Review: 2010 Nissan 370Z 6MT Sport
By George Straton
The ancestor to this 2010 Nissan 370Z, the company’s1969 Fairlady 240Z (then branded in the U.S. as a Datsun), launched more than four decades ago, still holds a soft spot in the hearts of Nissan devotees. These enthusiasts wanted a sixth-generation Z car which was closer in spirit and form to the original 240Z, rather than what they got from the previous 350Z. Many Z car fans claimed the 350Z car was all about go and not enough about show, lacking the true refinement and style that permits entry into the non-exotic two-seat sports car pantheon. Autosavant recently had the opportunity to spend a week with the 2010 370Z to evaluate whether the current-generation 370Z finally answers the devotees’ prayers.
When the L-shaped headlamps and tail-lamps first appeared on the new Maxima sedan in late 2008, many wondered what Nissan was thinking. With the 370Z, those tapered-back eyes provide a visual effect of elongating the hood. The tapered rear blinkers along with an integrated rear spoiler make the rump seem far less squat and rotund than it should. Even “Godzilla,” the Nissan GT-R, donates an exterior styling cue in the form of the sculpted valley which runs the length of the center of the roof. Combined with a “shark’s grimace” air intake as well as a more cohesive integrated rear spoiler, the net styling effect is definitely more 240Z than its predecessor was.
The 2010 Solid Red Sport Package model we sampled makes better equipped versions of the 370Z, including the Anniversary Model, seem superfluous. For a total MSRP just under $35,000 the car’s interior is outfitted as well as any “pure” sporting two-seater has a right to be. You’ll find contrasting stitching throughout the cabin, from the seats and shifter boot, to the dash pad and center console. The cloth seats are made from a seemingly indestructible material, with webbed inserts that enhance grip and emit an attractive diamond sparkle. And those seats, by way of simple manual dials, offer a good complement of thigh lift, posterior lift, and lumbar adjustments. Whether in extended city rush-hour traffic or hour long freeway steeplechases, the seats in the 370Z should minimize the need for trips to the chiropractor. As with other true sport coupes, chubbier driers may find the driver’s seat side bolstering too constrictive. With the chassis brace now moved well forward of the rear strut towers, just behind the seats, a single 26-inch suitcase and a couple of carry-ons will not feel as constricted as the driver might. Fit and finish seemed quite good for a car in this segment at its price point.
The main instrument binnacle, which adjusts for rake together with the well sized and hefted steering wheel, contains tachometer, speedometer and intuitive multi-display, each contained in traditional Z-style tunnel pods. The 9000 rpm tachometer is the most prominent gauge, staring right back at the driver. To the right, atop the dash cover, are the separately hooded engine coolant temp, voltage and digital clock gauges- the illumination on these instruments can be distracting at night. Thankfully, the 370Z has not adopted white and blue illumination; instead, it uses orange to communicate its sporting intentions. In the 370Z we tested, orange even illuminates the “Z” emblems on the rocker panels. Further nice touches include gauges whose needles sweep across the gauges on start-up. These same gauge needles also briefly remain illuminated upon shut-down. The success of the instrumentation and primary controls make the hard-to-read LED, rather than needle, fuel gauge that much more an aberration.
At a time when dual clutch transmissions have become all the rage in sports cars, Nissan has stayed with the tried, true and less costly pedal-operated hydraulic clutch mated to a six-speed fully synchronized transmission. The clutch is mated to dual-mass flywheel designed to keep clutch effort low, although pedal take-up is on the long side. Pedal position is perfectly suited to quick heel and toe action, yet pedal placement may now be all but academic thanks to Nissan’s patented Synchro-Rev rev-matching system. As the clutch pedal is depressed and the transmission shift selector is being moved to a particular gear, engine speed is modulated based on rear wheel speed for smoothly matching transmission input and output shaft speed. The system is so sensitive to shifter movement that engine revs will jump when the clutch is disengaged and the shifter is merely being wagged a bit side to side as when creeping to a stop in traffic. One side-effect of the Synchro-Rev technology is the moderately high effort needed to move the shifter, though the system can be switched off. With fewer drivers in the US learning to drive vehicles with manual transmissions, Nissan may have incorporated Synchro-Rev to reduce instances of expensive transmission synchro damage that can occur when inexperienced drivers shift improperly. Nissan offers its seven-speed manually-controlled automatic transmission as a no-cost option on the 370Z.
