2009 Nissan 370Z Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
January 31, 2009

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.

Our team of sportscar experts has researched road tests of the 2009 Nissan 370Z to develop this review. In addition, editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the new 370Z and bring their firsthand observations to help you develop your own impressions.

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).

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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.

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2009 Nissan 370Z

Styling

The 2009 Nissan 370Z hits most of the right marks for those wanting a racy sportscar, but its styling isn't loved by all.

The next-generation 2009 Nissan 370Z coupe (the convertible debuts next year) retains the same basic styling cues as the outgoing 350Z but trims some of the excess fat off last year's model. New design elements tend to score well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, but not everyone is impressed with all of the latest exterior bits.

The new Nissan 370Z coupe comes in just two variations, according to Car and Driver, which it lists as "the base car, starting at $30,625, and a Touring version, which leans towards luxury." Exterior differences are virtually nonexistent, and both cars share styling that Car and Driver calls "largely successful." However, Jalopnik points out that the latest 370Z Nissan features "a set of controversial 'boomerang' headlights mimicking the design language set forth by the new 2009 Maxima." Motor Trend reviewers find the Nissan 370Z to be "better looking" than its predecessor, although they lament the "overstyled headlights and 'fangs' in the grille." The LA Times observes that the 2009 Nissan 370Z is both "slightly wider and shorter than its predecessor," which they appreciate because "it will enhance the car's stance, making it even more fun to drive." Automobile Magazine sums up the 370Z Nissan, saying that the Nissan designers "exercised restraint in the basic surfaces, saving the drama for the boomerang-shaped head and taillamp assemblies, some of the most interesting styling touches ... seen in ages."

The interior of the Nissan 370Z earns a complete redesign as well, although this one isn't without controversy either. Reviewers generally like the layout, where Consumer Guide finds that "the audio and climate controls fall easily to hand," and Jalopnik says that "the new interior looks to be a vast improvement over the 350Z." However, a new LCD readout inside the Nissan 370Z draws lots of criticism—Motor Trend claims that "besides looking contrived and asymmetrical, these gauges are hard to read. It's like the whole thing was done for styling sake, with no real benefit." On the positive side, Car and Driver notes that the 2009 Nissan 370Z's "steering wheel is asymmetrical, neither circular nor oval, but its size and grip are perfect."

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2009 Nissan 370Z

Performance

The 2009 Nissan 370Z earns top marks dynamically, and even novice drivers can feel like pros with the new rev-matching feature.

With its latest round of engineering enhancements, the 2009 Nissan 370Z has gone from a capable performance machine to, in the words of Car and Driver, a vehicle that is, "at this price, possibly the best sports car on the planet." Most of that praise is due to the increased performance of the 370Z Nissan, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com certainly notice the gain.

Both trim levels of the 2009 Nissan 370Z come "locked and loaded with a 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter VQ37VHR V-6" engine, according to reviewers at Motor Trend. The bump in output from 3.5 to 3.7 liters explains the difference in badging between last year's 350Z and the current Nissan 370Z. The extra two-tenths of a liter provide some impressive performance gains, with Car and Driver reporting that the 2009 Nissan 370Z will hit "60 mph in 4.9 seconds." Reviewers generally appreciate the new engine, although Motor Trend points out that the Nissan 370Z's "VQ engine, while more powerful and polished than its predecessor, still exhibits a coarseness near redline. Further, that coarseness rears its unwelcome head in the gearbox and pedals." On the positive side, Consumer Guide calls the 370Z Nissan "smooth and strong" when accelerating, despite the fact that it "doesn't jump off the line like some sporty cars."

