It’s pretty harsh to judge the Nissan 370Z on the deliverables of another car but I’m going to anyway, and with good reason. You see, when Nissan first dropped the brawny 370Z on the Middle Eastern market, it stood toe to toe with the Porsche Boxster and Cayman offerings in terms of its price and positioning. Dangerous ground, but ground that nonetheless, that Nissan felt confident in stepping on.
Fast forward a couple of years and the game changed. Out of the Far East appeared a back to basics sports car. A game changer if you will – the Toyota 86. Priced at between $26k and $37k, it delivers everything that the Nissan does (aside from the brawn) for considerably less than the $50,000-plus asking price.
Nissan clearly had to think about the situation, and quickly. The result for the new 2013 Nissan 370Z is a serious drop in price, even further than an earlier cost slash a year or so ago. I’m sure I’m not alone is suggesting that Nissan may have made this move to block the pressure from the 86. The new price, for a 370Z with a manual transmission, is $37,875. Virtually the same as a top-spec 86.
So here I am, ready to jump into the 370Z with a list of benchmarks against the 86 in my mind. If it’s bang for buck you’re looking for, the Z is off to a good start. A 322bhp 3.7-litre V6 under the bonnet gives the Z car the ability to outgun the Toyota, not to mention the rivals its removed itself from, such as the Cayman. So we have the guns, and the car is now well clear on price. Throw in a lively rear-wheel-drive chassis, that stunning (from certain angles) muscular styling – updated for 2013 with a mildly tweaked front end – and you have yourself a head turner. Wins all round so far, but does it come with compromise?
The great thing about the Nissan is that it’s a proper old school high performance two-seater sports car. The cabin is sat well back in the frame of the car and that long bonnet stretching out ahead, housing that thumping V6. Those lovely metal creases and very pretty (yet fussy) alloys do very little to try and hide its on-paper intentions. As you slide into the cabin, you’re immediately aware of the quality of materials and the low-slung, very supportive seats. It’s certainly doesn’t have the depth of quality as, say, an Audi TT or the Porsche, but in the 2013 priced Z, we’re in a different place now. In comparison to the Toyota, the Nissan is miles ahead.
From the driver’s seat the Nissan 370Z is every bit as muscular as the visuals suggest. The V6 delivers very strong acceleration across the rev range, albeit not as sonorous as one might expect, and the nicely weighted gearstick and steering certainly require a bit of pleasurable manhandling to get the best from the car. The manual box fitted to our car features SyncroRev technology that automatically blips the throttle on changes. Although it’s fun for the first 10 minutes, it does somewhat detract from the experience of nailing that perfect heel-and-toe downshift. If you aren’t interested in that game, it’s superb.
The chunky steering wheel sadly only adjusts for rake and not the much-required reach, which combined with the gear shifter that’s too far back in the cabin makes finding that perfect driving position tricky. It’s not critical by any stretch, just something that the Toyota does so well. Being driver-focused is imperative in this segment and this is a weak link.
And that’s where it falls down somewhat. Sure, it moves well. The steering is good, turn in is excellent and it’s well balanced. But there’s just no… excitement. There’s not enough feedback through the chassis or steering, and it’s over-tyred too. Even with 322bhp you get no natural wiggle from the back end without absolutely hammering it into corners. If you’re prepared to absolutely thrash it then it slides well and predictably, but it’s nowhere near as accessible as the Toyota and feels rather numb and lifeless in comparison.
You could argue that Nissan is trying to position the 370Z as an affordable GT, rather than a dynamic coupe, but if that’s the case then a manual gearbox makes little sense and the ride is too crashy and unforgiving. Is it fair to compare the Nissan with the Toyota? I think it is – the 86 has really moved expectations on in terms of modern driver involvement. With the Nissan you get a mighty motor, stunning looks, quality materials and the knowledge that you are getting great value for money. A year ago, this car at this price would seem a great deal. But now, it just doesn’t offer the same thrills as we’ve come to expect.
|Engine:||V6 / 3696cc|
|Power:||322bhp @ 7000rpm|
|Torque:||267lb ft @ 5200rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed auto w/ manual mode and paddle shifters / rear-wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Double-wishbone aluminum suspension / high vacuum diecast aluminum alloy / twin tube / subframe construction / stabilizer bar / Euro-tuned shock absorbers|
|Rear suspension:||Independent multi-link aluminum suspension steel / twin tube / subframe construction / stabilizer bar / Euro-tuned shock absorbers|
|Brakes:||Vented discs / ABS / BA / EBD / 14.0 x 1.26 (front) / 13.8 x 0.79 (rear)|
|Wheels:||19in front and rear|
|Tyres:||P245/40 R19 (front) / P275/35 R19 (rear) / Bridgestone Potenza|