2009 Nissan 370Z Touring Review
By Kevin Miller
Last Autumn, I reviewed the 2008 Nissan 350Z touring, and I came away somewhat unimpressed. Fortunately, for 2009, Nissan has given their Z-car a much-needed and much-appreciated update. The visible changes for 2009 are a much more attractive exterior and significantly improved interior. Under the skin are a shorter wheelbase, less weight, and enlarged engine and a slick new seven-speed autobox.
The transmission in my test car was Nissan’s 7-speed automatic unit, with steering-column paddles for manual shifting. There is no “sport” mode, just Drive or Manual. I found myself using it mostly in Drive, though on my drive through Washington State’s Cascade Mountains I did downshift manually as I approached bends; the actuation of rev-matched downshifts is nearly perfect, and the exhaust note when those occur is addicting.
Even (or especially) in Drive, the quick-shifting autobox rockets the Z from zero to 60 in around 5 seconds; when downshifting to pass on two-lane highways, the Z was traveling at triple-digit speeds before I even had the chance to get around the cars I was passing. It was just that fast.
The Z’s 332 HP, 3.7 liter V6 has a sexy exhaust note around 3000 RPM, especially when it is heard echoing off of the surroundings with the windows open. It can sound somewhat less lovely in less-spirited driving around town with the windows closed. In those cases, the Z’s six-speaker Bose sound system with six-disc in-dash changer, XM Satellite Radio, and two subwoofers did a great job filling the cabin with high-quality sound. The sound system also has good Bluetooth telephone integration, though there isn’t a keypad for manually entering numbers.
As I mentioned before, the 370Z’s cabin is a much nicer place to spend time than was its predecessor’s. French-stitching on the center console, very legible gauges with attractive surrounds, power seats with grippy synthetic suede upholstery, and comfortably padded elbow rests on the doors and center console add to the Z’s appeal. Among the few mis-steps are an odometer that reflects in the windshield at night, and a poorly integrated electronic info display to the left of the tachometer, with ridiculous fuel and temperature indictor LEDs. All of the electronic displays (clock, stereo and info display) are fully legible when wearing polarized sunglasses. Because of the entirely black interior and headliner, the Z’s cabin feels quite cozy.
Another interior improvement is the addition of a glovebox, which was lacking in the previous generation (though the newfound compartment is not large enough even to accommodate the Z’s owner’s manual). Interior storage is still a bit tight, with small storage shelves behind the seats, smallish door pockets (albeit with bottle holders), and an under-elbow storage with a 12 V outlet (or a cupholder which covers the outlet). Out back, the hatch-accessed trunk is fairly small, though the relocated strut tower brace allows for more cargo room than the previous 350Z did.
When I first climbed into the Z, I found the driver’s seat to be confining, though the more time I spent in the Z, the better my body fit in the seat- this is because the seat is incredibly supportive, but it took time for my body to adjust into the supportive shape. It never got quite as comfortable as the Recaro seats in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution I tested a year ago, but it came very close. In reality, I found that the cabin didn’t have quite enough legroom for a 6’4″ driver. I needed the seat to move back farther, and the steering wheel (which has no telescopic adjustment) to get farther away from me.
While the seats have great grip thanks to their synthetic suede covering, my left leg fell asleep after about an hour. Too, the seat’s Active Head Restraint unfortunately was uncomfortable, because whenever I rested my head against the headrest (or pushed my head against it), the shoulder-blade-level actuation plate pushed against my back. This is something I’ve experienced in other cars; the assembly should be tighter to prevent that from happening.
As in many sport coupes, the Z’s low chassis and seating position combined with its relatively long doors can make entry and egress challenging, especially in tight parking lots. Because of the low seating position and relatively short greenhouse, rearward visibility is poor, a fact that is accentuated by the lack of a rear parking sensor system.
I found the 370Z was in its comfort zone while carving through curvy river canyons and mountain passes. The suspension and steering do an excellent job communicating with the driver. The exhaust barks an intoxicating note, and the transmission downshifts effortlessly when acceleration is requested. That said, the cabin is very noisy. On dry roads, pavement noise is prevalent. On a wet day or non-clean roadway, the Z suffers from noisy wheel wells- every pebble or pine needle on the road hits the inside of the wheel well, and the noise comes right into the cabin.
The 370Z features standard Vehicle Dynamic Control, which intervenes very gracefully as needed. In wet weather, the VDC was noticeable only because it seemed the car was down about four cylinders. On dry pavement when I may have driven a bit beyond my limits, the VDC quickly reined in vehicle slide and got the car back on course. With the system turned off, the car’s balance allows it to be easily recovered from oversteer conditions by skillful driving, with pulse racing.
The 370Z is not an economy car, and it has an 18/26 MPG (21 combined) EPA fuel economy rating. During my 250 miles with the car (mostly highway miles, though many of them carving canyons), its trip computer showed 23.7 MPG and 43.6 MPH average speed, which was better than I had expected.
The Platinum Graphite 370Z Touring I drove featured the 332 HP, 270 lb-ft 3.7 liter V6; 7-speed Automatic Transmission with Paddle Shifters; Front and Rear Ventilated Disc Brakes; Speed-Sensitive Power Steering; 18″ Aluminum Alloy Wheels wearing P225/50R rubber up front and P245/45R out back; Automatic Xenon Headlamps; 8-way Adjustable Driver Seat; Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror; Nissan Intelligent Key with Pushbutton Ignition; Cruise Control, Power Windows; Automatic Temperature Control; Six Speaker Bose Audio System with 6-disc In-dash CD Changer, XM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth Telephone Integration; Steering-Wheel Mounted Audio Controls; Front, Side and Side Curtain Airbags; VDC; ABS; and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution; all at an MSRP of $35,760. Optional equipment included Carpeted Floor Mats ($115), Illuminated Kick Plates ($200), and Carpeted Trunk Mat ($95). Including the $695 Destination Charge, the total price was $36,865.
That doesn’t compare poorly to the 2008 350Z touring, which carried a $34,150 price tag, 30 fewer horsepower, and a fairly lousy cabin that wasn’t even in the same league as the new 370Z’s. With its better looks and better handling, the 2009 370Z surely has at least $2,815 worth of improvements when compared to its predecessor.
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