A single digit makes all the difference in the case of the 2018 Nissan 370Z Coupe.
This second-generation of revived ‘Zed’ car will next year turn 10 years old, having launched locally in 2009 when it replaced 2003’s 350Z. While, quite incredibly, nothing much has changed since then, the pricetag this coupe wears certainly has.
At launch this V6-powered rear-wheel driver opened at $67,990 plus on-road costs, but five years later, in 2014, Nissan lowered that sum to $56,930 (plus orc). And now the 370Z has tumbled yet another digit, to just $49,990 (plus orc).
Squeezed between the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 near-twins and the sales conquering Ford Mustang, the question is whether the Nissan 370Z still has a place in-market.
Commendably, Nissan hasn’t stripped the 370Z of its mechanical package to reach its cheaper pricetag. Indeed, 19-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, switchable electronic stability control (ESC), and a mechanical limited-slip differential back the 245kW of power and 363Nm of torque delivered by the 3.7-litre V6 engine.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard, as tested here, but the more popular seven-speed torque converter automatic asks $2500 extra at $52,490 (plus orc). Either way, other niceties haven’t been lost either, with keyless auto-entry with push-button start, electrically adjustable and heated part-leather seats, leather trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, cruise control, and 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with integrated satellite navigation all making an appearance.
The 370Z largely matches the equipment of the $39,894 (plus orc) Subaru BRZ tS that is its dynamic, if not performance, benchmark. The Ford Mustang EcoBoost starts at an identical $49,990 (plus orc) with similar performance, and within Nissan’s own ranks the flagship 370Z Nismo lobbed last year priced from $61,490 (plus orc) and coming complete with steering, suspension and braking upgrades.
So, let’s find out if the Subie is worth saving $10K for, whether the Mustang is better for the same price, or if there’s value in the Nismo at $11,500 upstream…
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.0/5
Standard Equipment: Multi-function trip computer, single-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, leather steering wheel and gearshifter, electrically adjustable and heated part-leather front seats, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, cruise control and auto on/off Xenon headlights. Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with USB and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, CD player, 9.3Gb hard drive, satellite navigation and Bose eight-speaker audio including two subwoofers. Options Fitted: None. Cargo Volume: 235 litres.
About the only difference between 370Z and 370Z Nismo inside is that the pricier latter flagship adds Recaro sports buckets and an Alcantara-clad steering wheel and gearshifter, while deleting the front-seat heating and electrical adjustment featured here. And that’s it for the cabin changes.
We previously gave the 370Z Nismo only a two-and-a-half out of five-star rating for its dated interior, but at sub-$50K the 370Z gets an extra half-star owing to its price.
Although this dashboard design hasn’t changed in a decade, as most clearly evidenced by the lurid orange dot-matrix trip computer display and dash-top clock, the excellent plastics and superb build quality also thankfully haven’t been altered.
The dimpled soft-touch surfaces are complemented by smooth leather trim across the centre console fascia that feels decently high-end, all of which proves that getting material choices and fit-and-finish right from the start will ease the ageing process.
Even the lower console storage box is flock-lined in furry velour trim that is usually the domain of high-priced sports coupes (which, of course, the 370Z once was). But storage is otherwise a sore point, with only that lidded cavity, a small glovebox, single cupholder and small door bins being offered – a real sub-par number of spots.
While two-door coupes are not exactly about practicality, this Nissan’s small 235-litre boot volume is at least alleviated by the liftback third door design that makes for easy loading of bulkier items, unlike the sedan-like bootlid of BRZ/86. But also unlike the Toyota and Subaru (and Ford Mustang), there are no back seats here.
There are also a duo of other (albeit small) problems here. Firstly, the steering wheel is adjustable only for height, not reach. Thankfully the comfortable, multi-adjustable driver’s seat (tilt via manual wheel, fore/aft/recline via electric) helps. And, secondly, the touchscreen is completely dated, and while the nav gets Suna live traffic updates and the Bose audio is solid, the lack of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring (standard on BRZ and Mustang) and digital radio is disappointing.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.0/5
Engine: 245kW/363Nm 3.7 V6 petrol Transmission: Six-speed manual, RWD Suspension: Independent front and rear Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes Steering: Hydraulically assisted mechanical steering
It’s not exactly considered ‘old school’ to use rear-wheel drive in a two-door sports car. Everything from the Mazda MX-5 to the BRZ/86, Mustang and the BMW 2 Series utilises the format all within this price bracket.
