- Edgy styling
- 332-horsepower V-6!
- Rev-matching manual transmission
- Solid performance/dollar ratio
- Lots of tire noise
- Prominent drivetrain noise
- Thrifty interior
The Nissan Z has never occupied the top spot in the performance world—and it doesn't now—but it's still a great performance car that starts just under $30,000.
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is a straightforward sportscar: one wedgelike body style, two front seats, modest cargo area, and a 3.7-liter V-6 that pumps out 332 horsepower. Some at TheCarConnection.com would opine that if you need more information than this, you're not really shopping for a sportscar.
What ends up being especially confusing for '09 is that the old-style 350Z is still being sold, though only as a convertible. This review covers the all-new coupe; for those looking at the '09 convertible, please refer to our 2008 Nissan 350Z review.
The 370Z coupe is all new for 2009. Unlike so many recent introductions, the exterior dimensions for the 2009 Nissan 370Z are trimmed down from 2008. Measurements show that the wheelbase is almost four inches shorter, and overall length is down almost three inches. When looking at the new Z, it's clear that Nissan takes nearly all of the length from behind the door, a move that enhances the coupe's long-hood look. Where the windshield meets the roof is an especially dramatic area, providing a styling link from 370Z to the mighty Nissan GT-R (the GT-R is to the 370Z as the Corvette is to the Camaro).
Like the exterior, the interior is all new and a significant upgrade. Competently placed controls make work behind the wheel a pleasure, and little cues—such as the fact that the main gauges move with the tilt steering column—help ensure solid ergonomics. However, the 2009 Nissan 370Z doesn't stand out inside; materials feel solid but not particularly appealing, and the three gauges nestled into the center of the dash (water temp, voltage, clock) look to be wearing cheap vinyl toupees.
The engine, a 3.7-liter V-6 making 332 horsepower, is the same one installed in the Infiniti G37 coupe. Redline is at a steep 7,500 rpm, but there's no advantage to revving it that high; the engine has a fat torque curve and produces plenty of usable power at lower revs.
The new 2009 Nissan 370Z offers two transmissions. One is a carryover from the Infiniti G37, an excellent seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The gearbox does an excellent job of approximating a manual gearbox when called on to do so. Most enthusiasts will prefer the smooth-shifting six-speed manual, which now features rev-matching, a feature that blips the throttle during downshifts. This feature achieves the benefit of smoother "heel-toe" downshifting without requiring the driver to be as adept with his (or her) feet as Helio Castoneves. Fuel economy is actually better than the previous model, at 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway for the automatic.
On the track, TheCarConnection.com editors note that the shorter wheelbase and wider track improve the car's handling dynamics, and it's big fun to toss around. And on the road, we generally like the way the 2009 Nissan 370Z drives. The ride from the new suspension is compliant, but over some surfaces—and only some—the road noise is way too loud and totally unacceptable for a modern car. Drivetrain noise, particularly gearbox whine, is prevalent, reminding you that Nissan spent its development money on making the 370Z go fast, not quietly. Additionally, at very high speeds (go-directly-to-jail velocities) the tires tend to hunt the subtle grooves of the road, requiring an unsettling amount of attention to keep the missile on course.
In terms of safety, the 2009 Nissan 370Z includes every dynamic feature available, including traction control, ABS, and electronic stability control. These controls work with a responsive chassis that should let you drive around accidents instead of running into them. In the event of an accident, front and side airbags are standard, as well as roof-mounted side-curtain airbags. As of this review, Nissan's newest Z-car hasn't been crash tested, but it should perform better than the outgoing 350Z (mostly a four-star performer).
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is available in only two models: the standard Z and the better-equipped Z Touring. Only two options are available: the Sport Package (that includes some fantastic-looking 19-inch wheels) and the Navigation Package. Cruise control, power windows, and Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless entry/start are all standard. The Z's entertainment system will be replaced early in this model's life with one that is more capable and features more capabilities. The current top sound system is from Bose, and the separate DVD-NAV system includes a 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive with an iPod interface.