2012 Nissan 370Z Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
January 3, 2012

Performance per dollar, the 2012 Nissan 370Z is a bargain, and it's quick enough in absolute terms to reach toward the domain of much more expensive sports cars.

With more tech, power, and luxury than previous Nissan Z cars, the 2012 370Z is nonetheless lighter than its predecessor, the 350Z. It's also still a relatively focused sports car despite the gradual creep toward grand touring status.

Three versions of the 370Z are built, including the coupe, the roadster, and the NISMO. Both the coupe and the roadster share similar styling elements with the exception of the convertible's soft top. Muscular curves, modern edges, and arrow-shaped headlights are the core design elements. The NISMO model adds more aggressive aerodynamics, with fangy bumpers and a rear diffuser, plus NISMO badging. Inside, the 370Z is more refined, and quieter, than previous models, with better materials (though there's still a lot of exposed hard plastic) and comfortable, well-bolstered seats.

Powering the coupe and roadster is a 3.7-liter V-6 engine rated at 332 horsepower running up to a 7,500-rpm redline. Though not as torquey as the 350Z's engine, there's still plenty of oomph from low in the rev range. The NISMO gets a peakier version of the same engine, rated for 350 horsepower. Two transmissions are available: a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and a six-speed manual with a unique Synchro-Rev match feature that automatically blips the throttle for perfectly synchronized downshifts.

Review continues below

With its relatively aggressive stock suspension tune, short wheelbase, and wide track, the 370Z is a potent performer, capable of neck-stretching grip and confident cornering. Steering is accurate, if not laden with feedback, and at high speeds, the 370Z does exhibit some tramlining. Nevertheless, it's a capable and exhilarating sports car, made all the more so in the more hardcore NISMO trim.

All of that sports car competence can translate into a ride that's too harsh for some, however, particularly when pressed into daily driver service over less-than-ideal roads. The cabin does its best to mitigate the discomfort, however, with comfortable adjustable seats, including available leather upholstery. Standard equipment includes power accessories, keyless entry/start, and cruise control. Optional upgrade packages bring navigation, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio with real-time traffic, and HID headlights among other improvements.

The 2012 370Z packs the usual array of safety features, including anti-lock brakes, stability control, and traction control. Front and side airbags are standard, with roof-mounted side curtain airbags on coupe models. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash tested the 2012 370Z.

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2012 Nissan 370Z

Styling

The 2012 Nissan 370Z Roadster and NISMO offer alternate takes on the coupe's dramatic modern Z styling.

As the Nissan 370Z nears the middle of its model cycle--the coupe has been on the road for over three years now--it continues to offer a strong combination of style and performance in its price range. Cues borrowed from the GT-R supercar, as well as a more evolved version of its predecessor's proportions give it a unique look in both hardtop and convertible forms.

The exterior, unlike the 350Z, was designed from the start to work with convertible proportions, so the curvy flanks and folding soft-top, covered by a two-hump hard cover when down, fit like they ought to. The coupe has a somewhat short-tailed look, though both versions share the same wide stance and low-slung, aggressively sport demeanor.

A NISMO edition is also available, which as it does with performance, turns the styling up a notch. Unique wheels, plus front, side, and rear aerodynamic work give the NISMO 370Z an even more aggressive, track-ready look. Inside, the NISMO gets some special styling and badges. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it fits its mission.

In general the 370Z's interior is more sophisticated and refined than its predecessor's, while still adhering to familiar Z-car themes.

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2012 Nissan 370Z

Performance

The 2012 Nissan 370Z Roadster and coupe are fast, fun, and still easy to live with. The NISMO version ups the performance ante, but at the cost of daily comfort.

Since its introduction, the Nissan 370Z has been powered by a punchy 3.7-liter V-6 rated at 332 horsepower (350 horsepower in the NISMO version) with a 7,500-rpm redline. That continues for 2012, meaning 0-60 mph times of less than 5 seconds are still to be expected, with the NISMO coming in a tenth or two faster.

