Nissan has made this timeless skill obsolete by offering SynchroRev Match which jives engine RPM to wheel speed during downshifts in order to make the transitions perfectly smooth. The system monitors when the clutch pedal is depressed and the transmission shifter moved to various gears but is so sensitive that tapping the knob to the left or right in neutral causes a serious rev spike. Whether SynchroRev was implemented to reduce synchro damage done by novice or overly-aggressive drivers or something that was implemented due to market demand, who cares— in practice the system is pretty flawless and impressive.
Performance stats are world-class with 0-60 mph times as low as 4.7 seconds from experienced drivers with quarter mile times of 13.3 seconds reported. Top speed is electronically limited to 160 mph but taking a look at the gear ratios there's obviously much more fight left in this dog. In fact at high speeds, the 370Z is about as stable as any car we've tested.
The Sports Package provides 19" Rayz Forged Wheels running on 245/40 and 275/35 series Bridgestone rubber and you feel firmly planted at all times. To accommodate the increased mass, Nissan went with higher spring and damping rates. Even with only 4.8" of clearance the car rides quite well even on uneven pavement. That said, it does have a nasty habit of getting stuck in pavement grooves.
The double-wishbone front suspension system provides laser-like precision through the rack and pinion speed-sensitive power steering. The car is perfectly balanced with neither over-steer nor under-steer particularly evident. In fact, getting the car to lose traction, even with VDC turned off, is quite difficult. The Sports Package also provides a limited-slip differential which may readily account for this unique attribute.
The Sports Package also offers a solid big brake kit from the folks at Akebono with four-piston calipers grabbing 14" rotors up front and twin-piston calipers clamping 13.8" rotors in back. There was no discernible fade after continuous heavy braking and the pedal feel is completely linear and controlled. The optional ($580) NISMO performance brake pads surely can take some of the credit.
The 2010 Nissan 370Z has all of the safety equipment one would expect from a car that tempts you to do things you normally wouldn't and makes you feel like a better driver than you actually are. The Z's body structure is so stiff that it's easy to feel indestructible thanks to the front and rear stabilizer bars, a 3-point front strut tower brace and a rear underbody v-brace.
Additionally, 4-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist (ABS), traction (TCS) and stability control (VDC), dual-stage front air bags, seat-mounted side impact airbags, roof-mounted side curtain air-bags and active head restraints come standard, as do a tire pressure monitoring system, energy absorbing steering column, and multiple crumple zones.
The MSRP of the 2010 Nissan 370Z with Sport Package and optional floor mats, illuminated kick-plates and NISMO pads is $34,605. At this price point there is really nothing else in its performance class that comes close. The less expensive Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 looks the part and has an engine that is close in output but is not nearly as competent a sports car and is about a full second slower from 0-60 mph. The Mazda Miata just doesn't have the styling flair or performance chops even though it is a stellar roadster. The BMW M3 and Porsche Cayman S register similar stats but are both $30,000 more. The only other affordable sports cars in this category are the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger and these are American muscle cars that cater to a very different market segment.
The Nissan 370Z isn't perfect. The larger wheel package looks super cool and provides a solid set of shoes but the amount of rear tire noise inside the cabin is sometimes overwhelming at high speeds. The drivetrain also adds its share of auditory discomfort which is odd in that Nissan claims to have increased sound insulation. And the noise that we had so hoped to hear, a throaty exhaust note, was surprisingly absent. That said, the stereo system is powerful enough to drown out any ambient sounds but, still, hearing a cell phone call is not easy. It's possible that Bluetooth may solve this minor issue but one must step up to the Touring package to get this welcome addition. And finally, there is about as much storage space as would accommodate a Dora the Explorer daypack. We did have some concerns about the transmission but are confident that either a less battered clutch or change of transmission fluid – to maybe something like that offered by Redline – would do wonders. And then there's the issue of the large rear blind spots.
Besides some minor quibbles, the 2010 Nissan 370Z is a true rock star with class leading performance and looks to kill. And in this journalist’s eyes, it's also the perfect platform for mind-blowing modifications. For example, STILLEN offers an upgrade kit that boosts the engine output up to 515 hp by way of a Vortech V-3 Supercharger unit, a new cast aluminum intake manifold and integrated air-to-water intercooler system. In any case, if you've got a little more cash in the hopper, we’d recommend getting the Touring package which adds leather, power and heated seats, a rear cargo cover, Bose stereo with 6 speakers and 2 woofers, Bluetooth and satellite radio. Throw in the optional navigation system and you've got all the creature comforts of the European contingency with all the thrill of a proper sports coupe for more than a reasonable price. What’s not to love?