But where the former, cheaper pair offer non-turbo four-cylinder engines, and the more expensive pair utilise turbocharged fours, this 370Z continues to split the difference with an old-school 3.7-litre non-turbo V6.
At 1467kg, the Nissan weighs around 200kg more than the Subaru/Toyota, but the same amount less than a Mustang Ecoboost. With the exception of an 83kg-lighter 230i, it splits the mass difference neatly between rivals.
With 245kW of power at 7000rpm and 363Nm at a lofty 5200rpm, the 370Z also soundly smashes the measly 152kW/212Nm of the ‘Toyobaru’ while challenging the heavier Ford’s 224kW/441Nm.
Add in the throttle response advantage of an engine without a turbo, some nimble dimensions (a parking friendly and small hatchback-rivalling 4265mm body length), excellent 245mm-wide 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres and the LSD, and this ‘in betweener’ looks as though it could still maximise purist driving enjoyment.
In many ways it can, too. The brakes feels sharp and meaty, despite lacking the upgraded hoses of the 370Z Nismo, and the engine thrives above 4500rpm with a crisp and endearing sound that translates one-to-one with spirited performance. The only shame is that it can get coarse and grainy right past its high 7500rpm redline.
The manual has the same meaty and burly shift quality, but the short throw and a rev-matching function that blips the engine to match the gearing (but can be turned off for those who prefer heel-and-toe pedalling) sweetens the deal considerably.
What the 370Z most lacks is the quicker and more tactile steering of the 370Z Nismo. Instead there’s a vagueness just off the centre position that is disconcerting, with too-light weight then firming up as lock is wound on.
In turn this entry-level model grade also lacks the motorsport-tuned version’s impeccably tied-down front end that endows it with cat-like reflexes through corners. This 370Z still feels sharp on turn-in and it grips well up there, without pushing into much understeer even with optimistic corner-entry speeds.
And there are upsides to the more malleable front-end compared with the Nismo, primarily that there’s now a less terse and tetchy segue between forward grip and rear slip, and indeed less of a feeling that this chassis is a game of two halves. Even the ESC seems to allow a touch extra slip compared with the flagship version that also gets wider, grippier tyres in addition to much firmer spring and damper rates.
Even so, the 370Z lacks finesse. For a start the ESC really needs a Sport mode that is more calmly in tune with spirited driving, though perhaps that isn’t wise given that the handling can be bitey rather than balanced. And although the standard suspension tune delivers far greater urban ride quality than that of its pricier sibling, it still allows the body to bob and jitter along even at a relaxed pace. That then descends into bounce and slap over country roads at speed, eroding confidence.
Despite all this, though, this Nissan demands you get in tune with its personality, rather than its gelling around yours. Use those great brakes hard before a corner, tip in at speed, be patient to pick-up the throttle on corner exit, then use up all the V6 to slingshot out, and the 370Z can be both very fast and quite fun.
ANCAP has not tested the Nissan 370Z.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, ABS and switchable ESC, rear parking sensors and rear-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km kilometres.
Servicing: Below-average six-month or 10,000km service intervals are charged at a capped-price cost of $283/$354/$283/$586/$283/$354 to three years or 60,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A 220i is underpowered, but the $63,000 (plus orc) 230i is a sweetly balanced, charming and light yet luxurious gem. The jury’s still out on the facelifted Mustang Ecoboost, but watch this space because the revised steering and suspension promise much on the flagship V8-powered Mustang GT.
Despite being slow, the BRZ tS and 86 GTS offer superb steering, brilliant ESC tuning, and fantastically balanced handling, and all for much less than a 370Z…
- BMW 220i Coupe
- Ford Mustang Ecoboost
- Subaru BRZ tS
- Toyota 86 GTS
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 3.0/5
Particularly at this pricetag there is plenty to like about the Nissan 370Z. The build quality is superb, performance is strong, the manual shift is tactile, the ride quality is decent and the handling is especially adept on smooth roads.
However, we miss the fantastic steering and tied-down body control of the 370Z Nismo at a further $11,500 upstream. Is it unfair to expect that after almost a decade on sale, the Nismo’s enhancements should just have become this base model’s standard?
Whichever the 370Z, however, this ageing generation is just crying out for a good once-over, a real and proper facelift. It sorely needs steering, suspension and ESC finesse to match an otherwise appealing package for both pricing and performance.
The ‘Zed’ spirit is alive and well here, but it deserves to also keep up with the times.
- Interested in buying Nissan 370Z? Visit our Nissan 370Z showroom for more information.