I firmly believe that the next car to be featured in a hit song will be the Nissan Z.
Granted, the lyrics will be difficult to get right; Don McLean didn’t sing ‘Drove my 240Z to the levy’ for obvious reasons.
But the Nissan Z is the most deserving car to be immortalized in the next catchy little number to hit the airwaves.
Huh? Some techno-geeky Japanese contrivance that has electronically-controlled motor mounts (I’m not making that up; that is per Nissan themselves) has enough soul and charisma to be mentioned in a Top-40 song by Britney Bruno Bieber or whoever the next flash in the pan happens to be, alongside the Corvette and Mustang and Little Deuce Coupe?
Yes… yes it does.
The Nissan Z is the most legendary, most recognizable, most heavily involved (and one of the most successful) in many different types of motorsports, and most importantly, most popular, sports car to ever come out of the Land of the Rising Sun.
The story of the 240Z arriving in the USA in 1970 and going on to become the best-selling sports car of all time, according to Nissan, hardly needs retelling. But even after the Z lost its focus with the very fast, but very heavy, complex, and expensive 300ZX, and eventually dropped from the US lineup in 1996, we cannot ignore that the Z returned in 2003 with the 350Z to become a sales sensation, one of the most successful resurrections of an automotive nameplate ever (behind the Volkswagen Beetle), and a remarkable beginning to the unfolding story of the 21st-century automobile.
So, to celebrate 40 years of all these superlatives and legendary-ness, Nissan has created a special edition of the latest Z, the 370Z, which is a limited run of only 1000 cars with, oddly enough, a very limited number of options available: six-speed manual transmission only, ’40th Graphite’ gray exterior color only, smoke-finished 19″ Rays lightweight aluminum alloy wheels only.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let’s cut to the chase: the 370Z is a very fast car. 60mph takes just 4.7 seconds, the quarter-mile takes just 13.3 seconds doing 106mph, and the top speed is claimed by Nissan to be 160mph. It’s one of the fastest cars I’ve yet tested.
Taking the credit for those numbers is Nissan’s absolutely delectable VQ37VHR 3.7L V6 engine, which was also in the Infiniti G37S convertible I tested last year. But it makes seven more horsepower in the 370Z, which is nearly one thousand pounds lighter thanks to an aluminum hood, hatch, both doors, carbon-fiber driveshaft, and suspension bits. It is a peaky engine that needs to be revved high; the torque peak of 270 ft-lbs is at 5200rpm and the horsepower peak of 332hp is at 7000rpm, just 500rpm short of the redline. But this is still one of my favorite engines in any car for sale in America today. It’s velvety smooth, responsive, and tactile… and it could actually sing its own Top-40 hit song with the signature Nissan VQ vocals.
I’m excited to have another opportunity to bestow more praise on Nissan’s VVEL variable-valve-timing system, which is nothing short of an engine management revolution. The accelerator pedal essentially controls the valve timing directly rather than a conventional butterfly throttle. The benefits range from fewer pumping losses and valvetrain friction at low RPM for improve torque, to more valve lift at high RPMs for better airflow, which means more horsepower. One would think, then, that all these processes would drastically interfere with throttle response, but in fact, the 370Z had about the quickest throttle response of any car I’ve ever driven. Why? Again, there’s no throttle body to get in the way of the intake charge.
This allows Nissan to equip the 370Z with another unique feature: SynchroRev. In short, the car heel-and-toes for you, matching the engine revs to the speed of the rear wheels when you downshift a gear in the equally-wonderful six-speed manual gearbox, so you just have to reengage the clutch without any fancy footwork. SynchroRev can be disabled for the purists, but I found it quite useful and just plain fun.
The fun continues underneath as well… the 370Z can not only produce its own hit song, but it can dance to it too. With the aforementioned aluminum suspension consisting of double wishbones up front and a multi-link arrangement out back. With the viscous limited-slip differential, and fat 245-series front tires and 275-series rear tires, the Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary is the first car I’ve tested to break the 1.0g lateral acceleration barrier, posting an astonishing 1.02g.
Rounding out the 40th-Anniversary package are red Nissan four-pot front calipers and two-pot rear calipers, red leather seats with 40th Anniversary emblazoned across the seatbacks, 40th Anniversary floormats, and red stitching around the dashboard and interior trim panels. For a comparatively light and nimble sports car, the amenities are in fact quite abundant. Since the 40th Anniversary 370Z is also a Touring model, the leather seats are heated and power-adjustable, the 8-speaker Bose stereo is satellite and Bluetooth-compatible, the rearview mirror is auto-dimming with Homelink, and there’s full instrumentation (an increasingly rare sight these days) with oil and water temperature gauges above the center console and even a shift light in the large, center-mounted tachometer.
So the Nissan 370Z pretty much already has the record deal signed when it comes to performance and handling, and it even has a little bling to show off on the red carpet. But… does the 370Z have the attractive looks to go with the talent?
That is, of course, subjective. Admittedly, however, the first reaction I had when I saw the 370Z for the first time was “What’s up with those swooshes in the lights?” But they’ve grown on me, as they do flow with the all-new lines of the 370Z, which shares no body panels with the 350Z. With a sharper angle between the roof and windshield, the rear window meets the roof at almost exactly the same angle, and with the more prominent rear haunches, Nissan took a few more risks with the 370Z’s styling than with the 350Z, and it looks more focused and aggressive as a result.
My only complaint with the 370Z is this: Since the passengers are sitting what seems like three millimeters from the back wheels, and since the rear tires are so wide, you hear every single rock, pebble, grain of sand, and negatively-charged ion hitting the wheelwell as you’re driving along. I’d normally admire that as an idiosyncracy, part of the car’s visceral appeal even. But after a couple of days, it got a bit annoying… like an overexuberant backup singer, if you will.
Make no mistake though: the Nissan 370Z is still a musical masterpiece, to finish the metaphor.
And, with some luck, it may actually just get to be featured in one someday.
Price as tested: $40,160
0-60mph: 4.7 sec
¼-mile time: 13.3 seconds at 106mph
Lateral skidpad acceleration: 1.02g
Torque: 270 ft-lbs
Weight: 3278 lbs
Fuel economy: 18.2mpg
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