The 2009 Nissan 370Z is available with either a traditional "6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic" transmission, according to Consumer Guide, but Nissan does have a few tricks up its sleeve for the manual. In order to help aspiring racers master the difficult task of heel-toe downshifting, Jalopnik reports that, when downshifting, the Nissan 370Z "uses the ABS sensors to read the speed of the tires, compares that data to the speed of the engine and the gear being selected, and then actuates the electronic throttle to bring the revs up to the appropriate level," which guarantees "perfectly rev-matched downshifts every time." Autoblog is impressed enough to call it "nearly flawless," but for die-hard traditionalists, they state it can be disabled "by pressing the S-Sport button above the stick." Other than that nifty new feature, the transmissions are pretty standard, and Consumer Guide reviewers claim the manual "has smooth clutch action, though the shifter is a bit notchy," while "the automatic is smooth, but it can be slow to downshift at times."

Fuel economy for the powerful V-6 coupe is quite respectable, at an EPA-rated 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, but Consumer Guide reminds interested shoppers that the Nissan 370Z "requires premium-grade gas."

Given its pedigree, one would expect the 370Z Nissan to offer great handling, which it does. An unexpected benefit, according to Consumer Guide, is that the ride quality is "excellent for a sporty car, particularly with the standard 18-inch wheels." TheAutoChannel.com reports that the Nissan 370Z "is a very friendly car on the road and on the track," while the "handling is firm, which is ideal for excellent cornering, but not too firm." Automobile Magazine adds that "handling and braking enhancements are more substantial" and claims "there is no wasted motion when you wheel the steering to enter a bend." Automobile Magazine also remarks that "the variable-assist rack and pinion is quick to act, free of friction, and perfectly weighted." In terms of stopping power, Motor Trend says that the "brakes, with a variable-ratio pedal, are stout and easy to modulate."

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2009 Nissan 370Z

Comfort & Quality

Engine noise and poor overall storage mar the debut of the 2009 Nissan 370Z's revamped interior.

The 2009 Nissan 370Z reemerges for its latest model year as a smaller, lighter vehicle. While those new adjectives work wonders for its performance, overall practicality is down, and passenger space, even in front, is still at a premium.

The Nissan 370Z is a true sports coupe, meaning there is no 2+2 seating arrangement. Instead, Nissan 370Z owners will purchase just two seats, and Car and Driver reports that "the driver's seat is more aggressively bolstered than the passenger's, and both are upholstered in nonslip fabric." Reviews of occupant space are mixed, with Consumer Guide contending that the 2009 Nissan 370Z is "still among the more spacious two seaters," but Car and Driver finds the 370Z Nissan to be "a tight fit, with the more globularly hipped among us contemplating the possibility of embarrassing chafing." Aside from the overall space, Consumer Guide says that the "padded knee rests for both the driver and passenger are a comfort plus." Autoblog reviewers love the front seats, finding that "the eight-way adjustable driver's seat benefits from a bit more bolstering than the passenger, but both chairs balance the proper amount of coddling with the kind of side-hugging support you'd expect in a sports car."

Cargo space isn't the 370Z Nissan's strong suit, and it shows in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Car and Driver almost mockingly notes that "there's now even a glove box" inside the 2009 Nissan 370Z. Consumer Guide, meanwhile, observes that "Nissan claims 370Z has 6.9 cu ft of cargo space, but it doesn't seem that large." They also find that "there are some hidden bins behind the seats, but interior storage is otherwise meager, with a small glovebox and center console."

For a car with such a low base MSRP, the 2009 Nissan 370Z exceeds nearly all expectations in terms of quality. ConsumerGuide claims that the interior quality on the Nissan 370Z is "vastly improved from the 350Z," thanks largely to the addition of "padded surfaces, textured dashboard plastics, and visible contrast stitching." Car and Driver finds that the "cockpit is richer than its predecessor's, with graceful contrast stitching...and a classy hinged leather panel covering the hole you'll create if you don't order the nav system." Motor Trend also approves of the redesigned interior, which they say "Nissan has upgraded with finer materials (read: less hard plastic), bigger gauges, a race-style oval steering wheel, [and] a convenient glovebox."

