Steve Sharpe spends a week behind the wheel of Nissan’s 370Z
You don’t seem to come across many Nissan 370Zs on the road.
Which is a surprise, really, because with the range starting at just under £30,000, you would think that they’d be flying off the forecourts.
Because while that sort of cash isn’t exactly pin money, you’re getting a stunning two-seater sports car with great performance and head-turning looks.
The 370Z replaced the previous model, the 350Z, which first roared onto our roads in 2003. The new version appeared in 2008.
Strangely, in its Japanese homeland, the two-seater is known as the Fairlady Z Z34, which is the equivalent of an Audi Auntie or a Mitsubishi Gentlewoman. It must be down to the translation.
It was completely redesigned and was shorter, wider and flatter than the previous model.
At first look the 370Z appears as a sporty-looking coupe, but the more you see it the more it appears as an out and out sports car,
It’s very flat – my seven-year-old son could practically see over the top of it – and wider than it first appears. The bonnet is long, and has be to accommodate the 3.7-litre V6 engine, and the rear end is stocky, with big, muscular wheel arches.
Echoing Nissan’s supercar, the GTR, the roofline slopes smoothly down to the curvaceous rear end and the flanks are smooth, broken only by the unusual chunky aluminium handle set-up on the edge of the doors.
There are some highly individual light clusters at both front and rear, designed in a kind of Nike swoosh-style boomerang design.
From some angles it bears a resemblance to one of its main rivals, the Audi TT, yet from others it appears more to resemble an updated version of a 1970s muscle car.
Inside the cabin things take a retro turn as well.
There are hooded, cockpit-style dials mounted on top of the dashboard, and it’s all black leather with heavy stitching.
The Nissan was updated last year, with one of the changes involving the top-trim model being fitted with a hi-tec satnav and media system in the console.
On my standard trim model the area was taken up by a drop-down storage area, which looked a bit strange at first.
It can be a bit gloomy, particularly taking into account that the roof interior is black and there is a limited amount of daylight coming through the small areas of glass.
The illuminated dials and readouts are easy to read but the heating and media controls are low down on the central console and hard to work out on the move
On the whole it’s a simple cabin, with soft-touch materials, but things looks good in the way it nods back to the past.
The 370Z is a straightforward two-seater – whereas the TT has two miniature seats in the rear suitable for ferrying small children or leprechauns short distances, there are just a couple of shallow storage areas here.
The boot is shallow, too, so you won’t be getting much in there. There is, however, plenty of headroom for the driver and passenger, and legroom’s pretty generous too.
But the Z is a low car and you have to twist and slide into the seats. Visibility is strictly limited, too, and reversing entails an Exorcist-style amount of head-turning.
Switch on the push-button start and you soon realise that subtlety is not a factor in the 370Z.
The V6 engine booms into life, and on chilly mornings it races like a angry rhino until it warms up.
Out on the run the engine positively roars and booms through the cabin – so much so you can feel the vibration through the pedals. It is very loud indeed and can drown out conversation in high revs.
When pushed heavily the noise is immense. You’re also battling road noise too, and there is a thundering amount coming through from the tarmac.
It seems to be increased when the roads are wet, too, with under-car splashing amplified during one of the downpours we’ve had recently.
But the upside of all this is the way the Nissan drives.
With 0-60 figures of 5.3 seconds it’s not far behind a Mitsubishi Evo and on a par with the Subaru WRX STi.
It’s not all good news though – the gearstick is stiff and notchy and changing from first to second is clunky and less than smooth.
But with the pedal to the metal the 370Z just keeps on accelerating. If you pile on the power in high revs it flies like a rocket. Push it to the red line and the power keeps coming.
Mid-range pull is great, too, and even overtaking when the revs are relatively low is brilliant.
Cornering is how you would hope. The Nissan’s steering is firm and solid but it turns well into corners, and grips right through the bend, urging you to accelerate.
The low, flat stance of the 370Z means body roll is negligible. But the stiff suspension means that the ride is firm during normal day-to-day use.
There are three version of the 370Z available – the standard model, the GT and the GT edition, which have more equipment and a tweaked chassis and suspension.
The entry-level 370Z comes equipped with engine stop/start button, power adjustable seats, climate controlled air-conditioning, 18” alloy wheels, automatic Bi-Xenon headlamps, curtain airbags, alarm, audio with auxiliary input and Bluetooth hands free phone connection.
Moving up to GT gives you bigger alloys, heated seats trimmed in black suede and leather, and a six-CD Bose audio system. The GT Edition features added stripes along the flanks, plus a parking camera.
At under £30,000 for the entry level model, and rising up to £35,000 for the top-spec GT model, the 350Z is considerably cheaper than rivals like the TT, and you get headturning looks and a car that is genuinely great fun to drive.
But running costs will be high – although emission levels were improved in last year’s upgrading, that V6 engine still means that road tax will be high, not to mention insurance premiums. And similarly fuel consumption has been improved but official figures are still just a combined 26mpg. A heavy foot will eat into that too.
But come on – look at it. It looks fantastic, it goes like a rocket, roars like a wounded elephant and is brilliant fun to drive.
What’s not to like?
Engine: 3.7-litre petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual
0-60: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)