Unlike some European competitors whose alphanumeric model names no longer correlate to underhood displacement, the name ‘370Z’ actually means 3700 cc of displacement (or more precisely, 3,696) thanks to an increase in stroke over the VQ series engine that powered the 350Z. The over-square VQ37 V-6 engine, which also sees service in Infiniti’s G and M series, features VVEL throttle-less valve timing and lift control meant to improve engine airflow all the way to the lofty 7600 rpm redline. One week of fairly heavy handed urban/suburban driving in Metro Chicago yielded an impressive 22 MPG. Speaking of engine specs, Nissan claims 332 HP (SAE) at 7000 rpm with 269 lb-ft of torque at 5200 RPM. Gone is the constant exhaust drone and overly- sensitive throttle tip-in of the older VQ engines. Lugging around in suburbia at 40 mph in fifth ear occurs at a comfortable 2000 rpm. Even at such pedestrian engine speeds there is ample torque on tap to pass without downshifting. Bring the revs up to 4000 rpm, which can seemingly be accomplished in a microsecond, and the motor sounds not unlike the inline-six engines which used to occupy the engine bays of BMW’s U.S. market M3s’. The engine pulls like crazy right up to its redline. Reported performance for the 370Z with manual transmission includes 0-60 times of 4.7-4.9 seconds, and elapsed quarter mile times of 13.5 seconds at 106 mph have been reported. Top speed is electronically limited to just under 160 mph, and gear ratios are such that one could estimate an ungoverned top speed some 15 mph greater. Numbers like this might at least raise the eyebrows of Porsche Cayman S and BMW Z4 35 drivers.
Nissan increased suspension spring rates to cope with heavier larger wheel and brake assemblies that are part of the new-for-2010 370Z Sports Package we sampled. The Sport Pack’s razor-spoked 19” forged Ray alloy wheels and 245/40 – 275/35 series Bridgestone RE050 dedicated performance shoes conspire with the higher spring and damping rates and mere 4.8” of ground clearance to offer a surprisingly composed ride, free of jounce, over broken Midwestern pavement. A better-than-expected ride should mean duller handling and responses to driver inputs, but in the 370Z, the exact opposite is the case. Double wishbone front suspension better controls steering camber, offering point and shoot capability. Imprecise understeer is noticeably absent when making high speed lane changes in the 370Z. The staggered tire sizes limit any tendency to oversteer. With VDC de-activated, thanks partly to the limited slip differential, we had a hard time breaking traction in the hardest or most upsetting of turns.
The 370Z Sport Package gets big brakes courtesy of Akebono. Four-piston fixed calipers front / twin-piston rears clamp down onto 14” front / 13.8 “ rear diameter rotors. Our Sports Pack model was equipped with optional $500 “Track Pads” meant to allay concerns about over-boiled brake fluid in the Akebono set up. The stopping power of this set up is reason enough to be buckled in. Pedal feel is quite linear and hardly grabby. In our driving, no brake fade was discernable.
Niggles and compromises can be found in the 370Z Sport Pack. Pulling out into moving traffic, the 370Z demands extra neck-craning because of the obtrusively thick A-pillars and baseball mitt-sized mirrors. The interior lacks cubbies that could conveniently hold a sunglass case or CD case. While the included intelligent key[less] system is a pseudo-convenience, Bluetooth for hands-free phone operation is found only in the more expensive Touring model. Too, the transmission shift knob reverberates excessively whether in gear or in neutral at idle in a way unbecoming a car in the class in which the 370Z competes. Finally, during interstate cruising and beyond, road noise from the wide rear tires intrudes into an otherwise quiet cabin. While the noise may be largely tire-related, one has to wonder about Nissan’s claims that more acoustic insulation was introduced in the 370Z. Fortunately, the simple-to-use standard four-speaker stereo in the 370Z offers quite good audio fidelity at volume to overcome the din.
In today’s competitive auto market, being true to a vehicle’s heritage can mean the difference between product success and failure. At Nissan, the Z is the company’s singular heritage product. In the sense of executing a more honest and mature successor to the original 1969 version, the 370Z can be considered a success. At a price nearly a third to a half less, it measures up well against Teutonic standards such as the BMW Z4 and the Porsche Cayman, at least in terms of outright performance if not civility and prestige. It is an undeniably enticing package. Our test car’s Solid Red hue with the huge Ray wheels meant we never lacked for stares from passers-by even in Chicago’s upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood. Arguably few two-seat sports cars see service in day-to-day commuting or long cross-country trips. Yet an additional dosage of refinement in the areas of noise and vibration would go a long way towards making the 370Z a truly “Fair Lady” for the open road.