Fortunately, ride quality has improved, and Consumer Guide contends that "wind noise is well hushed, with only a little noticed from around the exterior mirrors." The engine, however, still causes some problems, and Motor Trend reports that the V-6 "still exhibits a coarseness near redline," and other Motor Trend reviewers claim that it has "gotten noisy and harsh in its old age." TheCarConnection.com notes that Nissan has tuned the 370Z's exhaust to be heard not just when accelerating hard, but in everyday cruising—an aspect that could be fatigue-inducing on longer trips.

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2009 Nissan 370Z

Safety

Crash tests are pending, but the 2009 Nissan 370Z offers the latest safety features and boasts good visibility for a sports coupe.

Like most new vehicles in their earliest days of production, the 2009 Nissan 370Z hasn't yet been crash tested by either NHTSA or the IIHS. However, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that that the latest Nissan 370Z is packed with cutting-edge active and passive safety features.

With the new 370Z, Nissan "engineers had to add nearly 200 pounds of safety and regulatory bric-a-brac," according to Car and Driver, resulting in a very safe sports coupe. Consumer Guide reports that the 2009 Nissan 370Z comes standard with "ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags," all of which help to keep drivers safely on the road and protected in the event of an accident. Autoblog reviewers are happy to report that "the variable ratio brake pedal, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist all work together with the ABS and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) to provide a suitable safety net for ham-fisted frat-boys." In addition to all of the 370Z Nissan's safety features, the Nissan 370Z comes from a strong safety pedigree—the outgoing 350Z earned a mix of four- and five-star safety ratings from NHTSA, including a perfect five-star score in rollover protection.

Another feature of the Nissan 370Z that contributes to the level of overall safety is the commendable driver visibility from within the car. Consumer Guide attests that "visibility straight forward and back, as well as to the front corners is good." The only criticism from Consumer Guide regards visibility to the rear corners, where they find that "thick rear roof pillars hurt the view...but large outside mirrors help compensate." Other reviewers aren't so nice, however, and Autoblog reports "massive blind-spots created by the C-pillars. A back-up camera isn't quite a necessity, but the side mirrors do little to alleviate the pain."

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2009 Nissan 370Z

Features

The 2009 Nissan 370Z keeps things simple with a brief options list that still manages to offer some features worth the extra cost.

The new 2009 Nissan 370Z fits well into its intended role as a budget sports coupe, offering thrilling performance at a low base MSRP. With the 370Z, Nissan keeps the features and options list light, which has several benefits. First, it simplifies the purchasing process since there are fewer options to think about. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for those looking for cheap thrills, the reduced options list makes manufacturing cheaper for Nissan, assuring that it can stay affordable. Automobile Magazine certainly appreciates it, proclaiming that "the most loveable detail is the new 370Z's price. With a base tab of $30,625, this is the screaming sports car deal for tough times."

The standard features list on the 2009 Nissan 370Z is, in fact, pretty standard. Research conducted by TheCarConnection.com shows that there are few differences between the base and Touring trims of the 370Z Nissan. Automobile Magazine reports that the "base equipment is so generous" on the Nissan 370Z that "you'll be able to bypass the Touring edition's creature comforts." According to reviewers at Motor Trend, the "Touring trim adds leather, Bluetooth, and Bose audio." Autoblog reviewers also recommend that buyers "forget the Touring trim," which seems to add very little for the driving enthusiast, especially given the step up in price.

Optional features are few and far between on the 2009 Nissan 370Z, but Nissan is clearly going for quality over quantity in the options department. Car and Driver reports that "options are few: a nav system, a $1,300 seven-speed automatic, and a $3,000 Sport Package," all three of which get rave reviews from the automotive press. The Sport Package, in particular, attracts a lot of attention from Autoblog, where reviewers note that it adds "18-inch forged-aluminum RAYS wheels shod in Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber" and includes a "variable ratio brake pedal, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist." Other options require springing for the 2009 Nissan 370Z in Touring trim, as noted by Automobile Magazine: "Adding navigation, which includes iPod connectivity and a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive, is possible only after you step up to life in the Touring lane."

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