NOW isn’t an easy time to be launching the replacement to the 350Z. Times are tough for us all – but especially for the target buyer of the new Nissan.
The 370Z customer is likely to be a white-collar middle manager, earning a sensible wage, 2.4 children and mortgaged up to the eyeballs.
And that means he’s worried. His job is under threat, his house is worth less than a Zimbabwean million-dollar note and the last thing he’s thinking about is replacing his 350Z with the new version.
Tempting these target buyers really isn’t going to be easy. Especially when you add in the financial penalties of buying a sportscar like the 370Z.
It’s in the highest road tax bracket – walloping owners with a £400 bill every year, before they’ve even driven it – and it’s juicy too. The new 3.7-litre powerplant might be 11 per cent more efficient than the outgoing model, but that just means it’ll cost you 11 per cent less of a lot. Which is still… a lot.
There’s no doubt about it – the 370Z is going to be a hard sell in the green stakes. Perhaps that’s why the sensible price-tag is all the more important. Starting at just under £27k, it’s a tempting proposition when you look at similar-performing rivals. Take the Audi TT, for example. In 3.2-litre V6 guise it’s £30k. A BMW Z4 35i? £37k before extras.
And a Porsche Cayman? You’ll have to find a few hundred quid over £36k – again before extras, and you’ll need lots of those – before you can park one on your drive.
That makes the 370Z look more attractive. Especially when you can tell buyers that the Nissan is as good, and in fact better in some cases, than all of the above. Plus, with it’s new, shapely bodywork with direct styling cues from the incredible GT-R, the Nissan is a looker to boot.
It’s certainly easier on the eye than the 350. The old car suffered with a rear end that made a baboon’s behind look attractive, but that’s now been sorted. A smart diffuser, central fog light and LED rear lamps combine to make it far tidier.
The new car is shorter and wider than the outgoing model too and that squat stance looks superb on the road. Sculpted bi-xenon headlamps, LED driving lights and a deep ‘shark bite’ front grille keep the front end looking fresh.
Green credentials ignored, it’s the perfomance stakes that really count with a sportscar – and here the 370Z doesn’t dissapoint. The 3.7-litre V6 produces 326bhp (up from 309bhp in the 350Z) and 366Nm of torque. Performance figures are slightly improved too – the 0-60mph dash drops from 5.7s to 5.4s with the manual transmission.
On the road this translates to a characterful and tuneful engine – that V6 has always sounded immense and, although a little muted lower down the rev range, it really impresses as the needle heads towards the red line. The 370Z now comes with the option of an automatic box.
Magnesium paddles behind the steering wheel can be used to swap the seven ratios and it makes for an involving drive. Although it doesn’t feel like it on the road, the auto box actually makes the car slower – it hits 60mph in 6.1 seconds when it’s left to change gears itself. It’s hard to believe that’s the case though – changes are fast and smooth and the built-in blips on the downchanges are Class A-addictive.
We actually preferred the auto box over the manual. The lever is weighty and a little over mechanical. This would probably loosen in time, but jumping from the auto to the manual it was very much apparent. However, if you struggle with heel and toe downchanges, fear not – Nissan’s new Synchro Rev Control technology offers drivers that throttle blipping tomfoolery automatically.
Push a button next to the six-speed shifter and when you disengage the clutch and move the lever across to the next cog, sensors rev the engine for you, smoothing changes. It’s a nice, very-Japanese-tech touch.
We had little time in the 370Z on the launch – credit crunched Nissan combined the unveiling with that of its new £6k Pixo city car – but we still spent enough time behind the wheel to spot the new car is a marked improvement over the already-excellent 350Z.
It handles superbly, gripping hard in corners when pushed, punching you out of bends with a ferocious kick. Steering is beautifully weighted with lots of feel and the driving position is spot on.
Lots of work has gone into improving the cabin – which is clearly evident. Those three dials perched on top of the dash are still there though, and the layout is user-friendly. But best news of all is the metal bar, that restricted the boot in the 350Z, has been dumped. Structural rigidity has been improved enough for the engineers to remove it, freeing up a little more space in the back.
So how good is the 370Z? Well, what little time we got behind the wheel clearly points towards a car that scores higher in the driver involvement stakes than a TT and, in fact, not too far off the awesome Cayman too. It’s that good. Nissan expects 650 sales in the UK for the first year with deliveries beginning in July.
It’ll certainly take a canny salesman to gloss over those lacking green credentials, but stick a potential purchaser behind the wheel and we’re sure those mini-GT-R looks, tempting price tag and incredible performance will be enough to seal the deal.
by JAMES BAGGOTT