We have finally seen the Nissan 370Z in person, in the sheetmetal, in real life.
US automotive news site Edmund's Inside Line, in conjuction with Nissan's ad agency TBWA/Chiat Day, held a private party five days before the unveiling of the new sports coupe near Los Angeles. They had two production 370Zs, one test mule, and several Z-cars from generations past on display.
We weren't allowed to take them out for a peel on Mulholland Drive, but we left our fingerprints over every surface. So what's the verdict?
First off, no specifications were revealed other than what we already know, so I won't rehash them here. What I can comment on is the styling and the fit and finish.
I'm a hard-to-please curmudgeon when it comes to styling, especially when it's wrapping a car as iconic as the Nissan Z. In the official photos released by Nissan, its grey skin and short-but-bulbous rear overhang reminded me of an angry hippopotamus, charging with mouth agape.
Thankfully, those photos did not do the car justice. The Nissan PR guy that released the images should be counselled for stupidity, post haste. I'm not sure what was going on in those photos, but the gaps in the wheel arches and the cut line on the rocker panels conspired to make the car look positively ungainly. In real life, it sits much closer to the ground with a wide, strong stance.
In fact, silver is just about the worst colour for this car. The bright red and vibrant blue of the cars on display showed off the curves infinitely better. During the event, nearby California wildfires began sprinkling gray ash down on the cars, making the paint all the more striking.
The controversial boomerang-shaped headlamps and tail-lights actually integrate into the body shape quite well, though can appear a bit busy from some angles. A waterfall of LEDs in the tail-light cluster are sure to give the rear a unique look when you're chasing one down at night. In fact, that pert, rotund 'badonkadonk' reminds me of one of my favorite 80s cars, the Porsche 928 S4.
Like its haunches, everything is oversized. The fuel filler door is the size of a dinner plate. My favorite styling cue is the C-pillar, a much-ballyhooed throwback to the original 240Z. However, on the inside, each is as thick as a small tree, creating a blind spot the size of a town house and making that pinhole-sized rear side glass useless.
The rest of the interior materials are better quality than those used in the 350Z. Surfaces are soft to the touch, rather than plasticky. The fit and finish is an improvement, though still falling short of, say, a mid-90s Lexus. One unforgivable fault lies in the bezel of the instrument pod, which looks like brushed aluminum but is actually brittle hollow-sounding plastic.
The Z still suffers from a lack of storage space, as well as the high beltline and tank-slit DLOs that seems to ail most modern cars. The three gauge pods are another tribute to the original, but instead of being molded to the dash, these are capped with a clamshell-shaped slice of plastic that looks more gently-laid than integrated.
While my impression has surely improved after an audience with the car, I haven't completely warmed to it yet. It still doesn't possess the charisma and impact that the 240Z did on day one.