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Driven: 2009 Nissan 370Z

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2009 Nissan 370Z

2009 Nissan 370Z

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TheCarConnection.com's recent time with the 2009 Nissan 370Z felt a bit like a bittersweet fling. First we were smitten in the city; then we went away together on a highway trip and the Z showed a side of its personality I didn't like; finally, by the end our time together I had a clear understanding of its pros and cons—and some advice for shoppers.

Let's start with the interior. Sit down in the 370Z for the first time and you're bound to be a bit surprised by how snug and intimate it is. The 370Z has supportive sport seats and a good driving position, though taller drivers will be wanting a little more legroom and might find headroom scarce, especially for getting in and out.

But set out in big-city congestion, as we did, and the 370Z's frisky feel and sharp responses make it a joy to drive where lanes are narrow gaps are limited, and everyone's jostling for space. The throttle isn't too touchy, the steering feels firm but well boosted and responsive, and the brake pedal feels confident. And unlike some sports cars, the ride in the 370Z isn't too jarring.

Performance-wise, the 370Z has it going on, even with the seven-speed automatic of our test car. The 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 has enough power to blast up to speed in a few short seconds (0-60 comes in well under five seconds). It's tuned to be a high-revver; keep the pedal to the floor and the transmission doesn't shift until engine revs approach the 7500-rpm redline. The new seven-speed has Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) and Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) which, with a click of the paddle shifters or shove of the shift knob, can pull off a rev-matched downshift in about a half-second. The seven closely spaced ratios are overkill, but you can be sure the torquey V-6 is never caught off its game.

Just a foot or so behind the headrest, the hatch begins. The 370Z holds two and some stuff, but the stuff had better not be a large suitcase. The cargo space at the back of the 370Z gets very narrow between the rear suspension mounts, which go almost all the way up to the hatch, and the floor is rather high. Placed up at the front of the cargo area, you could fit a few paper grocery bags upright, but subsequent rows of bags behind would be smooshed. There's also a big blind spot to the side caused by the thick pillar; thanks to well placed side mirrors it wasn't too bothersome though. We fit two large duffels and a computer bag back under the hatch and hit the road for a three-hour drive from Seattle to Portland, mostly by I-5.

2009 Nissan 370Z

2009 Nissan 370Z

Enlarge Photo

2009 Nissan 370Z

2009 Nissan 370Z

Enlarge Photo

2009 Nissan 370Z

2009 Nissan 370Z

Enlarge Photo

2009 Nissan 370Z

2009 Nissan 370Z

Enlarge Photo

2009 Nissan 370Z

2009 Nissan 370Z

Enlarge Photo

A short stint on the Interstate would have been enough. At speed, while the suspension stays relatively absorbent, the cabin booms and resonates with every change in pavement texture, and it became hard to tolerate on the coarse, traffic-beaten surface. This is one of the highest road noise levels this tester has experienced.

Needless to say, we arrived from that highway blast wearier than we would have been in most other vehicles.

I'm not the only one here at TheCarConnection.com to note the issue with road noise in the Z. My colleague Rex Roy, in his Bottom Line review of the 2009 Nissan 370Z, pointed out the interior noise and sparse cabin appointments as primary dislikes. I absolutely agree. Although the synthetic suede-and-leather upholstery and some of the leather trim of the 370Z Touring test car (which stickered at $36,890) felt great, the impressions falls off with some of the hard, faux-metallic trim, which looks like it would scratch easily. And the gauges, either at a glance or up close, feel cheap and gimmicky. Nissan could do better simply by replacing the toylike bezels with simpler trim rings and getting rid of the cheap-looking vinyl hoods over the gauges—although they might serve a purpose as the lenses were prone to reflection.


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