Also carrying forward is the unique SynchroRev manual transmission (on Sport package models), which uses the computer to seamlessly blip the throttle and rev-match downshifts. The feature can be disabled to allow the driver to have full control, of course, but it's a handy feature that takes some of the potential for error out of high-performance driving. A seven-speed automatic is also available, with paddle-shifters and auto-blipping downshifts in manual mode. Though neither transmission is a shortcoming for sporty work, the six-speed manual wins out in our book for its high-tech gadgetry. Fuel economy isn't wondrous in either guise, at about 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

Being shorter, lighter, and wider than before, the 370Z is quite sporty despite its 3,200-pound curb weight. Handling is confident and predictable, if biased toward understeer and prone to tramlining. Steering is a bit dull, with little feedback at the limit. The NISMO takes all of these characters up a degree in sharpness, but may be too harsh a daily driver for many.

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2012 Nissan 370Z

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Nissan 370Z is a step forward in quality and materials, but road and tire noise can be overwhelming.

Since the 370Z is an obligate two-seater, unlike its more luxurious cousin the G37, you'll have to work with the limited passenger, cargo, and storage space within the cabin. Compared to much of its two-seat competition, however, the 370Z is rather spacious.

Seating is comfortable and conforms to a wide range of body types, with power adjustability and ventilation on upscale models. Quality of materials and their fit and finish aren't luxury-level, but they're a tick above the Ford Mustang, which is perhaps the 370Z's most direct competitor on performance and price. Road noise can be high thanks to the large tires and minimal sound insulation, reaching nearly unacceptable levels on some surfaces.

The 370Z's soft-top convertible mechanism saves weight, complexity, and expense, but at the cost of some security and style--a tradeoff some competitors have taken in the other direction. Nissan's path does preserve more trunk space, however.

With relative newcomers to the sporty coupe segment like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe edging in with slightly better interior design and materials, and long-time stalwarts like the Ford Mustang GT gaining yet more power, the 370Z treads a delicate balance that may be due for an update soon.

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2012 Nissan 370Z

Safety

While it hasn't been crash tested, the 2012 Nissan 370Z offers a strong standard safety equipment list.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated the Nissan 370Z for crash safety, but a strong package of standard features makes the latest Z competitive with other sports cars. Standard safety equipment includes: anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control; plus front, side, and, for the coupe, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags.

Rearward visibility may be an issue for some, however, as the low seating position and chunky roof supports in the coupe can get in the way, but forward visibility is very good, and with the top down in the Roadster, it's excellent all around.

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2012 Nissan 370Z

Features

The 2012 Nissan 370Z's power-folding soft top is quick and effortless, and its audio system is a high point of the features list.

Two base trim lines and an optional sport package are available on both the 2012 370Z Coupe and Roadster. An upgraded NISMO model caps the Z range.

Base models include cruise control, power windows, and keyless entry/start as standard equipment. An optional navigation upgrade includes a 9.3-GB hard-drive-based music storage system and iPod interface. Dynamic audio and climate controls help keep things comfortable during top-down driving with the Roadster. The Roadster also comes standard with a power-folding soft top that opens and closes in about 20 seconds.

The Touring models add a Bose audio system, plus Bluetooth, satellite radio, ventilated power leather seats, lumbar support, and HID headlights. Adding the sport package to any trim brings a viscous limited-slip rear differential, 19-inch RAYS forged aluminum alloy wheels, upgraded high-performance tires, a body-color rear spoiler and a front chin spoiler.

Considering the 370Z's price range from the just-under-$30,000 mark for the base coupe and the low-$40,000 range for a well-equipped Roadster, it's a very competitive package of performance and features, even against the likes of more expensive vehicles like the Porsche Boxster. If you're a fan of really loading a car up with extras, however, you may be a bit disappointed by the 370Z's short list of available add-ons.

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2012 Nissan 370Z

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Nissan 370Z isn't the greenest car on the road, but it does well considering its 332-horsepower output and sporty performance.

If you're serious about gas mileage, you probably aren't shopping for a 332-horsepower two-seat sports car--and conversely, if you're shopping for the 370Z, you're probably not too concerned with gas mileage. And that's a good thing. While the 370Z isn't exactly a neolithic petroleum guzzler, it's not high on the green scale, either, rating 19/26 mpg city/highway with the seven-speed automatic and 18/26 mpg with the manual, with the Roadster bringing up the tail at 18/25 mpg.
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8.2
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Expert Rating
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Styling 8.0
Performance 9.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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